Friday, January 13, 2012

When Readers Hate Your Books

I often get emails from people who like my books. It’s still a thrill, even  with six books in print. Hey, I say to myself, this person isn’t even related to me—in fact, he lives three states away—and he likes my book!
Anyone who takes the time to thank an author deserves a special place in heaven. We are needy people with fragile egos (well, most of us) and sometimes that email from a fan is just what we need to keep going when the muse is slacking and the words won’t come; when we find our books on the clearance table and our agents don't return your calls. Opportunities for humiliation are legion. Kind words are treasured up against those days.
My favorite emails are from those who tell me my books made them into pleasure readers. How cool is that? Because for me the notion of going through life without books is horrifying. Because books changed my life.
Sometimes readers will write to alert me to errors in a book. For example, "I’ve noticed that Leesha has different colored eyes in each book. What gives?" Or—“what’s up with the two Christmases in one year?” If the error is serious enough, my publisher can correct it when the book goes back to print.
Readers email comments about what they especially liked (Han is SO hot!) or concrete suggestions about what I could have done differently, e.g. Why did you kill off my favorite character? (or, conversely, why didn’t you kill off more people?)  Or, Raisa should dump Nightwalker.
They’ll tell me that the love scene at the end of the book should have been a lot longer. Or that I should have put in some dragons.
While I can't go back and change the book in print, specific feedback might give me guidance for future books. Of course, some people tell me just what they think should happen in that next book.
But sometimes I get emails from people who basically say, I read your latest book and it sucked. Or--I liked your old series but I don't like your new series. Or--I read your new series and liked it, but when I went back and read your old series, it sucked.
It would be easier if they at least agreed on which books suck and which don’t.
I’m not talking about reviews. Negative reviews can be painful, but at least they serve a purpose. Reviews are intended to help readers find books they might like and avoid the ones they won’t. A public service of sorts.
I'm never sure what I'm supposed to do with this sort of big-bore, non-specific negative feedback. I don’t expect everyone to like my books, but this is like telling someone her child is ugly and stupid, too.
I mean, it’s not like there’s gonna be a do-over.
Should I say I'm sorry? Promise never to write a crappy book again? Get all defensive and tell them that if they think it's easy to write a book, mr. smarty-pants, they should try it themselves? Look them up on Goodreads to see if they give everyone one-star reviews? Google the sender's name to try to figure out it’s really Harold Gallagher from third grade who always hated you?
Hit delete, eat chocolate and drink hard liquor?


Ems said...

Anything that involves chocolate...

I really think some people send those just to be mean. Sad, but there are people out there who just live for making someone else unhappy. Personally, I'd ignore those if they've no sort of constructive feedback. If someone is going to take the time to email you to tell you they hated your book and nothing else, well, there's a special level of Hell reserved for haters...

Personally, I'm a huge fan. LOVE your work!!

ephrielle said...

I vote for ignore them. I have posted my fair share of negative reviews. But I hope the authors don't take it personally. I don't even know them. I just didn't mess with the book and what it contained. Not everyone likes the same thing. Dare I say some of us don't even like chocolate. So just say in your head well there is just another odd ball and move on. Easier said than done I bet. I had no idea that authors cared to hear positive things either. I don't know why it didn't occur to me. Tragic really. So thanks for your books. I have really enjoyed them over the years and am looking forward to more. And yes Han is awesome!

Kris said...

to go with what Ems said before me....chocolate AND liquor.....? chocolate liqueuer? lol.

I love your books. And while I haven't let my ten year old advanced reader read "Seven Realms" yet, she too loved your Heir series.

There's always going to be negative people that abound....shake it off and continue to do what you do well. Entertain many people for hours with your fabulous imagination and great stories. :)

Tine vs. The World said...

I love both of your series and now wish I had sent you an email saying so!!!! As someone currently in the process of finding a literary agent I k ow what you mean about fragile egos, I've had to beef mine up a bit to handle the rejections. Keep writing....I can't wait to find out what happens in the next book!

aubrey said...

