I’ll have a thicker skin, hold the ice, please.

As part of a cross-promotion with eight other authors, I temporarily lowered the price of the ebook version of A State of Jane to 99 cents over President’s Day Weekend and in honor of Valentine’s Day. Thanks to several very supportive bloggers, social networking in general and a well-placed ad by my amazing publisher, there were approximately 1,200 downloads of A State of Jane that weekend. To be honest, I never expected to sell 1,000 copies period, so selling more than that over a few days is, for lack of a better word, fantastic! I even made it onto a few Amazon best-seller lists and since I have no idea when that will happen again, if ever, I took screen shots and have them hanging on my bulletin board at work so I can look at them when I need a quick pick-me-up.

Although I am very excited about the volume of sales I experienced, I am also terrified. With more sales comes more readers (it ain’t rocket science…) and with more readers comes the increased risk of negative reviews. I’m well aware that even The New York Times best selling books get bad reviews as it is impossible to please everyone. Impossible. It stands to reason, therefore, that not everyone is going to like A State of Jane. Negative reviews are just part of being a published author, right? My head understands the logic behind this but my heart is a different story, not to mention my thin skin.

So far, the majority of reviews for A State of Jane have been very positive. Most of the ratings I’ve received have been 4, 4.5 or 5 stars and some of the reviews have included comments that the book is “chick lit at its finest”, “a must-read” and “hilarious”. Many people have asked me about a sequel and told me they want more Jane. Obviously not everyone has LOVED the book but most have said they enjoyed it. It has made the handful of two and three star ratings on Goodreads easier to swallow since, like I said before, no book is going to have only positive reviews if anyone reads it besides friends and family of the author!

Am I fooling anyone? I didn’t think so. Despite two published novels under my belt, negative reviews/ratings hurt like a mother fucker!

I’ve recently received two somewhat unfavorable reviews for A State of Jane from bloggers. Both reviewers did not like my main character and said that it took away from their enjoyment of the book. I’ll be honest in saying that I can live with that. It was my intention to write a story about a very idealistic and optimistic young woman who learns the hard way that life doesn’t always follow a to-do list. Unlike many main characters in chicklit, Jane is not merely an innocent victim of circumstances outside of her control, i.e. relationships that don’t work out, career aspirations that don’t take off due to an evil boss etc. When faced with disappointment, Jane tries everything (and I mean everything) to turn things around and becomes obsessed to the point of alienating her friends and family. As many readers have said, Jane becomes very unlikeable for a portion of the book. I fully expected readers to dislike Jane for a period of time and so reading this doesn’t surprise or upset me. My hope (and expectation to be honest), however, was that Jane’s antics would endear her to readers and that they would understand and appreciate why she acted the way she did and maybe even relate to her. For the most part, readers have expressed that this was the case but unfortunately for me, other readers could not warm to Jane. I cannot apologize for that because if I could go back and change Jane, I wouldn’t. If I did, it would be a completely different story and not the story I wanted to tell. And if I changed Jane to please those people who didn’t like her, I would thoroughly piss off those who did. (To those readers who did not like Jane, might I suggest that you pick up my debut novel, Just Friends With Benefits? The protoganist is much nicer πŸ™‚ )

I obviously prefer to read reviews from readers who got a kick out of Jane, found her relatable and refreshing and laughed their way through the novel, however, it does make me feel better when the basis of a negative review is something I did intentionally and would not change. I did, however, read a review recently that really pissed me off because it did not seem like the reviewer even read the book. She got a couple of facts wrong and made comments that were just not accurate. She said that the book focused entirely on Jane’s dating experiences and that there were no other relationships or sub plots. Since the premise of the book was how Jane’s obsession with finding “the one” and controlling her destiny negatively affected her relationships with her best friends, family, co-workers and career aspirations, I got the feeling that the reviewer simply skimmed the book and wrote her review based on assumptions of what she thought it was about. That bothers me, especially if others rely on her review, but I guess that is the risk I take putting my book out there.

