Monday, March 25, 2013

No, I'm Sorry, But...That's NOT Okay

The book business is entirely subjective, but, even though, as a reader, I know a writer can’t possibly please everyone, as an author, I still strive to do so. I know I'll never achieve this and it typically doesn’t bother me all that much.  This past week, however, was a bit different.

I’m finishing up my current book tour, grateful for all the positive reviews, but today, I had to gird myself for a possible bad one.  Now, I’m not sure what or even if this blogger will post.  I’m hopeful she won’t actually, because, according to her Goodreads updates and the tweets she directed at me, she stopped reading just shy of the fifty yard line, probably throwing my book against the proverbial wall before deleting it from her TBR list.

I know exactly the point at which she stopped reading, the most pivotal scene in the entire book.  Many reviewers have described my novel as a rollercoaster ride.  Well, that scene is THE big drop, and a real doozy, too, the one that makes you gasp and scream  

Thing is, that scene is the reason I wrote the book in the first place, asking the question: What could make a genuinely good man commit a violent crime, something unspeakable?  Because, on a personal level, I really, really needed to understand. 

It’s like Bud White, Russell Crowe’s character in LA Confidential.  He’s this muscly, tough-guy cop who hates men that abuse women.  After all, when Bud was a child, his father tied him to a radiator and forced him to watch as he beat Bud’s mother to death.  But then later, Bud himself is pushed over the edge and beats his girlfriend, becoming the very thing he despises most in this world.

I needed to understand how that was possible, how a man could go against everything he stands for.  And I needed to know how he manages to live with that choice. 

But this reviewer, whom I asked to join my tour based on the books she's read and her past reviews, got to that pivotal scene and…that was it.  She couldn’t take it.  The hero had overstepped, gone over to the dark side.  And, apparently, she wasn’t interested in his redemption. 

I found this confusing, because, among countless other erotic novels, she read and awarded 5 stars to Consequences, a book about a man who rufies and kidnaps a woman, then forces her to submit to him, body and soul.  But it’s okay because, for whatever reason, she kind of likes it and even marries him.  *rolls eyes*  

So why the double standard when, in my book, it doesn’t go anywhere near that far, and, what does happen, only happens once, and by mistake, too?  I’ll tell you why.  Because my victim didn’t like it.  She wasn’t into it.  That’s why. 

My novel is not erotic BDSM and is not meant to appeal to those who are into that whole she-didn’t-have-a-choice-but-she-liked-it-anyway sort of thing.  So I’m disillusioned, because this reviewer, who, I might add, has considerable influence, knew this was a psychological thriller with this type of undertone, and she signed on for the tour.  Yet now, she won’t follow through.

I think it’s fine to hate a book, including mine.  God knows, I hate many books I’ve tried to read.  But I also don’t think it’s fair to review a book if you haven’t actually read it all the way through.  I bought a book over the weekend that several romance bloggers were raving about, but I ended up returning it a few hours later because I felt the writing was poor, and, to be honest, it was boring.  It just wasn’t for me

But still, I would never, ever think to judge that book publicly, to rate or review it, since I hadn’t actually read much of it.  I’ve had this happen to me once before on Goodreads, and worse? I just saw it happen again recently to a friend, as well.  That pissed me off.

It’s not fair.  And it’s not cool.

This is the author’s life and work, his or her blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention their reputation, and some reviewers are trashing it WITHOUT having even read it to the end.

I’m sorry, but…I’m not okay with that.  Are you?   


Post script:  The blogger did not review my book, which greatly relieves me.  Also, this post is my opinion solely on reviewing and rating without having actually finished the book.  However, I do think it's fine to say publicly that you couldn't get through it for whatever reason.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion. 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I never review a book I don't finish because I think that's unfair. How can I judge it when I don't know all of it? I just quietly mark a book as read and move on when I hit one that several chapters into it, I realize I can finish it.
And since I knew that scene, I don't think it went too far or unbelievable. No more so than LA Confidential. (Which is almost as good as your book!)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't review books I don't finish. I know book review bloggers review good and bad books, but personally I don't review books that I can't review positively. As a fellow writer, I wouldn't want to.