I vote for ignore them. You can't please everyone. I, for one, love your books. Seriously, they are on the top of my all time favorites list.

Emily said...

I'm not an author, but my job puts me in a similar situation. People will tell me, "Your boss is a horrible human being." I'm never sure how to respond to that. I do appreciate what you said about negative reviews.

Micchan said...

Those types of reviews are what are called as "flames" (in the fanfiction community anyway). They are the type of reviews that serve no other purpose except to vent out hatred/frustration to the author.

Don't let it bring you down. Nothing can be done about those type of people.

If you can't bring yourself to ignore and forget about those people/reviews, you can try replying to them, asking what they didn't like about it, etc etc.

Know that, no matter how many haters there are, there will always be us, your fans, who support you (and love your books :3 )

Melissa @ Mel's Books and Info said...

I like the chocolate and liquor idea, but seriously ignoring them is the only thing you can really do. It is sad that they feel the need to be like that. I do review books, but I always feel guilty when I don't like a book and give it a negative review. I feel I have to be honest, but I always hope the author doesn't read the review--so I can't imagine deliberately emailing an author to tell them I don't like their work.

The next time someone emails you about your books you can think of this bright spot:

There are those of us who love your novels and are actively promoting them to other readers. I have used Demon King in our library's Battle of the Book competition, and book talked it to roughly 150 students at our local schools. It always gets a good response.

Sharron said...

'when we find our books on the clearance table'

YIKES! How horrid. Had never thought of such a thing happening!

I love your books, both series, though I really love the Seven Realms series more.

I linked your website for my granddaughter (an avid reader of twelve whole years) and she loves them too.

BTW - ANYTIME you want to have chocolate and liquor just call. I'm ready. I'll suffer with you!

Forget the naysayers. I'm sure all the great authors had their own to endure.

Dani said...

I vote to ignore them. If the criticism isn't constructive, you don't know what to fix. I don't always like every novel I read, but I always try to give the person feedback as to what worked and what didn't. If they aren't giving you the same, then they are just being rude. Some people are just like that. They like to tear down others. Personally, I love your writing. I may not like every twist in your books that you throw out, but I've always found you inspiration as an author. Don't let them get you down.

Livia said...

I repeat this very often: it's IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone. If you get a simple thing like a bday cake and wanna please 3 people with one cake, it might not work: one doesn't like chocolate, the other doesn't eat fruits, the other hates coconut.
Now talking about something as complex as a book, it's just IMPOSSIBLE!
You either please yourself and write something you think it's good, or you try to please people and end up pleasing no one.
It's a big world with all kinds of people and different tastes. Well, praise the diversity! It would be a very boring world if we were all alike. =)

I'm a HUUUUUUGE FAN, I love your work. I hope one day be able to write as half as good as you do, I'd die happy.

Irvin & Tasha said...

I vote for the one that involves deleting and chocolate! Unless the email has a specific complaint you can debate, just dismiss it as "haters gonna hate."

Speaking from personal experience, I have only once written a negative email to a writer. Usually, I say "meh," publish a scathing one-star review on goodreads, and move on with life. I figure writers' fragile egos don't need bruising from me.

The one exception was because I was absolutely livid with a book - a book that had enthralled me for over 300 pages, that made me care about its characters... and then had no resolution. I sent the author an email, basically saying, "Where's the ending?" To his credit, he did respond back to argue his point. So I may hate his book, but I still respect him for that.

I do usually try to send emails to writers after I love one of their books - actually, Cinda, you were the first author I ever contacted, and the great response I got from you encouraged me to continue. I often hear back, and usually the writers sound very grateful for the positive feedback. One in particular send me a lengthy reply thanking me for comforting words after she'd read a scathing review, and proceeded to send me an ARC of her next book. So being nice pays off! :)

Daisy said...

