Writer’s diary: stardate: 02.05.2014 😦
This week I broke through the 70,000 word barrier of my first draft for Acer #3, which I might call Smoke and Mirrors. It’s been slow going compared with other books I’ve written, but it’s coming together nicely, in my opinion. I had a couple of good sessions this week and have started to feel quite positive about it.
And so it was with some dismay that I was given to understand that I’m wasting my time on this series. I received a couple of negative comments on Amazon.co.uk just yesterday – one for each of the Acer books: Dirty Business and Loose Ends. They are both from the same reader. For Dirty Business he said: Paul needs to scrap this Acer Sansom killer and go back to Dover and his good books, at least they were readable. (Paul?)
For Loose Ends he left this comment under the title ‘Rubbish’: Just like his other Sansom book rubbish and not worth the money, his books with Dover as the back ground were readable this lot are not.
(Some of my detractors I’d like to run over with ‘de tractor’.)
It’s not often I am left baffled by a reader’s feedback. (I know these book aren’t going to win any prizes but equally I know they’re not ‘rubbish’ because I’ve had too many favourable comments on them from impartial reviewers whom I respect. I accept that they might not be everyone’s cup of tea but that’s different to ‘rubbish’.)
I’ve experienced my fair share of negative comments and almost always I can find a way to understand them. I’ve invited him to enlighten me regarding what it was in these books that so displeased him. I’d really like to know. (There must be a quote from some old sage out there somewhere about understanding alleviating anguish but I can’t be arsed to look for it. Besides, I feel my time is better spent trying to find out where this bloke lives. He only went and used his real name 🙂 )
There are many things I’ve learned through self-publishing. One of the most important to remember, if one wishes to remain sane, is that you really cannot please all the readers all the time. So I try to be philosophical about negative comments. I try not to let them ruin my day. But the truth is: I can deal with them a lot better when whoever leaves them is not so unnecessarily unpleasant. It’s so rude. Rudeness makes my blood boil. Rudeness and stupidity.
The reviewer in question is entitled to have his say over my book. He paid for that privilege. But why is it that some people feel the need to be so horrible? I mean, ‘Rubbish’. That’s not nice is it? Who is he? Who is anyone to say anyone’s book is ‘Rubbish’? It’s such a rotten, spiteful, nasty, lazy thing to plaster as a comment title.
And it’s not just him. It’s endemic on Amazon. Some of the things some people write for comment titles and comment content should make them ashamed of themselves. Passing judgement on a book you’ve read is a subjective thing. You might hate it, but maybe that’s just you. Express that privately if you have to, but why must people be so nasty on public forums?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for constructive criticism. I’ve learned a lot from decent readers who’ve taken the time and trouble to feedback to me constructively. Not everyone loves my books and that’s fine with me when readers comment using language that isn’t inflammatory and hostile. But I ask you, comments like those I’ve copied and pasted above, how do they help anyone? Readers or writers.
People like that remind me of people like this:
and I don’t like it. And it’s not about passion; it’s about being civilised. Ah, what’s the point?
He’s not my first and, of course, he won’t be my last. I just wonder how long I will be prepared to bite my tongue and remain affable in the face of such nastiness.
Mind you even smiling nicely and responding philosophically can upset a comment prowler. Example: A little while ago on Amazon.com a woman gave this comment for Rope Enough under the title of Rather boring: Couldn’t get into this book – even though it is an English crime novel. Not sure what the problem was, but it didn’t hold my interest and I didn’t finish it.
Fair enough, I thought. Because of my policy of commenting on every comment I had to write something. And it had to be fittingly philosophical. I replied: Hello Miriam, Just goes to show, I suppose – you can’t please all the people all the time.
That seemed harmless enough to me and to the point and honest in an ‘oh well’ kind of way. There was certainly no sub-text of unpleasantness intended.
So imagine my surprise when this week I got this comment from a reader who’d seen my response to Miriam: You are not going to win readers with that kind of attitude. I was about to give this book a shot because I love anything set in England. Most of my favorite authors are English. Your comment is off-putting and I will now pass on this one.
Still, one good thing to come out of all this: I was struggling to find a name for the hunchback kiddy-fiddler in my latest R&M File. Not any longer. Talking of which, oh look, his address came through – now where did I put de tractor keys?
(Please, just in case, I don’t want anyone springing to Acer’s defence on Amazon. I know I have some splendidly loyal readers who might do that, but it’s not what I’m fishing for. This is my writer’s diary and I’m simply sharing something to do with my writing journey that happened this week. That’s all folks.)
