Tag Archives: bad reviews

More Ways to Slaughter Your Career

Creative Commons: @daniel_nelson abduzeedo.com

The human race is capable of mighty deeds and also some pretty stupid ones. We already saw the editor who blew her career (and Food Source’s site) to kingdom come with her arrogance and ignorance in regards to editing and publishing.

Now here’s another end to the writing and publishing world. Writer’s who self-publish may have great works or really humdrum pieces or even gobbledy-gook that is completely unreadable. Some writers who decide to self-publish their works have the unassailable attitude that they are geniuses, their works are brilliant and anyone who doesn’t agree is a misanthrope or worse.

It would almost seem that people should know and understand this but many don’t. Some people have an idea and write it, without having any expertise as a writer. Expertise comes from practice and learning the techniques, and from what I can tell it’s a lifelong process. Publishing houses have editors and copyeditors and proofreaders who all work to make sure the manuscript is shipshape and will sell. If someone is going to self-publish, then they can serve themselves best by hiring a copyeditor, someone to at least go through and fix the grammatical issues.

So, it’s of interest when one Ms Jacqueline Howett was reviewed for her book The Greek Seaman on a blog titled Big Al’s Books and Pals and she did not react well. How badly did she react? Well, I read the review and the sample of her writing and as I read her responses I thought, “This can’t be real. Surely it’s a gimmick to get more hype.” But as I looked a little further and then found her own webpage I realized in fact this woman was real but had no clue. At first I thought she must be only about 12 years of age with the way she responded.

The reviewer says the story is quite interesting but the writing lags, and has numerous grammatical issues and typos, which garnered Howett only two stars. She responded that he didn’t download the correct version (why have the wrong version up). Al responded with posting just two passages of her writing:

“She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs.”

“Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance.”

WTF? I mean seriously, I would not have been as generous in giving two stars. Talk about Frankenstein sentences. How about this for a rewrite:

She carefully walked back down the stairs. (Frankly, it’s difficult to make this one very good at all and would need the context of the scene to rework it. It separates the person from their body in awkward phrasing and would have been better to describe her shape/size elsewhere.)

Don and Katy watched as Gino hypnotically set more coffees at another table. (I’m leaving out the “supreme balance” because I can’t tell if Gino is balancing himself or the coffees, and if he’s balancing them in his hands, on the tray or on the table.)

You can read the full interaction at Big Al’s but here are a few of her responses:

Look AL, I’m not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. You were told to download a new copy for format problems the very next day while they were free at Smashwords, so you could choose any format you wanted to read it in and if their there were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. Simply remove this review as it is in error with you not downloading the fresh copy i I insisted. Why review my book after being told to do this, and more annoying, why have you never ever responded to any of my e-mails? My comments in italics, red for corrections. Wow! She’s accusatory and demanding. What the hell is “playing snake?” She can’t see any errors in her writing. She can’t capitalize “i”, she doesn’t use commas.

And please follow up now from e-mail.
This is not only discusting disgusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me, AL Al. Hmm, discusting?  Al is in all caps, maybe for emphasis; again no use of comma. How can I believe she knows how to write if her comments here are an example of her writing style? Let’s not even get into the highly inflammatory and juvenile language.

Who are you any way anyway? Really, who are you?
What do we know about you? And no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. I wonder if she’s forgotten to take some medications as this has nothing to do with a review.

You never downloaded another copy, you liar!
You never ever returned to me an e-mail I’m not even through all her subsequent curses but I started to think she was a teenager at about this point, though many of them talk way more maturely.

Besides, if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors. Hooboy, yet another example of how people don’t understand a process. Reviewers review. They don’t need permission, and yes everyone is entitled to an opinion but Ms. Howett exhibits arrogance and that she just thinks she’s entitled. What’s debated or discussed more amongst authors is the self-righteous self-publisher and some of the crap that is published. No one debates the right of someone to review anything.

Your You’re the target not me!
Now get this review off here! Demanding, and the wrong use of “your.” Try “you’re”, Jacqueline.

I skimmed through the some 300 comments (before comments were closed) and Jacqueline’s tone gets worse until she’s just saying “F–k off!” At least she spelled that correctly. Although she’s gaining notoriety (can we say viral) and maybe even a few sales from this, I doubt that many people will bother to read her book because it’s not edited and because of her rant that paints her as someone lacking any nobility and just a temper tantrum waiting to get uglier. If you’re thinking of publishing anything, even if it’s self-publishing, please don’t even walk beside Howett’s footsteps, let alone in them. And get a proofreader.

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Writing: Reviewing Reviews

Because I write mostly short stories and poems, reviews are few and far between. A magazine is less likely to be reviewed than an anthology and an individual story even less likely. I’ve never seen a review of any of my poems and I suspect the only way one would get a review is if it was a collection of poetry in a book or chapbook format.

Reviews can be a curse in their own right, with more negative than supportive comments, and it’s a chance any artist takes when putting work into the public forum. Still, I would rather have a review than not. A review can stir up discussion or controversy and some people will decide to form their own opinions (as I often do with movies) than take a reviewer’s. The reviewer is a buffer: I know reviewer A never likes xyz, but I do so if they hate it, I will most surely like it.  A review can be used to weed out what you’re going to read or buy. And reviews do give publicity of a sort, whether negative or positive.

Under the review umbrella are a host of chameleons: those written pieces that actually don’t review a piece so much as recap it. I have read reviews that give no indication of whether a story is good or bad, written well or not. All the reviewer does is reveal some of the plot line or all of it. These are not reviews. A review should have an opinion on the storyline and writing. There are the damning with faint praise reviews: this is not very deep, a piece of fluff but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Some reviews take into account that it may be the writer’s first major work. Some discuss the style of writing but don’t go as much into plot, while others will look at the depth and intricacies of plot, the sophistication of writing style and the expertise of the writer’s knowledge in the area in which they are writing.

I know of a few writers who do not read their reviews, afraid that the comments, possibly scathing, will puncture their egos like a helium balloon. I’m happy–well, maybe not happy–to read any review. Perhaps I will learn something about my writing and what I need to fix or change the next time around. Perhaps the reviewer will like it and I’ll feel encouraged. So far, there have been very few reviews of my work, the most probably being “The Fathomless World” in Cone Zero, and those again fell into mostly recapping the stories.

It’s important to note though, that many reviewers are just like you and me. It’s their opinion. Some reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. I always figured I could be a good art critic because I can look at/read something and personally dislike it but examine the technique and skilled unbiasedly and see if the artist knows their stuff. Still, I would get down to what I don’t or do like about a piece as part of the review.

Some people love steampunk. Some hate elf and unicorn stories. Some hate free form verse or poems about flowers. Others dislike first person stories, or plots involving government overthrows and secret spies. These likes and dislikes will always flavor a review, but the good reviewer will be able to examine the writing as a whole. Aspects that reviewers might touch on are: depth and variety of characterization, plot flow, conflict and resolution, plausibility and depth of storyline, atmosphere, description, language, voice (authorial as opposed to characters), overall readibility and whether the author’s voice insinuates itself, etc.

So, in the spirit of reviewing, if someone would like to review something I’ve already written, please let me know and I’ll send it to you. This is a limited time offer (in case there are millions out there.) I will also post the review, whether favorable or not and then probably crawl away into my hole and rethink my view that I’d rather have a review than no review at all.

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