In summation, bad reviews suck. Despite my friends and fellow authors reminding me that even Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner get bad reviews, bad reviews make me want to cry and sometimes I do cry. Bad reviews even make me question whether I want to keep writing. But then I re-read all of the amazing reviews I have received, I look at the screen shot of A State of Jane reaching #6 on Amazon’s list of best sellers in humorous fiction, I recall how undeniably happy I feel after a good writing session and I move on.

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Comments

  1. Did you really get 1200 downloads! That’s amazing! I hope you get a ton more 4* and 5* reviews. Jane is worth it! I know I loved it. πŸ™‚ Here’s to having a thick skin. And congrats!

  2. “Despite two published novels under my belt, negative reviews/ratings hurt like a mother fucker!”

    LOL Thank you for telling it like it is, Meredith! Your post was great and summed up my feelings about reviews very well. It’s difficult because you want to be mature and not let a negative comment or review bother you, but it’s human nature to care what other people think and to want to please them. I know some authors who don’t read reviews at all, and I admire their willpower. But I like reading the good reviews too much to ignore them all and that means I have to deal with a little negativity once in a while. At least, us authors have a support group where we can get comfort and encouragement when we’re feeling down about someone not liking one of our books.

    Congrats again on your great sales this month! You rock!

    • Thanks Tracie. I also like reading the good reviews too much to stop reading them at all but I think I am going to refrain from checking them quite as regularly.

      I agree – the support of other authors like you makes me feel like I am not alone.

  3. I am willingly to bet you have more positive reviews, than negative…State of Jane was excellent book as well as Friends with Benefits! Please keep writing, I want to read more by you;) As for bad reviews your books might not have been their cup of tea, maybe they are better fitted in a different genre or maybe just the type of person who is nitpicking and never satisfied! As for the 1200 downloads that is wonderful, that also means that was 1200 people who wanted to read your book, So Congratulations:)

  4. Meredith, Thanks for sharing such honest thoughts and feelings. It’s not easy to be reviewed, but it’s part of the game. Hopefully as writers, we learn and bring sensitivity when we review others. Congrats! Cindy

    • You’re right. I know that I also don’t enjoy every book equally and it doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good or that others won’t love it. It’s a matter of personal preference. Thanks, Cindy.

  5. Number one rule, you can’t please everyone all the time. Some people will never get your work, but as long as the good reviews outweigh the bad we seem to forge ahead! Happy Writing!

  6. Excellent post, Meredith! I know exactly what you mean. I made “Chocolate for BReakfast” free for the five available days in my Kindle Select period. Had well over 15K downloads, and I’m sure my three 1-star reviews from readers who got the book for free.
    Look, in the beginning, I really appreciated all the five-star reviews from friends and family. Even a few four-stars thrown in there. And the first time a stranger gave me five stars, I was overjoyed.
    I don’t mind the criticism, really, if it helps. There were people who didn’t like my character, either. But here’s what “Mrs. Rita Zimmerman” wrote: “I quit reading half way through. This book came with my reader app, so I didn’t have to pay for it. If I had paid, I’d be demanding a refund. Predictable, dry, even the sex scenes are awful. Someone took a cookie cutter teen romance and ran with it, and they should have ran to the trash.” Now THAT hurt! (And, Mrs. Z., it’s should have RUN, not should have ran. πŸ™‚
    You have a great attitude, and I can’t wait to read ASOJ! xxx

    • Wow, Mrs. Z was really mean! That’s not cool at all. I’d like to read HER book… What? She hasn’t written one? Shocking… Constructive criticism and honest unfavorable reviews should be expected but cruelty is just not acceptable.

  7. Goodreads is one of the toughest markets of readers out there, in my opinion, so always good not to take reviews too seriously. Laugh all the way to the bank, I say! An upcoming quote I’ll be posting on FB that might help regarding those who judge harshly:

    “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” –Wayne Dyer

    And last, but not least, Meredith, remember the most important thing: You wrote a book. They didn’t. –insert raspberry aimed in harsh criticizer’s general direction–

  8. You are so right, Judy. I often have to take a step back and remember that I wrote a book. I wrote a book and that in and of itself is pretty fantastic. I love that quote! Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  9. I had the exact same experience – all good reviews until I had my 99c sale and sold 2000 copies. After that, I knew some bad reviews would be coming my way – it’s inevitable, but knowing they will come doesn’t make them hurt any less. I got a 2 star (which is such a dumb review that it’s actually laughable), but it was two mean-spirited 3 star reviews that hurt worse. Like you I also thought about whether I wanted to keep writing. In a way, it would be really easy to just walk away… It’s hard to get beat up for something you put so much time and effort into. But it’s silly of us to focus on a couple of bad reviews when there are so many GOOD ones out there. (What is wrong w/ my brain though that that one mean 3-star review rattles around in there way more than the 60+ good reviews I got!?)