Hi Oliver – like you I dislike negative reviews and this one was unnecessarily rude and abrupt. If someone really dislikes a book it is better to give good, constructive feedback which I endeavour to do – as you know I also endeavour to do it privately wherever possible. As we have discussed before, I am of the opinion that much of this vituperative reviewing is from other authors jealous of the success of those whom they apparently consider to be competitors. If you recall I pointed you in the direction of an outstanding example of the genre. With that in mind I suggest that you should take it as a (very back-handed) compliment.
Now put down the tractor keys – it is a long, cold drive from Istanbul to the UK and you will run out of steam (literally and figuratively) long before you get here.
Thanks for your thoughts. I hold you up as a model reviewer exactly for the reasons you give. There are plenty of readers who comment and review who could learn from your style and motivation for the task.
I will take your good advice and stand down the Massey Ferguson. It needs an oil change, anyway, and one of the tyres is bald.
I like your way of looking at this. I will assume he’s jealous 🙂
I know exactly how you feel, in my younger days a young woman once told me, I was rubbish in bed! I mean it’s hardly my fault that she didn’t turn me on and was probably an in closet lesbian to boot. Don’t let these people get to you, we love you Oliver (in a platonic way of course) and there will always be cretinous useless nobhead twats out there. Sorry that I had to spell it out, but my wife doesn’t like me using the acronym. 😉
Many thanks for your input, vote of confidence and (platonic) love. Much appreciated as always. I think you were right to use the full term of reference. Your wife and my mum think alike on that. Could have been awkward.
My daughter from my first marriage can be quite funny sometimes. She just sent me this message: ‘Mum said she’s read some of your books and left some feedback for you :)’
I love the Romney and Marsh series. Just concentrate on them!
Thanks, Jean. It’s always good to hear from readers who enjoy the R&M Files. I have a lot of fun writing them and I plan to get on with #5 soon.
Reviews are always subjective. I find some really,really big best sellers truly,truly awful. Maybe you could blame such a short negative comment on the “tweet” habit – can only write in very short sentences. Don’t let it send you into a downward spiral of fury, misery & depression, and don’t kick the dobermans! Have told 3 peoples your barber & vet story today-made all laugh but retch slightly!
Thanks for your thoughts. That’s a good point about the ‘tweet’ culture of commenting being a possible influence. I shall turn the other cheek and not succumb to self-pity.
I wouldn’t dream of kicking the Dobermans. They’d have my leg off!
Always good to hear that someone’s getting something out of that vet story. Did I mention I’ve now got ringworm in my scalp?
Just be thankfull it’s not rabies & that anal glands are OK!
Re. your grumpy DI Romney – I had a DI who chewed his nails & a was bit highly strung. Whenever we had a major incident the lads used to inflate a model Boeing 707 & suspend it over his desk. He always parked his car in the tiny yard & SOCO mistook it for a stolen car they’d been asked to fingerprint. He came screaming into the office covered in shiny f/print dust, as he chewed his nails he had polished his face, just like the tin man!
As Brain sang: always look on the bright side of life.
Loved your DI story. That’s the kind of CID I want for R&M. Not sure Romney would appreciate the plane though. 🙂
cheer up, the Welsh Wine buff only gave Shostakovich two stars.
The man’s a philistine. She’s one of the best tennis players in the world. Friend of mine suggested that maybe ‘matey’ emptied his new wine rack before reading Acer, which made me chuckle. 🙂
Yes that’s a pretty cursory and rather hurtful comment. I sympathise. But it was hardly thought out or insightful so really not worth taking to heart.
There are some truly dreadful self published books which deserve a warning sign and I am grateful to those ( rare) reviewers who take the time to explain what is wrong and why. This is particularly important for books which appear to have hundreds of 5 star ratings – all doubtless from friends and family. Having the odd negative comment among your reviews isn’t all bad as it acts as a counterpoint, highlighting the positive majority.
Don’t worry. Your books are good. Your blog is interesting and makes me laugh a lot.
Thanks for your thoughts and your kind words. It’s always good to know readers enjoy the blog as well as the books.
I agree with everything you say. It is far more helpful and useful all round if a reviewer can explain what is wrong and why. That attitude has helped me a lot and I’m sure it would help others who want to improve their writing. Some reviewers might say, that’s not their job, but then it comes down to the kind of person you are, I suppose.
And yes, I’ve downloaded a few of those books with hundreds of 5* ratings that after reading made me really suspicious.
I suppose we’ll all just have to get on with things the way they are.