I'm not someone who sends authors e-mails, but I do love to stalk blogs and their Twitters and such (mostly because I feel awkward e-mailing someone I don't know)! I absolutely LOVE your Seven Realms series, in my opinion one of the best YA fantasy series I've read! I even managed to convince my boyfriend, who doesn't really read, to read The Demon King and after he finished it he demanded the Exiled Queen from me immediately :) And yes, I love Han, he is awesome!

As for the people who e-mail you telling you they didn't like your book: that's just rude. You don't go up to someone and say you don't like their coat/hair/face. It's bad manners.
I vote for ignoring them, but yeah, it's not as easy when they contact you personally.

marlene said...

You should just ignore them, and assume these are evil people with no taste in books what so ever (because clearly they don't!), and don't ever give them a second thought.
Unfortunately people can be pretty evil, and not everybody get that writing such things about a book is downright evil and totally unnecessary. Even if you don't like a book, why bother writing hate-mail? Nobody will like every book out there, but everybody should have the decency and respect to not write hate-mail.

I love your Seven Realms series! I really enjoy reading them, and can't wait for Crimson Crown to be released. I'm the kind of reader who wouldn't ever write to an author about changes they should make - it's the authors book, ans whatever they want to write is the right thing to write, because it's their story! Readers should just accept that, and if they like the books - great! If not, you can still respect that that books was something the author worked a lot on, and it's what they wanted to write. SO WHAT IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT? MOVE ON TO THE NEXT BOOK!

Keep up the good work Cinda! Just stay true to your story, and don't mind the haters - you know everybody's got a few. Especially authors. I mean, if you can give the Harry Potter books or the Seven Realms books a one starred review, you just KNOW there are some crazy people out there.

CindaChima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CindaChima said...

I wasn't really fishing for love-well, maybe a little--but thanks everyone for the kind words and advice!
I think feedback that comes from love is always welcome.

davecman said...

I only just finished the warrior heir series and truly enjoyed them but have not yet begun the seven realms. I do know that there are certainly authors who have some great & some not so great & some downright mediocre series. What your next one is I cannot say but you must take the constructive critism to heart and definitely ignore those who are mean and hateful for their own sakes.
I am aware that sometimes an author has a deadline and may be constrained by that but said deadline cannot be more important then the tale. The deadline can be compromised, your stories, however should never be. Both for your sake and your readers.
That was verbose but hope it helped. ...david coleman

leabharlann said...

Thank you for writing this--I blame the anonymity afforded by the internet. Who'd walk up to you, and say things like that to your face? I think people will, just because they CAN.

Sadly, another vote for "ignore them, with a side of liquor and chocolate." I get randomly negative and non-constructive comments on the drawings I post to deviantArt. Someone once suggested jealousy as a reason behind them, and while I can't say that's true, it at least makes ME feel better about them. :)

ICQB said...

You likened your books to your children, and that's why it hurts when negativity is directed towards them. You love your books, their world, the characters. They are a part of you. That's why it hurts.

I don't know how to avoid the hurt, but as with your children, hug your stories, love them, nourish them and help them grow, and don't invite the haters over for playdates.

Virginia Llorca said...

I don't understand the polar opposite views. But I try to. People have different tastes in cars, clothes, hair do, etc. And, one person gave me one star and it showed he was totally engrossed and invested in the characters and I found it delightful. I felt like I had been very successful in creating believable characters. I've got a few where they didn't even read the book and I just do not know what motivates those people to just be mean randomly. Poor things.

Stephanie Milberger said...

I'm with Ems, all the way, especially the chocolate. :)

Becky Wallace said...

My grandma always said when people are negative for no explicable reason, they were likely jealous. Ignore them!

Crocheted Gems said...

I've just finished reading The Warrior Heir and I loved it!! I've just looked you up online to read your bio and about other books you wrote before I start reading The Wizard Heir. Thank you very much for the good read! :)