First, bad reviews come with the territory. If I could write a book that appealed to everyone on the planet, I’d be a very rich woman. But the tone and tenor of bad reviews has expanded thanks to the internet and its anonymity.
So let’s start with the old. Back when I was writing for Harlequin I used to get a letter from the same woman after every book was released. Included with her letters were the pages of my sex scenes with big red circles around the consummation scenes. Then her letter would blast me for being personally responsible for the aids epidemic and teen pregnancy because my characters never wore condoms. I always wanted to write her back and say, “yeah, well, they can’t get aids or pregnant unless I write that in because they aren’t real!” But instead I’d stew for about 30 minutes, then forget Condom Cathy. Especially once I found out she was writing the same letters to many Harlequin authors.
On with the new. Now it’s a tad tougher. Between Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, publisher’s sites, etc. it is a whole lot easier for someone to offer a critique. And they can do it while hiding behind some silly screen name. It isn’t the critique that bothers me, it’s the fact that people don’t have the stones to sign their name. IMHO, the worst site (And my editor at Simon & Schuster said the site is useless and they pay no attention to it) is Goodreads. People go in and give a book a single star but they often don’t explain what they found so distasteful. How helpful is that to other readers? Maybe the critique hates funny dialogue or wants more romance. Well then say that. The next person may want more funny and less romance. At least pretend to be a place to exchange valid information.
Then lastly, the direct email . . . yes, you can reach me through my website and yes, I eventually get around to reading each and every comment. After FAT CHANCE was released, I received a strongly worded email from a woman who took great offense to a line in the book about Finley having homeowner’s Tourette’s. She accused me of making light of a serious disease and promised me she’d never buy another book of mine. STUPIDLY I responded to her, explaining that for me, it was an analogy, much like saying something was eating away at a character like a cancer. That’s not making light of cancer and more than I was making light of Tourette’s. Bad, bad move. She came back at me telling me I had a sick sense of humor if I thought mocking the sick and infirmed was funny. I thought about it for a while, then just wrote her back and suggested that perhaps my books were not meeting her reading needs. What I really wanted to do was tell her to get a life, but I restrained myself. Moral of the story . . . if my reply is anything other than thank you, I don’t bother responding, I let my assistant Susan handle the hate mail.