Tag Archives: Gumb Fantasy Writers Guild

How do you deal with bad reviews?

I find myself on tenterhooks, waiting for the first review to go up for Quest in Time: A Beginning. I have also just finished reading a book by another independent author, and have to write a review for that. So, book reviews are up there at the moment, vying for attention, along with, how do I pay the rent this month? Are we going to get another dog? And, where is my coffee?

Firstly, it is impossible to overstress how important reviews are for the indie author. We are unknowns. We do not have the backing and publicity machines associated with the big publishing houses. Our books do not get sent FOC to newspapers and other organisations for critic. WH Smiths do not have our books on the shelves or huge cardboard cut-outs of our front covers in the window. A press release for us is a write-up in the local paper, if we are lucky. Therefore, reviews of our books on Amazon, Goodreads and social media are the only way potential readers can get an idea of whether or not to part with their hard earned cash for our works.

So far I have been lucky; Bubble of Time hasn’t had any particularly bad reviews. The worst has been a two star review which was critical of the Devonian accent of several of my main characters. Otherwise, they have all had something nice to say and mostly been five star reviews. Therefore, it could be said, that I have not had to deal with a bad review. However, it doesn’t stop me worrying that the first review for QIT:AB will rip it to pieces, and will put off other people from buying it. I know my books won’t appeal to everyone; even the great STP had his critics and dissenters. But the first review…

I know the book I have to write a review for has had some shocking reviews. I don’t understand why. Perhaps they were expecting something else? True, the book is hardly a JRRT work, but it is an interesting fantasy story that has been told well. Yes, it is simplistic, but why does that matter? Surely the enjoyment is in the story itself and not in deciphering some huge political back-story or some complicated, multi-generational character angst? And since it is the second in a trilogy, why, when they have trashed the first volume, have they even bothered to read the second book, only to trash that one as well?

I do not pretend to understand the human psyche, and therefore, to me, a bad review is something I’ll take on the chin. As long as the majority of reviews are five star, I won’t worry too much about the odd bad one. I know my work will not appeal to everyone, no author ever does. But the first review…

So, please, please, PLEASE post a review.

Ride Safe

Rick

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Has Your Trope Been Overdone? by Jaq D Hawkins

Long before I became a Fantasy writer, I was a long time Fantasy reader. I started reading Fantasy at the age of twelve, back in the days when Fantasy was a distinctive genre and readers knew what to expect of it… before the Romance and YA invasion that started in 2010 changed all that… but I digress.

The point I’m working towards is that as I read book descriptions to vet the gems from the dross in today’s open publishing market, I continually come across tropes that are being done to death so that I glaze over within a few words of the description. One phrase that is certain to send me to the next interesting looking book cover is “Fifteen-year-old [name]…

The writer has already lost me. The thing is, I’m not adverse to a young protagonist, or even a child character. I’ve written some myself in Demoniac Dance where a whole group of children are primary characters and Namah, the lead character, is far too young to submit herself to a forced marriage not long after she has her first woman’s blood.

The reason that particular phrase sends me running is that it is invariably the portent of a certain kind of story; one where a young person, usually a girl, will go through a prescribed script of growing up challenges and come out strong and happy, having accomplished great things. The stories tend to be very similar as well as one dimensional, effectively slight variations on a common theme.

These stories have their market, but if you look at their sales rank on Amazon, you might notice that the glut of these stories has spread sales very thin for most of them. A ranking with seven figures indicates a book that sells no more than a few copies.

There are other tropes that have become boring in their commonality; the romantic vampire or werewolf character, the damaged woman who survives through inner strength, the zombie apocalypse, the military outcast who saves the universe. There are more.

If this is the kind of story a writer wants to write, then they should certainly write it. However, if they are thinking of putting it up for sale, it is worth being realistic with expectations. Of course your story will be better than all those others with a similar idea, but that’s beside the point. The question is, are you writing it because you will get enjoyment from writing that particular story, or do you have an ambition to write stories that will sell?

If you write for your own enjoyment, I recommend uploading to Wattpad where readers can comment and encourage the budding writer. If you want to write for profit, I suggest studying the publishing market. A few hours of perusing sales figures on Amazon and similar stories to the one you want to write could save you many more hours of wasted creativity that will only add one more clone to an overdone trope.

Of course there is always the possibility of finding a new angle to a particular type of story. The last thing I would want to do is to discourage anyone from writing anything, but study your market. If several book descriptions sound similar to yours, find a unique angle and most importantly, put some extra effort into writing your description so that it doesn’t sound like all of the others. Avoid that phrase, ‘Fifteen-year-old..’ and another turn-off, ‘Follow [name] as he/she/they…’ unless you’re writing children’s books.

If you really must write yet another coming of age story, find a way to be original. Let the transition happen in original ways and shoot down the clichés that all the other stories have done over and over again. We are constantly told that there are no original stories. It’s an opinion that I don’t quite share. At the very least, show the reader that you can tell the story in an original way. Shine with original content and you won’t be wasting all the effort it takes to write a book by ending up among the slush pile of the seven digit sales rank.

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Filed under General, Gumbee Fantasy Writers' Guild