Don't read the review if you know it's unfair and not going to be good. It's not worth your valuable time.

JeffO said...

Nancy, I'm sorry you're having a less than stellar experience with this particular person. I don't review books, but I'm going to take a different side. Hopefully, I won't end up on your crap list, because I disagree, at least to a point.

Reviews are aimed at readers and potential readers, not writers. They're written to help people decide if they want to read the book/see the movie/buy the product. Yes, it's your blood, sweat and tears, yes it may be money out of your pocket if people say, "Oh, I won't read that, I read a bad review", but it's not the reviewer's concern. Their 'job' is to simply offer an opinion on why they liked or disliked a book. And that brings me to my second point.

If a reviewer doesn't finish a book, I don't think there's anything wrong with them saying why they didn't like/finish the book, provided it's fair. IF it were me, I might not give 'stars' or recommendations one way or the other. I might say, "Well, I got to this point and realized that this is not the sort of book for me." I might say, "An event occurred in the book that I just couldn't get past". But I'd also talk about the book up to that point, and honestly assess writing, characterization, etc. If it's a well-written book, if the characters are strong and believable, I'd say so.

And I agree with the others, don't read the review, don't respond to it, don't get into a back-and-forth over twitter.

Still friends? :)

JeffO said...

I apologize if that came off too lecture-y, the part about the purpose of reviews. It's the educator in me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I couldn't review a book I hadn't finished. I know some people do though.

I agree with Natalie. You know the review will be incomplete, so don't read it.

Andrew Leon said...

I never review a book I haven't finished. There are too many books that I've started and thought at page 30, "What the heck? Why am I reading this?" But, then, really liked it by the end.

Nick Wilford said...

Erm, hello. People aren't supposed to normally like being kidnapped!

I DO think the reviewer is perfectly entitled to her opinion, but I don't think it's fair to air the opinion in public when it's not based on the complete work and she just has a bone to pick. I don't review a book I didn't finish. You can't stop her from posting it, but it's probably not a good idea to read it.

Make sure you stop by my blog today - I hope it'll cheer you up! :)

Mark Means said...

A book review, in my opinion, is supposed to be a reader's view on a product. So, in all fairness to the product, if they haven't experienced the whole thing (book, movie, etc.), how can they give an informed opinion on it?

For a personal opinion, I think it's fine to not finish the book, but for a review...especially a public review...I think they should get all the way through it, first.

Just my two cents :)

L.G. Smith said...

I think it's fair for someone to admit publicly they couldn't finish a book. I stated on my blog today that I didn't finish Moby Dick, but to deliberately try to put others off from reading a book just because you couldn't get through it is not cool. The world of reviews is a strange morass I don't understand, but I think most authors should learn to not look at them.

Eva Gallant said...

I agree; in order to write an authentic review, the reviewer must read the entire book!

Rena said...

I'm sorry you're having this trouble. I know stuff like this just makes my tummy knot up.

You've handled it really well. I think it's important for people to be able to have an opinion about a book. I also think it's fine for people to say that they couldn't finish a book.

I don't think it's really okay for them to give a review of a book they couldn't finish, because they can't really say how it turns out.

Maybe this reviewer had such a knee jerk reaction because of something personal that you couldn't have seen. I hope it simmers down.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, this is tough thing. Now I'm scared. lol I'm glad she didn't review it. If I can't finish a book then I really can't speak to it. It's too much like saying you don't like the cake batter when you're supposed to be judging the cake. It's not finished.

LD Masterson said...

I think reviewers have an obligation to read, watch, listen to, etc. what they're reviewing. I always remember seeing The Color Purple on stage and later reading a review in the paper that it was a very funny comedy. The Color Purple. A comedy? Yes, there are a couple lines in the play that draw laughter from the audience and I can only imagine the reviewer walked into the theater, stayed a minute or two, heard laughter, and left to write his review.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Nope. Not fair. Have to finish the book in order to give it an honest review.

