Learning from Painful Reviews

After a decade in this business, I’ve grown some pretty thick skin.  As an erotica author, we have our own particular set of challenges.  Religious zealots will “friend” you on social media just to tongue lash you for how you earn your living.  Creeps will do the same to try to sext.  **eyeroll**

But one thing never changes, and that’s how what our readers feel, affects us as writers.

There’s nothing better than getting a 4 or 5 from a book reviewer or total stranger. BUT…when you get an unfavorable review from those same folks, it can gut you.

Delta from The Romance Reviews gave me a 4 star review on The Beginning, Book 1.  I remember reading her review.  It filled me with warm fuzzies.  But on Book 2, she only gave me 3 stars.  Now a 3 star review isn’t horrendous, but it’s what she said.  Here, let me share her words.

ULTIMATE VACATION is book 2 in the Dirty White Candy series and I don’t recommend reading it without picking up book 1, The Beginning, first. While I enjoyed the first book, I thought book 2 was very “eh.” There simply wasn’t any storyline or plot added to all of the decadent sex this time around. I’m all for erotica, don’t get me wrong, but personally I prefer my stories with at least a little bit of substance. The only real thread of a story in ULTIMATE VACATION was Candy realizing that she had real feelings for John and that, yup, John can have lots of sex with just as many people as she could. 

Speaking of John, his character changed from someone with feelings and emotions and a deep romantic side to pretty much a piece of man meat by the end of this book. Maybe because all of the women treated him like one, but his character just didn’t have much depth past the first few chapters. Candy was on her journey of self-discovery and admittedly fairly selfish about it, which I appreciated. It made me like her character more because of her honesty with John about their state of the union. I also really enjoyed her snarky inner monologue; it was realistic and not always sunshine and roses and sex. 

The kicker for me was the sketchy editing, which cancelled out the hot ménage, orgy, bisexual and group scenes that were well written. I will finish what I started and read the third book in the series, Trading Places, but ultimately, I was pretty disappointed with ULTIMATE VACATION.

What really punched me in the gut was one word… disappointed.  I let down a reader.  I know, I know…it’s just ONE reader. Other’s may love it (and have) but she had high expectations and they weren’t met. And to be fair, there were things about the book she liked.

I always appreciate the time reviewers take to read the novel then write the review.  And while her disappointment really bothers me, in the deepest emotional way possible, it’s still helpful.  I can learn from her words; soak them in and digest them.  No, I’m not going to contact her and explain my point in Book 2.  Because it doesn’t matter what MY POINT is. It only matters what the reader feels.  There are no excuses, no taking back disappointment, no changing her mind. She either loved it, or didn’t.

I’ve seen writers lose their shit with bad reviews.  They attack the reviewer instead of taking it as a learning experience. They call them out on Facebook as a “bad reviewer.”  This is bad behavior on the part of the writer…and this is the difference between a writer and an author. An author is a professional.  Listening to and accepting criticism is an opportunity for growth and an author recognizes this.  My professional hat is on. While the review is crushing (I know I’m stupid, I still got 3 stars!) it is an awesome opportunity to learn and learning I am.

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5 thoughts on “Learning from Painful Reviews

  1. After spending some time in the newspaper world I came to romance writing with a bit of thick skin anyway. So I agree it is a learning opportunity. Reviewers have pointed out areas where my writing is weak and I need to work on it. No, I don’t think I’m perfect! I doubt I ever will be. It’s an ever learning experience.

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