Friday, November 11, 2011

Review Angst

            REVIEW ANGST or The Angst Over Reviews…

                                                                            by Robert W. Walker

I get some lousy reviews, too same as a first novelist even after having done as many as I have (some 50 odd books), and often it is obvious the mindset or BRAIN of the reviewer is entirely in the wrong hemisphere. How does an author respond to a reviewer who is off in left field and appears to be discussing another writer’s work using his/her title?

Trust me, this feeling is not just for the neophyte. Veteran authors may say they let such roll off their backs, but in a deep place in the soul, it troubles a writer when a reader—any reader—totally misses the mark he sets, or totally questions one’s standards, or even implies or directly says the book  is a ‘ripoff’ of a previous title of some notoriety as has happened many times with me when in fact, my book was in the works on or before the publication of the one I was supposed to have ‘copied’ or stolen from.

General wisdom among old vets in authorship is to ignore a bad review and revel in a good one. The system is not set up for even bestselling authors to ‘respond’ to a review, which I suspect would be far more engaging than most reviews—to see or rather read the author’s take on the reviewer’s take. But the universal reaction to any author defending his work in such a manner is one that says, “Oh, look, the author is whinnying like a horse…big baby. Can’t take the heat, stop writing bad books. Besides, the reviewer must know what he/she is doing, after all.”

I want to discuss this question because a young author recently asked me how he could deal with an ‘attack’ review on  Of course, Amazon review space is open to anyone with an ax to grind, but so too for years has been the review staff at Publisher’s Weekly so far as I can see.  At any rate, here is my answer to the question of what to do with a bad review, and it is a lesson hard-won as I have made all the mistakes I am about to warn you away from.

Sure, you can complain to the editors of a magazine or newspaper or even to Amazon’s nebulous people behind the shadows but in either case, paper or virtual, it will be to no avail 99 percent of the time.  Actually if the review is blatantly PERSONAL, you might get someone in a positon to do something about it to do something about it, but even then it is so rare an animal that it belongs on the endangered species list. I mean if it is actually personal, that the reviewer knows you, has met you, has a hatred for you, you do have more of an argument, but even if you could get the magazine or paper to print a letter to the editor combating comments made in a review, YOU are the one who will come under attack by readers as a thin-skinned author who needs to go sell Peak antifreeze or Smuckers Jellies somewhere in a country setting. Even if you are right, you can be right and still get run down. The paper or Amazon in so many cases now, they seldom to never take a review down and typically if they do, I suspect it has more to do with foul language more than anything else....Take for example one review of one of my books:  No, we won’t go there….

You can go to COMMENT below the review but universally people just read bad motives on the part of the author defending the work rather than weighing up the remarks in the same manner as the author will.  Even if the author is right – it is like engaging a ‘stalker’ if you get embroiled too far with a reader who truly dislikes the book.  The author is just spewing forth a whine-fest in the eyes of this reviewer and any others who come on to see the comments, and this can also ENGAGE the ‘stupid insipid idiot’ who did not get you or your book why? because he is from Planet 9 -- or as in my case for most of the 11 books of the Instinct Series, a pissed off other female author who believed I had stolen her work (nutbag) lambasted every Instinct title until suddenly she stopped, and I assume she died....

Can you do anything about it on Amazon or elsewhere? Best to get someone else to post a counter review, if the review gave you two stars, get a four star review, if one, get a five, but this is not always easy. However, on Amazon, especially, It is the best way to combat a one star as they put the two extremes side by side.
In the end… Do as I do -- do some giveaways on Twitter, Facebook, other social media to anyone willing then to review the book, and hope for the best, and get on to writing the next book.

Brief bio for Robert W. Walker:


Award-winning author, ROBERT W. WALKER has been a citizen of Charleston, West Virginia five years and lives with his wife and four stepchildren in the Capitol City. Rob created his highly acclaimed INSTINCT and EDGE SERIES between 1982 and 2005.  He has since written his award-winning historical series featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom with CITY FOR RANSOM (2006), SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY (2007), and CITY OF THE ABSENT (2008).  This history-mystery hybrid straddles the Chicago World’s Fair circa 1893, and has had enthusiastic reviews from Chicago historians and the Chicago Tribune,  which likened “the witticism to Mark Twain, the social consciousness to Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere to Poe!”   Rob’s current work is Dead On and a 3-part historical thriller ebook entitled Children of Salem. Rob is also working on PlagueShip Titanic, a re-structuring of the Titanic story which attempts to explain why the captain intentionally sent the ship to the bottom of the North Atlantic. You can find Rob at , , and

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