Taking it personally

knife stabbing book with black blood

Writer’s Diary: Stardate: 08.11.2013

An unfunny thing happened on the way to the…classroom yesterday. I was a few minutes early for the first lesson in my ‘day of death’ and as I passed by the computer lab I noticed that there was no one using the computer that works. (The ‘day of death’ is eight straight hours and a lunch duty. When I say lunch duty I mean I have to sit with the last class that I teach before lunch and break bread with them. I shouldn’t name them. Individually they are mostly edible. But the class ‘dines’ in the geographical centre of the dinning hall. (Yes, I know how to spell dining.) Because of the central location I usually end up leaving the experience with blood trickling out of both ears and children’s dinners spattering my shirt. Nice it isn’t.) But I digress.

I thought I’d take a quick peek at my emails before going into battle. I poked the hamster with my biro and after a bit of hamster grumbling it began to trot in its wheel. Power. I logged on. Really great and friendly and email from a gentleman who has been making his way through the Romney and Marsh Files. He’d finished the third and seemed to have enjoyed it. Fantastic.

Take a quick peek at Amazon while I’m there. Oh, a new comment on Joint Enterprise. I wonder if that was him, too. No. It was a one star comment from a reader who was clearly unimpressed with the reading experience. It’s the first one star comment on that particular title I’ve received. And it goes like this:

‘Having read ‘Making A Killing’ I was really looking forward to this, but it quickly descended into a blank featureless read. The plot was feeble, and there was no sense of suspense at all. I kept reading expecting it to pick up pace, but it faded into oblivion. I’ll not be buying any more of this author, unless I need a cure for insomnia.’

That set the tone for the day. Joint Enterprise is many things but it is not a one star book. Yes, the direction that I took this book in has disappointed a couple of readers who had enjoyed the previous books. I accept that. But this? No.

I’ve had three one star comments for one of my other books, Rope Enough, and of course as the author they are not nice to receive. (Unless  you are a creative type you cannot truly empathise with how it feels to have your work rubbished. I really don’t mean to come across as condescending.) But so far I have always managed to understand them. I try to understand them. I want to understand them. If I can understand them the dismay at receiving them is dissipated. One way of doing this is to see what comments the readers have left on other book purchases on Amazon.

Of the three I had already received for Rope Enough one didn’t like the sex. (OK I can deal with that. Still a bit harsh. There wasn’t much of it.) One has never left another comment on anything (still) so it’s probably someone I was married to or a member of my family. And one reader took exception to the rape theme. She was quite scathing. It was clear that she found the subject matter entirely distasteful and by her own admission wouldn’t have downloaded the book if she had known that rape featured as a theme. I understand. Understanding helps. It doesn’t make it all right but it helps.

So, to this new comment. I looked over other comments the reader in question has left. He has left a few of the negative two and one star variety. He expresses himself well. He writes well. Clearly, he is not an idiot and IMHO you’d have to be an idiot or vindictive to give Joint Enterprise one star and leave the remarks that he did. So he must have taken exception to something in the book. A part of the story upset him, perhaps. (I’m just looking for ways to try to understand this shredding of my book without actually asking him. He doesn’t appear to respond to comments, so I’m left to work it out.) And walking to school today I think I did. It hit me why he responded in the way he did. I think that he took exception to something that I made light of. It’s related to a purchase that he made. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I have made sense of it and that’s good enough for me. What was it? I’m not saying. It’s very personal. I could be wrong. But right now that doesn’t matter. I’ve found a way to deal with it. I’ve moved on.

8 thoughts on “Taking it personally

  1. Don’t take it personally Oliver, I finished reading it this morning, and though I agree that it is a slight step away from the first two I still enjoyed it. I hope that you are working on another in the series, I would like to see what the pair get up to next. Will Romney survive? will he ever find love? I doubt it unless he has a seriously expensive personality transplant. They are great characters and for every one star comment you get I will give you five. Don’t let it spoil your day, I am dreading the comments when I get around to uploading my books, but it won’t stop me xxx

    • Kerry,
      Thank you for your lovely and encouraging comment. I’m glad that you liked it.
      Romney survives. I am working on the fourth. Like you I have grave doubts about whether he can ever find love being the kind of man he is. I’m not even sure if he is capable of loving. But maybe he can change or pretend to.
      You’re uploading books? When?
      Best wishes.

  2. Hi Oliver, yes I sympathise. Unfair criticism can be hard to take. Glad you have found a possible reason. And maybe, like you, he was just having a bad day and took it out on your book. You’ll never know.
    On the plus side, no one trusts books that have only good reviews. We all know they are bought by the dozen from review factories in Bangalore. The odd negative review can in a funny way add to your credibility. And as long as you’re selling, you’ll have the last laugh. Best wishes.

    • Hi Sarah
      Thank you for your comment.
      Perhaps you’re right: perhaps he was just having a bad day. Perhaps he really hated the book! As you say, I’ll probably never know.
      I rarely look at five star comments and those I do I am usually suspicious of, unless they are mine, of course. I know what you mean about negative reviews. When I read them for others I normally feel some sort of empathy for the author.
      Best wishes.

  3. Hi, Oliver, noli iniurias arrogantium pati . Look at it this way, at least he did like one book! If he is prepared to make a decision not to read any more of your work based on a 50% like / dislike, then so be it. I agree with Sarah who commented that nobody trusts books with only good reviews. Keep up the good work. Debs x

    • Hi Debs
      My wife just said to me, ‘What are you laughing at?’ I copied and pasted your Latin phrase into Google, that’s what.
      Thanks for your comment. I am encouraged to view things with a more philosophical eye. You must be a very positive person to think like that. I wish I could more often. You are quite right – he didn’t hate both of them. Thank you.
      Best wishes.

  4. Hi Oliver – this is the first time I have dropped by your blog for a while and am sorry to find that someone has been unnecessarily unpleasant about Joint Enterprise. There are ways of making critical comments without resorting to this level. I have noticed a few really horrible comments on some books I have read and I strongly suspect them to have come from other authors. I think there are a numbre of embittered, people whose own books have not been received well out there, taking out their frustrations on those authors who are getting better reviews. I will email you one which will make you feel much better about your own unfair critic

    • Hi Dawn
      Good to hear from you again.
      Thanks for your thoughts. You could be right. Actually, you are right. I’ve seen stories about household name authors who have indulged in those sort of underhand tactics. Mind you, I don’t think I’m anywhere near worrying any of that lot. Yet.
      Saw the link you sent me. A really nasty one. You’ll have seen that I replied by email.
      Best wishes.

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