First of all let me say that although they're tough and rubbish to get, negative reviews actually don't bother me overmuch. One man's meat is another man's poison, and I know that my books aren't to everyone's taste. Whose are? All I can do is accept the review on the chin, learn from it, and move on.
Secondly, in all honesty, I have to hold my hands up and say that I didn't expect to get many good reviews for Big Brother. The theme was a difficult one to tackle, I was worried about the profanity (something which doesn't appear to have bothered many people), and also I wrote it in the midst of family troubles which I'm still dogged by, but which I've had to learn to live with. I felt I could have structured the book a lot better and spend more time on it. Still, that's no excuse and it's done now. Some readers have enjoyed the finished product and overall I'm satisfied with the comments I've received.
No, criticism doesn't bother me. What really hacks me off is when reviewers don't spend time to realise what it is they're reading.
Look at this review for instance, left for Big Brother on Amazon.com:
Big Brother - Not the book I thought July 13, 2013
It was not the book I thought it was so I started off on the wrong foot. Then, I thought there was too much gratuitous violence, and when I'd read more than half the book and it didn't let up, I stopped reading.
I've mentioned this review before and what annoys me about it is to me, it isn't really a review. It doesn't throw up the positives versus the negatives - the reader hasn't bothered to try to find any positives! - and it gives me the impression by 'Not the book I thought' that the reader bought the wrong book! There's more than one book out there called 'Big Brother'. The fact that the reader didn't finish the book doesn't bother me that much. It wasn't to their taste. OK, fine. I've still featured it on my website.
Now today I have received a new review for the same book which I'm not going to feature on my site yet because the reviewer is just 15 and I don't think it's fair to expose it because of their age. Reading between the lines I would say that the reader would have given it a 3/5 if given the chance, though the site doesn't grade. I will just say that it is an American review site I have used many times before and in itself this can be a problem for me: I'm English and therefore I often wonder how my style might translate.
I won't give the whole review here, but the reviewer gives balanced opinions with positives and negatives which is the way it ought to be done. A comment is made about the book 'jumping about too much' and being 'confused'. I agree with that, it's a fair cop, though if I were defending myself in court I would explain that this was the whole point because Ash is living in confusion himself - evident why at the end - but still it's not to the reviewer's taste. This is fair enough. What got to me was this:
'Also, in one part there was something mentioned about making a call to the United States to call his father which confused me. Was Ash in some other country, and which one?'
God, are you serious!! When sending my books to the US for review I ALWAYS explain that my books are set in the UK and they know where I live. I mean let's look at the stark giveaways:
1. Spelling: all the 'ou' words like 'colour' etc, 'pavement' not 'sidewalk'.
2. Liverpool: Yeah, I know there's a Liverpool in the US and Australia too but er, we had it first. Where d'yer think the Beatles came from! It's where I was born and dragged up. Also Bristol is mentioned which is also in, guess where, England...! And Ash is a Manchester United supporter NOT a Liverpool or Everton supporter, now, which country do you think those teams come from?
3. Football: In the US it's 'soccer' (OMG I hate that word, as do many of my footie mates on Twitter!) Football in the US is our rugby but harder and without the soppy padding. I wouldn't talk about football and mention someone in a silly helmet and shoulder pads so wide they couldn't get through a door.
(No offence, lol!)
When the review said this, I thought dear me, hello, it's just Big Brother being sarcastic!
'And when Big Brother called Ash, Ashley, I was thrown for a loop wondering if Ash was in fact a girl...'
In the UK the name 'Ashley' is used both for girls and boys but I think all the 'he' and 'his' references were a major clue!
Otherwise, fair points made, but those above comments are just plain daft and ignorant. Overall the reviewer was disappointed that not more explanation was given in places but enjoyed the concept and the plot. I would just ask that before anyone makes a review please do some research about the author and look up info in the book you may not be familiar with.
Meanwhile, here's a great tip from the site that sent me my review: Amazon doesn't like third party reviews, but you can post any you get onto the Editorial Reviews section on Amazon! I'm going to do that!