    It’s good to vent about the bad reviews and then try to move on. I don’t even really pay much attention to the ones on Goodreads anymore. People there are tough! Trying to not read them on Amazon as well, but who am I kidding? I doubt I’ll ever be able to resist reading them!

    • Thanks for commenting, Jackie. I feel the exact same way – I can have 20 terrific reviews which make me so happy but as soon as I read a not-so-good one, I feel utterly destroyed! Although I’ve received a handful of 2 star ratings on Goodreads, the post-promotion reviews haven’t come in yet and so I’m bracing myself. I’m trying not to look at Amazon a million times a day but since I track my ranking, it’s very difficult… Thanks for sharing your experiences. What The Dog Ate is on my Kindle waiting to be read and I am certain that I will agree with all of those readers who LOVED it.

  10. I know. Why do we let the bad ones destroy us and question ourselves and our work when there are good ones out there to encourage us to keep going? Some people are just nasty and they don’t deserve our attention. Still hurts though. I got a nasty 1 star complete with a tirade of how awful my book was, and a lovely 4.5 with a nice spiel of how good my book was, and a couple of nice 4’s recently, yet I almost wanted to give everything up based on that stupid 1 star.

    • I feel your pain, Leigh! I’m the same exact way. Why does negativity hold so much more weight than positivity? Frustrating… Thanks for the comment! Here’s hoping for more 4 and 4.5 star reviews for both of us and learning to shrug off the bad ones. When they are nasty, at least you know that the person is just mean. I think it is the kind ones that hurt me more because the person is just providing her honest opinion and not intentionally hurting our feelings.

  11. 1200 downloads? That is AMAZING!
    This is such a great post, Meredith.
    I know exactly what you mean… Breaking the Rules was free all weekend and got tons of downloads (really wish they had been paid ones! Ha!) and now I am just waiting… Thankfully, a few have trickled in and they are mostly positive but I know the bad ones are coming and I am bracing for impact. I get really angry with myself when I focus (obsess?) on the bad reviews and just get a momentary joy from the good ones. So, in addition to getting that thick skin, I need to stop giving the negative reviews more importance than the good ones. And I’m very happy you didn’t change A State of Jane… “If I did, it would be a completely different story and not the story I wanted to tell.” Love, love, LOVE this! Sums everything up perfectly. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Cat! I’m glad you got so many downloads of Breaking the Rules, although getting paid for them would be more fun, of course. I’m sure you’ll get many, many awesome reviews but if there are a few bad ones sprinkled in, just try to focus as much, if not more, on the positive ones. I’ll be right there with you…

  12. Congrats on the downloads.

    The review I’ve received that annoyed me the most was by someone who put random words and phrases in “quotes” as if to suggest I’d used the words out of context. It still makes me mad to think about it.

    Just think, sometimes negative reviews sell books – I read them and think ‘they hated that? I love it…’ πŸ™‚

  13. Meredith, I just love you to bits. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing it with us. And congrats on the downloads! You are fab πŸ™‚

  14. Just keep focusing on proud you should be of yourself for all you’ve accomplished (and then keep tequila handy for the rest.) PS – Sooo annoying about the reviewer who just skimmed your book (apply tequila shot!) As a huge fan of ASOJ, I will go head to head with any skimmer out there…argh!

  15. A huge congrats on the massive sales, Meredith. Oh yes, to have a thicker skin would help all of us. But, I think the fact that it was your main character who pissed people off so much is a testament to your excellent writing. You created such a believable character that some readers hated her. I believe that is the mark of a talented writer. So, kudos to you for getting such a strong reaction. I loved Jane because of her flaws and can’t wait to read more about her.

    Samantha Stroh Bailey

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