I've seen other reviewers who don't agree, and after they say they can't finish a book, they give it a 2-3 stars and say why they didn't like it enough to read to the end.

Here's a pat, pat on the shoulder. Bad reviews happen. Books are terribly subjective, so it's a given you're not going to please everyone. You pleased me. I loved your story.

Dana Mason said...

It's sucks, this is true, but, Nancy, I think you're giving this one reviewer too much power of you.
I seriously had trouble with that scene too. The only reason I continued reading was because of an interview I read about the scene and why you wrote it. I get it, but some people won't get it. That's the world you write in. This isn't all rainbows and unicorns and you don't want it to be. That's why you write thrillers. I got bad reviews for having "out of the box" scenes in my book too. It's not fair when a reviewer rates a book poorly because of their own experiences with abuse. Because it 'hit too close to home' for them. But it goes with the territory.
Not only that, Nancy, but maybe you should consider it a compliment that you wrote the scene so well, it was just too realistic for the faint of heart reader. Seems to me that would mean it was true to life.
I think you should focus on all the people who love the book. They are the people who deserve your attention. Write for them.

M Pax said...

I quit reading my reviews. It keeps me saner.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we just have to learn to deal with it -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It's not always easy, but it's the business we're in.

Karen Peterson said...

I agree that you generally should finish reading a book before you rate it. However, I also think sometimes it's okay to say, "I could NOT finish this book because of x, y, or z."

I'm sorry this blogger left you feeling frustrated.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've had several followers unfollow my blog. In the beginning I was devastated. I tried to think what I could have possibly done to make them quit me. Was it my post? Book #1? Book #2?

Another time I had a reviewer ask me if I still wanted her review, despite the fact it was going to be bad. I chickened out and said no.

Anyone who has ever had a bad review knows exactly what you're feeling. Most of us grew up with mothers who said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." We wonder why there are so many who don't abide by that common sense. I don't know. But in the end, I do know that many authors have prospered with bad reviews because they create controversy.

I do think part of the healing has been provided by you writing this post.

Julie Luek said...

I only review books on Goodreads and do so more for my own record-keeping than for public review. I do write a note of books I can't finish and why-- what was it about the writing, plot, characters that finally made me say "enough". But, and maybe because I do write, I don't rip on the author. Some of the books I've done that with have one very popular and acclaimed prizes, so it's definitely my opinion and not always a shared one. It's good to read your perspective and keep that in mind if I ever do write a review I intend to be public. Thanks for sharing your heart, Nancy.

The Desert Rocks said...

Don't worry Nancy, there are many other fish in the sea and reviewers who will read your entire book. Good luck with everything!

celeste holloway said...

I understand why you were upset. If you reviewer reads intense material on a regular basis, it does seem kind of twisted that she'd toss yours due to your character not enjoying the rough stuff. I'm glad she didn't post a review. That's got to make you feel better. I'm sooo not looking forward to this part of my book release.

klahanie said...

Hi Nancy,

Sadly, it seems that some people just skim through and then make a vague, half-hearted judgement. That is unfair and unprofessional.

Thankfully, not all are that way and will give a fair, unbiased and balanced account.

Pawsitive wishes from your doggy friend,
Penny :)

Melodie Wright said...

Why are you reading your reviews at all? IMO, it's not worth the angst. Reviews are for readers, not the you're right, you can't please everybody and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate every person who reads my book, or attempts to, and takes the time to comment on it, whether it's 5 stars or 2 stars. Maybe I just have very thick skin, or I'm confident in the story I feel I was lead to write. Are the reviews always fair? Nope, but the truth is, life isn't fair, and we know this as writers before releasing our books into the world. Yes, it would be nice if people followed the, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it all" rule, but book reviewers dedicate a ton of their free time to reading and I think that they think they owe it to their followers to be honest about it all. Just focus on the good and remember that when those inevitable 'bad' reviews come, it doesn't mean there was anything wrong with your book, it just means it wasn't right for that person. <3

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I am a writer, not a reviewer. I have a new sensitivity to reviews. (hugs Nancy! I got a soooo boring, couldn't finish review...I feel your pain!) So, me personally? If I don't like a book, mum is the public word. I just can't bring myself to trash another writer. I will tell you what I like and I will gladly recommend what I think is good. There have been top sellers that I have picked up and lost interest in...people have different tastes, that's just life.

