The answer: a 1 Star review that completely spoils the entire plot of your book for every other reader, that’s what.
Now, I’ve been an author for a while now, and I’ve suffered my fair share of negative reviews. More for my earlier work, I admit, but they still hurt. Some hurt more than others, because i saw an element of truth in what the reviewer was saying. They were right.
And, just as it is wise to do when you are writing for an audience, I listened.
Some of the more constructive reviews of The Equivoque Principle (the first Cornelius Quaint book and my first book too) told me where i had gone wrong. Whether it was London landmarks or more meaty things, such an over-exposition or overly descriptive writing. And I listened. I took that feedback on board and consciously tried to avoid falling into the same traps when it came to writing the sequels. Taking things a step further, I have been badgering my publisher to let me go back and revise that first book, and there have been some meaty edits performed – all for the betterment of the story, and more importantly, for the reader. That is how seriously I value feedback of a constructive nature. It told me where I went wrong – just as positive reviews tell you where you went right.
I listened to my audience and I learned how to do things better.
So, I can take it on the chin and man up when it comes to constructive criticism, and I always bear in mind that someone paid their hard-earned cash on my product, and if they were dissatisfied they had every right to voice their opinions.
But then there is another type of criticism that is far darker, far more destructive, spawned by the protection of the internet that makes everyone faceless. They can rip your work to shreds in the blink of an eye, and they don’t even need a valid reason. After all, it is far easier to say something negative than positive. But whatever happened to the old adage, if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all. These types of reviewers, empowered by the likes of Amazon and Goodeads, might not have an issue with any one thing in particular, but they want to exercise their web-given right to vent their disgust. These types of reviewers don’t give a damn that there’s another human being at the other end of it who might have spent months, even years, working their arse off to produce something that they were proud of, and that – crucially – they hope their loyal following will enjoy.
And speaking of which, some folk who have seen overly-critical reviews of mine have taken it into their own hands to reprimand the reviewer, defending me unasked (they know who they are, I won’t name names 😉 and for that I am truly grateful.
But let me get to my point.
Yesterday, I was scanning through Amazon.UK on a whim, just popping in to see if there were any new reviews for a book that I am incredibly proud of – ABOVE HIS STATION – and I stumbled across a 1 Star review from a reader who obviously did not enjoy my book.
Fair do’s, you might say, and yes to a certain extent, fair do’s indeed…but this reviewer did not only voice his/her dissatisfaction, Oh no…they broke the number one Golden Rule when it comes to leaving a review: they revealed the plot of the book.
Beat for beat, all the many surprises and twists and turns that I had intentionally designed to keep the reader guessing were revealed – and subsequently ruined for other readers, who might preferred not to know exactly what was going on, thanks all the same.
Many people that have read (and thoroughly enjoyed, might I add) ABOVE HIS STATION have said that it is the type of book that deserves to be read without reading the cover blub. You just dive head first into it and let the story lead you. That, actually, is exactly what I intended to do, intentionally writing it in 1st person so the reader only knows what the main character is telling them, layers of an onion revealed slowly, one chapter at a time.
That was my concept, and now, due to one single person who felt that it was their obligation to ruin things for others, I feel that the entire book is spoiled.
Worse still………and this is the best part…..
I have been informed that this faceless reviewer happens to be an author himself, and in a similar genre to me also…so whether it is sour grapes, or he genuinely felt the need to vent his disgust – he should know better than to reveal the contents of the plot, and without even the decency of a Spoiler Warning.
I am taking this up with Amazon directly – not to have the review removed, but merely to have it flagged as a Spoiler, and then the readers can make up their own minds about whether they wish everything to be ruined.