Hi, Oliver – I agree with Sarah and Chalkysoil. To have your work critiqued by anyone must be hard at the best of times. To have it critiqued by someone whose vocabulary stretches only to “rubbish” must be worse. However, the majority of your readers do like what you do and I hope you accept this deep down. Keep smiling
Thanks for your comment. As you can probably tell I was a bit peeved. It’s that word ‘rubbish’ that I really objected to. Even in the face of that kind of criticism I’m always mindful that a good number of people have been positive and supportive of my writing. Because of that, I’m always smiling. Look, I’ll prove it: 🙂
Hi Oliver, I loved Acer Sansom can’t wait for the third. Take no notice of that negative comment couldn’t even string a sentence together!! I love the Romney and Marsh files, keep up the good work
Thanks for your thoughts and your words of support. Much appreciated. I’m over it. Acer#3 is progressing. It’ll take more than a negative comment to shut me up.
Well I did write that the last Lee Childs book was crass…I am not normally rude, however i actually thought someone else may have written it because it was so poor. I absolutely love the Acer books so as you say each to his/her own! I enjoy the R&M books but my preference is definitely Acer and I will never forget the wonderful descriptions in that book of the area and the wonderful pictures it evoked for me. When someone writes ‘rubbish’ without backing this comment up with further information, I think that it is a poor comment, as it tells future readers nothing and doesn’t deserve your time. I also feel insulted!!! Keep up ALL the good work and your chin at the same time 🙂
I’m late with my reply but I know you’ll forgive me when I say it’s because I’ve had my head in Acer#3 almost non-stop lately.
I’ve read two Reacher books now. Killing Floor – the first – which I really thought was poor.(It looks like I’m in the minority with that.) And ‘The Affair’ which I really enjoyed. I thought he had really matured. The writing was slick and the story line solid. I’m looking forward to more of them now.
Acer hasn’t become as popular as I’d hoped, but the vast majority of those who have ‘discovered’ him seem to be quite keen. I really like him and I like writing him. It took me a while to get into #3 but now that I am I’m really enjoying it. I could write lots of them. I’ve got the plot line for #4 out of #3.
I don’t expect everyone to love him, but I do object to unsupported abrasiveness on a public forum. The point you make about feeling insulted as a reviewer never occurred to me. You’re quite right.
Oliver, you are the best. Don’t let these readers get you down. I love your style of writing. I’ve read all the Romney and Marsh books and can’t wait for the next. The Acer series is definitely on my list. I think you are one class act….can you tell I’m a fan lol! Please keep up the good work.
What a lovely comment. Thank you. I’m not sure that I’m worthy of your humbling praise, but I will endeavour to aspire to it (as an author, at least). You’ve made my day. 🙂
RUBBISH! It’s raining here and I can’t do the painting that her indoors has instructed me to do, so I have a little time to write some rubbish about rubbish. Firstly, about three weeks ago, on another rainy day, I did make a comment on “Mr Rubbish’s” review on Amazon, I had thought that others might too, but then it’s rubbish so why bother? And what’s more, he hasn’t ticked that he found my comment helpful?
After having thought about his blunt “Rubbish” remark, I’ve decided that I’m actually not really against this sort of sentiment and I’m not sure that it shows a lack of anything, other than interest. For example if someone were to ask me what I thought of the UKs number one viewed TV programme, or number one selling daily newspaper, or music record, or yellow and brown chequered chav scarfs, etc. etc. I’d simply say exactly what I thought. Rubbish! Because I really couldn’t be arsed to explain, or justify what I really thought. Why on earth should I?
So Mr Rubbish of Cardiff, in my book, no pun intended, is only guilty of poor taste and this really doesn’t set him too far apart from the vast majority of the great, not so Great, British public.
Always good to have a variety of opinion. Thanks for your thoughts.
In the words of Francis Urquhart: you might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.
BTW, I’m putting in an order of hard-hats. If you’re interested let me know your size. I have a feeling in my water that there may be trouble ahead….
Well, I’ve got a big head, so erm, Large I guess.
Hi, Oliver, as you know I have read all of your books and was not disappointed with any of them. When I first read your blog re: the comments, I too, like Dawn, felt they were back-handed compliments. Someone out there is rather put-out by your success: yes, success. You are successful as you have a solid readership, and I personally believe the more you write the better you get. Send the cheque by post. or I will email my bank details.
Keep it up. (Metaphorically speaking)
Thanks, Pat. I really appreciate your thoughts and support, as always. Every time someone says something nice about one of my books it makes my day. Having a readership is something I dreamed about. And if I can do it….
PS I wouldn’t dream of sullying our virtual friendship with something as dirty as money 🙂