Melissa said...

As my reader persona, I have reviewed a handful of books I didn't finish, but I stated that clearly in the review. I went ahead with the review because something about the writing was highly irritating and I couldn't force myself to finish. Since part of a writer's job is to keep the reader reading, I felt justified leaving a negative review in those cases. That said, this was on a retailer's site, not for a blog tour or anything.

The tour site I used to belong to always reminded us that the tours were promotional and, if our review was negative, to save it and post after the tour was over. (I didn't do reviews for them, but some blogs did.)

As far as your book is concerned, there was one part that bothered me regarding the hero--the part that was left after the part you cut (good call!)--but you redeemed him for me by the end.

Anyhow - Hugs. I hope this works out for you.

Bonnee Crawford said...

A review definitely should not be given if the book has not been read all the way through. That's good that she didn't review it! I'm sure plenty of other people did like the pivotal scene even if she didn't. Everyone fancies different things after all. Thanks for sharing, and I hope you don't get any reviewers like that!

Chuck said...

Nancy, your book was fantastic. Nothing in it was out of place or over the top. Everything fit like a hand in glove. I personally am tired of people who think so highly of themselves as to give an opinion based on incomplete research.

Glad you at least didn't have to go through with reading a review by this bit...ah, critic.

You write it...I'll read it.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

nutschell said...

i never review a book i've never read from cover to cover. Even if I do end up not liking the book, i always find positive things to say about it too.

Julie Musil said...

I agree--it's not fair to review unless you've read the whole thing. And you're right, this is all SO subjective. Heck, I'm reading a book now that everyone raved about, and I'm struggling to finish it.

Chin up, Nancy. It's easy for me to say, but I'm hoping you'll focus on all the wonderful things that have been said about your book.


Cassie Mae said...

I've had several DNF on Goodreads. (I've sworn off looking at any reviews under 3 stars anymore, haha!) And unfortunately, that's something we risk when we put our work out there. People can rant about how awful they thought the first few pages were they couldn't finish, just don't let it get to you. Shrug it off and remember all those people who DID finish it. I know it takes about 10 good reviews to outdo one bad one, but you've got that ratio covered ;) And that's an awesome thing.

Lisa Regan said...

First, I love this post. Second, I think this is an incredibly honest and brave post that gives a TRUE glimpse into what it's like to be on the WRITER side of this situation. Third, you know exactly where I stand on the whole thing where women in our society suddenly love reading about other women being raped and abused because it's okay if a hot, rich guy does it. Hello, nauseating! There is NOTHING okay about that. Ever. Under any circumstances. It's not erotic, it's disgusting. And I find it to be an insult to actual rape victims. Okay, okay, I'm off the soapbox. Fourth, I agree, it's fine not to finish a book and I think it's fine to even say why you didn't finish it. I personally don't do that though because I can't, in good conscience, review a book I haven't read all the way through. Especially because in the past I've read books that I almost didn't finish because I wasn't feeling them but after powering through to the end, grew to love them. Fifth, it is apparent that this reviewer just couldn't handle the subject matter. This is something I can definitely relate to. You know how much violence there is in FCF and I frequently get readers who are very much turned off by it. That's fine with me. I understand that. I also appreciate that many of those reviewers will still give me 3 stars based on the fact that they felt that other parts of the book were still good. It doesn't bother me that readers are honest about their reaction to the violence. I expected as much. Our books are targeted to certain readers. Not everyone will be able to handle them. It is frustrating sometimes from a writer's point of view but in spite of this group of readers for whom our books just aren't good fits, I'm glad that we are still able to tell our tales honestly. You wrote an amazing book--bold and poignant and honestly written. You should be proud of that, no matter what!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I read your book last night, and absolutely LOVED it. Just thought I'd let you know.