A Bad Review

A good many actors refuse to read notices in the press about their performances. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that members of a profession, whose business is the expression and manipulation of emotions, are highly sensitive to criticism, whether fair or unfair. After all, they have dared to submit their inner selves to public exposure and take it especially hard if they are condemned for it.

I understand this is true of some authors too. If you have dedicated many months or even years to producing a text which you hope will entertain, enlighten and even challenge your readers, it can be devastating to have that work trashed by someone who has clearly not understood what it is you’re at.

I first published nine years ago and have been lucky since then to have a good many acute and sensitive reviewers posting on Amazon and on my website. Some of these were from friends of course, but it is especially delightful when a complete stranger approves your work in an insightful way. I was particularly pleased for instance when a Londoner praised my novel, The Northern Elements which is set in Blackburn in 1980 and in 1960. I think I was particularly gratified because the reviewer had picked up on the idea behind the word ‘elements’ in the title. I had wanted to foreground aspects of childhood and human nature which I think are elemental, whilst also trying to capture the atmosphere of the northern mill town at two different times in its history.

Another review for the same book also surprised and pleased me. The reviewer pointed out that his teenage son had casually picked the book up from his desk, taken it away and devoured it in one sitting. He said that for his son to read anything voluntarily was quite unheard-of. So that was my contribution to literacy education and I felt really chuffed.

Both the reviews I’ve cited employed pseudonyms which is fair enough. It’s quite a different matter when you get an anonymous negative review. You wonder if it was posted by someone you know and speculate what you could possibly have done to provoke such spite. Again, if the review has been posted by a complete stranger, you begin to doubt your own judgement. Try as you may you feel affronted and a desire for revenge may even bubble up. You have expended a great deal of time on your project and here is some screwball who wants to annihilate all your hard work with a few snide remarks. And the really frustrating thing is that the writer is anonymous and you can’t get back at him or her. There is further cause for pique in that the reviewer’s position reveals the cowardice of a sniper.

Here is a review of Lord Lindum’s Anus Horribilis which appeared on Amazon:

1.0 out of 5 stars

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 February 2021
Verified Purchase
Absolute drivel. A complete waste of money and time. Very poorly thought out and full of weak jokes.

Now, you might say it would be wise of me to ignore this, especially since all the other reviews are very favourable. After all, if you think about it, there’s always one reviewer of a hotel or restaurant on Tripadvisor who trashes the place despite a garland of appreciative reviews from others. There is always someone who expects a Hollywood suite for the price of a modest hotel room or a Michelin Star meal from a bistro menu.

But it rankles, even though this reviewer is negative about most things he’s bought. My little book was meant as a jeu d’esprit, a little Christmas squib. What kind of book it is was evident in the blurb and the advertising material. It was in chronicle form and there is not much I can do to improve the structure of a calendar year. The type of humour is evident in the title and the blurb. It is full of exuberant silliness and is clearly not meant to be nuanced. The real question is why the reviewer bought my book in the first place.

I am going to put the matter to rest. It is highly unlikely that he will ever read this blog post but if he does, let him identify himself. I will happily refund the cost of the book (£4.30 ffs) on condition that he never ever purchases anything of mine again.

I feel better already.

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So glad that you can put this negative review to rest. The fault here lies with the reviewer, not the author. I have read all your books, many of them twice, and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. Keep up the good work.

Hi Ian!

It seems there is always a troll lurking in the depths of the internet! Some unhappy creep with a low self-esteem who wants to spread his angst and make himself feel superior. I can certainly understand your irritation (I would feel the same), but consider the source, and feel sorry for someone who is so miserable as to take the time to do that.
Onward and upward, my friend!

It’s the same for us singer-song writers. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to conceive/write/record and produce a three and a half-minute song, just for someone to trash it…

I enjoyed the book and the review is unfair and unworthy. However, there should be room for genuine comments to get a balanced reflection of readers’ views. I am sure it is painful to see something of this nature after toiling so hard so write a book but I think it better to have unfettered free text feedback rather than a clutch of favourable and predictable reactions from those with a connection to the author and a potential conflict of interest.

I agree entirely. Many of my reviews are from strangers. Positive criticism is always welcome. I found this one mean-spirited and nasty. Why did he buy the book? The kind of humour involved was clear from the way it was promoted. You can even read several pages for free on Amazon.

Dear Ian,
I very much enjoyed ‘Lord Lindum’s Anus Horribilis’, and found it extremely funny, and, of course, with my knowledge of Lincoln I was very amused at the transfer of familiar place names to characters in the book. It was hilarious in many places, and reminded me, and presumably many others, of the Jeeves and Wooster genre. It takes a reader devoid of comprehension and a sense of humour to write negatively about it. He/she should ‘GET A LIFE’.

Cecil B DeMille used to review the cards left by audiences at sneak previews.
He noted that he was always gratified by the way most took it seriously and wrote clear, honest – if not flattering – comments.

He went on to say, “There is one card that I always look for which simply says, ‘It stinks.'”

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