Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anatomy of a bad review

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 8:15 AM
Before you read this post, you should first know that me even writing it is a REALLY bad idea.  When you become a published author DON'T DO THIS. It's completely immature of me. I'm stooping way, way down here. But I vent or explode, so . . .

Congratulations if you're reading this in Google Reader because I imagine one of my friends will be emailing me soon to tell me to take this down and the only place it will ever appear now is in your reader.

Secondly, before you continue, YOU HAVE TO PROMISE NOT TO TAKE ANY ACTION. I mean it. NONE. I hope what I'm about to share just makes you laugh, but if you become enraged on my behalf and are overcome with the need to inflict soul-deep violence on someone, then

1) You are probably a very good friend
2) You are a probably a little crazy

Now, if you can abide by that rule of DON'T DO IT, then you may proceed. But you have to promise. Reading on means you've promised. 

Okay, you've officially promised.  Let's begin.

Bad reviews happen. Bad in the sense that someone might not like your book and bad in the sense that it's just a poorly written review. I got one of this double whammy variety.

Here's the thing.  Wiser, more experienced writers will tell you to prepare for this. And I really thought I had. Except for the part that I truly thought no one would ever legitimately give The List a 1-star review. I expected some cranky people who hate the genre might give it 2-stars and a handful of people did. According to the site I check most regularly (and which I will not name because remember, DO NOTHING), a fair amount of people liked my book just fine (37 nice folks) and gave it 3 stars, a bunch of folks wrapped their arms around it and said, "This is such a fun read!" (97 people) to the tune of four stars and then 73 people have either known me from childhood or thought Matt Gibson was so hot that they couldn't in good conscience give it less that 5-starrrrrrrz (woot!)

But like I said, it finally happened. The dreaded 1-star. And while it bothers me more than it should in proportion to the number of GREAT reviews The List has gotten, it bothers me way less than I thought a 1-star would.  (My husband is less sanguine about all this. There may have been swearing involved which only made me love him more because he's SOOOOO on my team.)

But this is what I figure. I wrote something. I put it out there knowing it became fair game for other people to judge it. And this reviewer did. And wrote her review and put it out there for people to judge. And so I will.

I present my first 1-star review, complete with commentary. Tada! Check it:

If you like Mormon Romance, you'll love this book. If you care about literature, go find some. (You obviously hate the genre. Next time you find yourself near LDS romance, put it down and back away slowly. People with peanut allergies are smart enough not to eat peanuts. Be smart, lady. Be smart.) I made it through exactly one chapter. (And now I know I really don't need to take you very seriously because really? One of my longest reviews comes from someone who only read one chapter? Really?) As my friend KTrip says, this should be categorized as fantasy. (I admit being totally impressed by both of these people's clear intellectual superiority at this point.)  I made it just one chapter because it was completely unbelievable and aggravatingly so. The main character is a moron, plays games, and thinks a little too well of her attractions (remember the paragraph where she described herself in detail, focusing on her absurdly wonderful features?) (Sorry. Should have started her off as perfect, because: HOW BORING TO WATCH HER GROW.)  I wouldn't want to be friends with her. (It's okay. I don't think you guys would get along.) So I stopped, because my brain was turning to mush and my stomach was churning (All of my comments here are too mean so I'll say nothing). (Though I will own that the writing was fine.) (THANKS) Perhaps I did not give the book a fair chance (Duh), and there are so many reviews here of folks who totally loved it (205 to 7. I win), so I allow that for some it may be great escapism -- just not for me, or those I love (it's good of you to protect them from all the bad things in the world, like my book). Many pleasant readings to all -- let them read how, where, or what they may. (Do I need to say anything about this conclusion, like that it's utterly pretentious? No? Good).


Jenny P. on July 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM said...

No action taking today. Though, I did, before even reading this post, add my amazon review to that place that will not be named for The List. So my four stars totally cancel out her one star.

(And not because I feel like I need to defend myself, but just because I want to, I'm super stingy with five stars. Books have to be life changers to get five. But the four I gave you? They were totally deserved. And not because I think you're a blog rock star or because I know that one day we will be real life friends, or because you answer my "you there, just ahead of me on the publishing road" questions. But because I really did like the book. The end.)

Jenny P. on July 27, 2011 at 10:17 AM said...

And... that review is a little ridiculous. It feels a little like the advice I might get about sky diving if I asked a Catholic priest. Or if I asked an Obstetrician about how to fix my sore toe. If you're not a fan of LDS fiction, don't read it. Or review it. Or, if you do feel compelled to review it, do so with the context of the novel and the intended audience in mind. Some books resonate with most people. Most books resonate with some people...

