Friday, August 23, 2013

Kate Hewitt proves that even authors are fragile...plus a giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Last summer, we shared our thoughts on writing a bad review and then asked authors how they felt on receiving a bad review. I still hold the stance that I will not publish a completely negative review. There are some authors who have said "bring it on," after I have warned them, but sometimes I won't even write the review at all or allow our reviewers to do so. If it sounds balanced, but still pretty negative, I'll check with the author before posting and also give them another option for featuring the book. I personally write fair and balanced reviews, offering the positive points, as well as constructive feedback. Today, we are revisiting the topic of bad reviews with Kate Hewitt, a Harlequin Romance novelist who just published her first women's fiction novel, This Fragile Life.

Kate Hewitt wrote her first story (one sentence, really) at the age of five, simply because her older brother had written one and she thought she could do it too. She then went on to study drama in college and shortly after graduation moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater. This was derailed by something far better—meeting the man of her dreams who happened also to be her older brother’s childhood friend.

Ten days after their wedding they moved to England, where Kate worked a variety of different jobs—drama teacher, editorial assistant, church youth worker, secretary, and finally mother. When her oldest daughter was one year old, she sold her first short story to a British magazine, The People’s Friend. Since then she has written many stories and serials as well as novels. In 2007 she published her first Harlequin Presents novel, The Italian’s Chosen Wife. Since then she has written over 25 books for Harlequin, and also writes women’s fiction for Carina UK and Lion Hudson Press.

Besides writing, Kate enjoys reading, traveling, and learning to knit (mainly scarves). She lives in a tiny village on the northwest coast of England with her husband, five young children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can find her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Kate has a special prize for a lucky reader anywhere in the world. Read her post to find out what it is! You can also enter her Flavors of Summer contest on Facebook for a chance to win a $300 gift card!

The Truth About Bad Reviews
by Kate Hewitt


Thanks so much for having me here--I'm so excited to share my first women's fiction, This Fragile Life, with you!

I was asked to blog about reviews and how they affect a writer, which is a very interesting subject--and one writers have varying opinions about. Things have changed a lot since I started writing, when Amazon was only a river and the internet wasn't anything more than email. Now there is so much information online, so much community and interest and opinion, that writers are receiving a lot more online attention. That is a great, great thing--but it can also be a hard thing.

Reading bad reviews about your book is hard. Never mind whether the review is thoughtful or snarky, long or short, apologetic or aggressive. Bad reviews hurt. Fortunately, after eight years of being published, I've developed a thick skin in regards to reviews--and I've had enough experience with bad ones to do so! The first Amazon review of my first book was one star and all of three words: 'just plain dumb'. That devastated me for days.

Bad reviews can affect your writing. They can make you wonder whether you're washed up or a fraud. They can give you writer's block., or make writing feel like even more of a slog than usual. They always seem to count more than good reviews; good reviews, you tell yourself, are written by delusional people who never say a bad word about anyone. Bad reviews are Total Truth.

But--and this is a very big and important but--bad reviews can also be helpful. I know some writers who will never read a bad review of one of their books, or simply disregard any bad reviews they read, and that seems to work for them, which is fine. I can't do that. So I read every bad review--even the ones that seem to spew hatred--and consider what I can learn from it. I remember one of the first bad reviews of one of my books that I read said something like 'could have been good except for all the repetitive junk'. I thought about that for awhile, and then I realized that I was in fact repeating a lot of the internal conflict of my characters throughout the book! That review really helped me grow as a writer.

Of course, some reviews don't really help you as a writer. Some people are just not going to like your writing, and you need to accept that. I went through a short, frantic phase of trying to write for every reader, and that didn't work. Try to please everyone and you'll probably end up pleasing no one.

In the end, a bad review is simply one person's opinion, and that person is absolutely entitled to think whatever he or she likes about your book. Understanding that logically is easier than handling it emotionally, but with time and experience it becomes easier to get a little perspective on your own writing as well as the reviews of it.

Navigating the online writing and reading community can be challenging; I've seen a lot of authors behaving badly as well as a lot of readers writing over-the-top snarky reviews, and sometimes it feels easier to keep my head below the parapet and concentrate on writing rather than what is online.

But in the end? I'm grateful for all the online opportunities there are for writers, and I'm always glad when someone took the time to write down her opinion of my book, even if my story made her want to throw the book against the wall. And I'm glad I have learned a lot through the bad reviews of my work that I've read.

What do you think about bad reviews--writing, reading, or how authors respond to them? Leave a comment and one random commenter will win a paperback copy of one of my Harlequin Presents and an Amazon gift card!

Happy Reading,

Kate



This Fragile Life: You love your best friend. You trust her with your life. But could you give her the most precious gift of all? Alex’s life is a mess. She’s barely holding down a job, only just affording her apartment, and can’t remember when she was last in a relationship. An unexpected pregnancy is the last thing she needs. Martha’s life is on track. She’s got the highflying career, the gorgeous home and the loving husband. But one big thing is missing. Five rounds of IVF and still no baby. The solution seems simple. Alex knows that Martha can give her child everything that she can’t provide. But Martha’s world may not be as perfect as it seems, and letting go isn’t as easy as Alex expected it to be. Now they face a decision that could shatter their friendship forever.

Where To Find This Fragile Life:

Carina
Amazon
Kobo

And it will be available on Barnes & Noble soon!

Special thanks to Kate for visiting with us and sharing one of her books and a gift card with our readers.

