It had to happen sooner or later. A real stinker of a review got posted for my novel. After all, I had made countless reminders to the online community, book clubs with whom I’d discussed the story, and anyone else I knew read it, about the value of reviews no matter how long, short or critical (honesty is the best feedback, right? And any boosts Amazon promo). So, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
My first beneficial realization came, ironically, from the fact that the low number of stars hurt my feelings. Don’t readers study the Amazon key that tells what each rating means? Didn’t my reviewer think my novel was at least well written, regardless of content she didn’t appreciate? No and no. How self-absorbed I was to think the non-author reader cares enough about Amazon’s definition of each star’s significance. Considering how that person felt about my story, I was lucky to get any star at all. We authors, experts in empathy, understand that, don’t we? So after my emotional response cooled, I realized a low star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book as much as it can mean it just wasn’t for that reader. I now keep that in mind when checking ratings to decide what I myself want to read.
The next good thing came from admitting to my author network that I had received the dreaded stinger. The outpouring of support was touching. I received congratulations for getting my number of reviews up to the point where statistically it had to happen. Was repeatedly reminded you just can’t please everyone. And my favorite congrats: for eliciting any strong reaction in a reader, for writing well enough to accomplish that.
What else was good about a bad review? It reminded me not to take myself too seriously, to keep perspective and remember why I got published in the first place. I didn’t seek a publisher for the purpose of getting rich or famous or collecting reviews. No. I was driven to submit my manuscript because I wanted to prove to myself that my fiction writing was worthy. And every review has simply been icing on the cake. I entered the book business wondering if anyone would even take time to read what I wrote, remembering the words of an old advertising copywriting mentor who said, “Nobody has to read a single word you write; it’s your job to pull them through every sentence.” If someone leaves a review, at least I know I pulled them through.
Have I adjusted my content to avoid angering/offending another reader like that one? Beyond assuring my audience that I am someone who values my marriage (after 30 years, and yes, I was married at five ;), and who does not condone everything my characters say or do…the answer is nope, not a bit. In my writing, I embrace controversial ideas and enjoy the what-if’s in all sorts of relationships and other aspects of life that might lead us to struggle with being honest with others and with ourselves. As a reader, I enjoy discovering new perspectives and quirky characters (it’s no wonder one of my favorite writers is John Irving). The advice that you shouldn’t write to please other people holds true, in my opinion, even for those writing with sales in mind. Maybe try to please readers who like your genre. But if you’re not writing with a passion that drives yourself, where will the reader find the spark to keep engaged?
Another advantage of the bad review was that it showed me how different readers are from each other, not only due to tastes in genres but also due to their life experiences. As my friend Judith says, a book can mean something different at different stages of your life, different moods in which you read it. I have been absolutely thrilled to have reached readers who tell me they relate to my characters and were moved by the story especially because of what they have been through personally.
While I strive to share true-to-life dilemmas and feelings within a tale that entertains, that doesn’t mean I take my subjects of infidelity, death, family and friendship frustrations lightly. On the contrary, the significance of those topics is exactly what makes them worth writing about. I actually expected more than one complaint about edgy/provocative content, and now that I’ve weathered one, bring ‘em on, because good or stinker, they’re all good in one way or another.
The disappearance of a woman on Lake Norman, NC, shakes her neighborhood, leading friends to reevaluate their own lives, bringing about dangerous temptations and surprising confessions. One woman finds herself risking her seemingly perfect life and marriage… and afraid of what really happened to their friend.
About Nancy LiPetri and the sequel
Nancy lives with her family on Lake Norman, North Carolina, the setting for her first novel, The Wooded Path, and the sequel in progress, working title Across the Lake in which the character you least expect to return is back, taking you to the other side of the lake, pushing boundaries to experience life a whole new way. Again readers will find facts about the area, its natural aspects and culture, woven into a tale of varied characters for entertaining, thought-provoking contemporary fiction.
Where can readers connect with you?
Where can readers find your books?
OakTreeBooks.com, anywhere they can order with an ISBN number, and Amazon: http://viewbook.at/TheWoodedPath