Enjoy Birth on July 27, 2011 at 1:43 PM said...

The beautiful thing is that anyone who reads her review will realize it means NOTHING! She only read 1 chapter, refused to read more and then took the time to write a review. That is pretty ridiculous.

Jolene Perry on July 27, 2011 at 11:36 PM said...


And seriously, I don't know you. Am not your family, loved your book, passed it on to TWO Picky friends who are not on your unnamed site who both LOVED. WHO THE FRICK POSTS A REVIEW AFTER ONE CHAPTER!! I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF SUCH DISRESPECT EVER!!!

I'm like seething for you!! Seriously?? If I don't finish a book (and yes, it happens often) I'd NEVER, EVER post a review of it!!

Also, I've only posted like two, two-star reviews EVER. EVER. And I had really good reasons like the book shouldn't have been published in the first place.

Your book delivered EXACTLY what was promised - a WAY fun read. Imperfect characters who are JUST what the other needs. A girl who is taken down a notch, a guy who's finally met his match and some FAB scenes in the middle - also it's like eleven at night and I"m suddenly hungry for a gourmet grilled cheese.

So, I'm with you. Your reviewer sucks, and I can't believe ANYONE would post a review who only read ONE CHAPTER!!

TOTALLY keep this post up. HIGHLIGHT it in your sidebar to help vindicate the rest of us who will all eventually live through the same frustration from STUPID IGNORANT PEOPLE.

Wow, and you thought your rant was long...

Kaylee Baldwin on July 28, 2011 at 8:29 AM said...

Melanie!! My stomach hurts from laughing. I don't know you (saw you from a distance at Storymakers this year) but I understand unpleasant reviews. I don't even check my reviews anymore because I was letting them bug me. But I love this! The ones that drive me crazy are seriously the people that don't even read the book before posting a review!!!

PS I'm one of the 5 stars on the "unnamed" site. :) I was reading it on an airplane and kept laughing out loud and finally the guy next to me asked me what I was reading, and wrote it down to buy for his wife.

Karen Peterson on July 28, 2011 at 8:43 AM said...

If this had been a well-thought review that just happened to dislike your book after giving it careful consideration (or even a little bit of consideration) I would say that writing a post like this is in poor form.

But this person admitted she never read past the first chapter and was not only judging the entire book on the opening pages, but going out of her way to tell people that it's terrible and not worth reading unless you happen to like the genre?

This is the one thing about reader reviews that has always bothered me. Anybody can write any dumb and pointless thing they want.

Melanie Jacobson on July 28, 2011 at 9:06 AM said...


The rest of you guys: You rocketh, yea verily, so hard.

Anna on July 28, 2011 at 12:15 PM said...

I haven't reviewed it or given it stars anywhere, but I would say it was a 4 star book to me. I really enjoyed it, finished it within a 24 hour period. (I have 3 kids, you know that keeps you getting interrupted.)

LisAway on July 29, 2011 at 6:36 AM said...

This recipe is TERRIBLE! Such a waste of ingredients! Speaking of which, I didn't have any of the ingredients listed so I substituted a for b, c for d and e for f. So gross! I can't believe so many people like this recipe!!!

Melinda on July 30, 2011 at 12:02 AM said...

Your responses to the review are KILLING ME!!! You're amazing. I have a huge crush on you.

Susan on July 30, 2011 at 1:56 PM said...

Oh, Melanie. Just flip them the bird and move on. If somebody doesn't like the first chapter of The List they've got bigger issues than writing bad reviews. That's my favorite of all your first chapters. Huh. Maybe I'm a moron.

Michelle on August 7, 2011 at 7:26 PM said...

I just read this post...just found your new blog. And I read that review on the unnamed site as well. And I thought thusly. I hated Jane Eyre. I mean, I tried reading that bad boy three times before I made it past the first 100 pages. I just hated those first 100 pages. And then finally FINALLY I got into the second hundred pages. And then the third get the idea. I have never ever loved a book as I love Jane Eyre. And I was dumb because I thought it was a stupid boring book. All based on the first one hundred pages. WRONG!!!

So I say to miss reviewer on said unnamed site - how can you say that? It's one chapter! I mean, I admit, I've given up on books. But usually only after I've given them a fair shot. Like 100 pages fair shot.

And I've written some crabby 1 star reviews. But only ONLY for books I finished. So while it is true that every author can expect a bad review here and there, some more than others, I think those reviews should come from readers who have READ their work.

And for the record, I don't remember a description of Ashley's many "charms" in the first chapter. Mostly what I remember is a really rad character who would totally be my bff. For real.

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