Thursday, 26 July 2012
Wanted: AUTHOR – thick skin required
Yesterday, I discovered a one star review of my book Rough Cut which had been posted on Amazon, it went as follows:
“A plot with more holes in it than Swiss cheese. One dimensional characters I could care less about. Every so-called twist is signposted in capital letters. Poorly edited, with the presumption that five words fills more page space when one would have sufficed. Worth reading only if the only other book available is Janet and John: Book One.”
Needless to say this was from someone I don’t know, otherwise he would now be nursing a broken nose, quite appropriately given his Amazon username is Rhythmdoctor! His only other review on Amazon is for an iPhone case so he/she is clearly not a regular reviewer of books.
Now, I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to criticise a book if they really dislike it but there’s no need to be cruel. As a fellow film maker said when I asked him for feedback on my last film, 'I'll tell you truth but I won't be cruel.' So far, there have been three one star reviews in this vein posted on Amazon, the first one being:
“I'm afraid this book is almost unreadable as it is so badly written. It is full of school boy cliches. The English character lives in Darrington Hall, characters are killed for unconvincing reason - just not believable. I couldn't read beyond a few pages.”
Well, if Matthew (that’s who posted it - and his only other review is for a cook's knife!) couldn’t read beyond the first few pages, he really has no business passing comment on the book. If you’re going to have a go at someone’s creative baby, at least do them the courtesy of actually reading it!
Which brings me to another thing which I found quite depressing which was when I submitted the book to a couple of brand new publishers for consideration. One, based in the USA, read the whole book and simply said:
“While Rough Cut is certainly an interesting read, it unfortunately does not fit within the criteria that we are seeking at this time.”
Absolutely no problem with that, completely understand that it might not be what they were looking for. But compare that polite and considerate response with this one from a new UK e-book publisher:
“ We have given this long deliberation but on this occasion are declining to accept the work for publication with us. This is for two reasons. The repetitive use of nouns in close proximity, the lack of scene breaks when swapping from one viewpoint to another, and the misuse of punctuation within dialogue all point to this being the work of someone who is new to the craft of novel writing and thus we feel is not of the standard we require in a novel. As it stands at present, we were not inspired to continue reading past the first chapter.”
They didn’t read past the first chapter but felt constrained to criticise the book on technical grounds which, although they might be justified, neither I nor the professional editor I employed before publication, agree with. Come on guys, if you don’t like it, just say you don’t like it, you don’t have to find excuses, especially ones which are not justified. And what was all that about “long deliberation”?
On the plus side, along with lots of nice reviews from people I know, I have had some really lovely and encouraging reviews from people with whom I have absolutely no connection at all, such as these two:
“With his book, Owen Carey Jones has found the perfect recipe: Rough Cut is cleverly written, will grip you from the very beginning and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. The characters are well thought through and likeable and they all have a real dimension about them.” (Margotlily on www.blogcritics.org)
“I love reading and can easily read a book in a day and Rough cut is a prime example of this. Once I started reading I could not put it down! The characters draw you in, the twists keep you on the edge of your seat and you feel the emotions of the characters, I cried and laughed with them. Definately worth getting lost in their world!” (Mrs E J Hughes on Amazon)
So, if you want to be an author (or film maker for that matter!), make sure you've got a thick skin because, along with people who love your work and feel inclined to say so publicly, there will be people who get some sort of weird pleasure from being cruel and hurting you and who are happy to do it publicly.
One thing is for sure, there will be people who love your book and people who hate it – it’s that age-old Marmite syndrome. Authors should revel in the positive things that are said about their work and ignore the negative things, unless of course the criticism is constructive and from someone who knows what they are talking about and who doesn't feel the need to be cruel.