How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open worldwide. Giveaway ends August 28th at midnight EST.

20 comments:

Janine said...

If I can't give a good review, I just don't give it. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Plus, I know everyone has different writing and reading styles and maybe I was just missing something with a certain book.

Nova said...

It goes back to what my Mom always said. "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything". If i really don't like a book, i usually won't do a review; or i will find at least 2 positive things about the book and write that. I think an author shouldn't let a bad review get them down. I really think author street teams help get positive word out about an author the reader happens to love.

pascale said...

I think an author works very hard, and it would be wrong to write an awful review.

I read, and did not LOVE, the 2nd Devil Wears Prada book last week. I went to Amazon to check out the reviews and was shocked at how mean people could be. I decided to hold my tongue.

susieqlaw said...

The discussion last summer on bad reviews really changed my viewpoint. I like to read the good reviews...why someone loved the book...and notice if only a small percentage of bad reviews exist...and sometimes read them. For some reason, I am more likely to read all the reviews on goodreads (maybe because there are fewer) than on amazon where I tend to scroll through them. Word of mouth works, so I am definitely more conscious how I write my reviews.

Jessica said...

I really hate to leave bad reviews. I really don't want to hurt the author. Usually I just don't leave a review if I didn't like the book.

Connie said...

Hi, Kate! I’m so glad you brought this up today. I read and review lots of novels at the request of authors and publishers, but mostly for myself. I make a point of writing an honest, well thought out review for all of them. I also post reviews on the blog, bookworm2bookworm. I take this very seriously for I feel that an author has worked very hard to research and carefully write a story that they have put together. Here’s the glitch. Not everyone likes the same genres, so that is why some readers aren’t always especially intrigued by a novel. I’m addressing most of what I’m writing here to readers. I want everyone to know that it’s OK if a book is not necessarily your “cup of tea,” however, it is not OK to tear the book and the author apart. If there is something that you didn’t specifically care about in the novel, write it down in a nice and constructive way. Do not be ugly or hurtful. In addition, always, always find something good about the novel and put that in your review. A novel is almost like an author’s child. Just as you wouldn’t tear apart someone’s child, please do not do this with books. Sadly, there are just mean people out there who have nothing better to do than to attack a vulnerable person just to make themselves feel better. While I know it’s not an easy thing to do, sometimes authors just have to realize this and grow those duck feathers on their backs! Read the good reviews and “consider the source” on the bad ones!

Bonnie K. said...

I don't like to give negative reviews. I will focus on the positive and rate it as an average 3 or maybe as low as a 2 if the writing is really bad. I know there are writing styles that I don't care for; so, I try not to think negatively. If it's something I really don't like, I will usually just not write a review. I should also mention that I don't always have time to review all the books I read; so, if I haven't reviewed a book, it doesn't mean that I don't like it. I will just rate it. As for the author's response, it's probably best not to attack the reviewer. Maybe, have it deleted if it's really inappropriate or try to ignore it. There will always be some individuals that like to hurt people.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Britney Adams said...

I agree with "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." What one person doesn't like about a book may be the very thing someone else loves about it!

Melanie Backus said...

I know there all all kinds of reviews but I think there is a nice, tactful way to say most anything.

Mary said...

I actually am on the review crew at booktrib.com and I have a hard time writing something bad about a book. It's the emotional part of me that says I don't want to hurt someone's feelings,especially when an author puts their heart and soul into their book. But, there are some books that are just not my cup of tea and I have to write that. It's not fair to sugarcoat a review either.

bn100 said...

If it's an honest opinion, then someone should provide it

Don't think authors should respond

Chanpreet said...

When I write a review either as feedback for a beta read, or a book I've read on my own, or for a blog site, I come across a book I don't enjoy or love. I try to be constructive and focus on what I liked in my reviews and not so much on what I didn't. I don't like being mean. Sorry, thank you, and excuse me are the words I use the most.

I find that even though it's hard for authors to read bad reviews, they shouldn't respond. It can devolve into something that leaves them with little dignity.

Erika said...

I'm torn, because I like honesty but know how hard people work and wouldn't ever want to hurt their feelings. I just think some people write bad reviews with no tact at all. It is ok to not like something but saying it isn't for me is better than saying don't read it or it is the worst book ever. That is just mean and uncalled for. Constructive criticism is always better.

Linda Kish said...

I think it's important to be honest. Not everyone is going to love what someone writes. I'm sure authors develop somewhat of a thick skin about reviews after a time. I would rather read a review where someone said what they really meant than always reading the same thing.

Anonymous said...

As a reader sometimes I read reviews to see whether or not a book is for me but I find myself doing that less and less because I've realized that each reader's experience is unique and even influenced by their own life and experience at that moment. For that reason I can't see myself ever giving a review that is disrespectful to the author's creation. I would probably explain what about the book didn't fit my taste or work for me as the reader rather than judge it as poor writing or lack of creativity.

Christi
monsterhead01(at)comcast(dot)net

Kate Hewitt said...

Thanks for all your comments. It's interesting to read what you all think about bad reviews. I'm much encouraged by people's respect of how much work goes into producing a book :)

Mary Jo Burke said...

I received a good review with one star. Nothing negative written at all.

Mary Preston said...

I think the author deserves kindness & respect as much as they deserve honesty.

StereoQueenBee said...

I hate writing a bad review - it is so difficult because I know how much work they probably put into it.

Bridget O'Neill said...

I find it very hard to write a bad review-most of the time, if I don't like a book, I don't write one.