Friday, June 20, 2008

Bad Reaction

It’s a simply gorgeous first day of summer here in Ohio, so Jodi and I went on a lunchtime walk to the grocery store. I didn’t realize Friday around 11:30AM was such a busy time at our local IGA. The store was packed, so of course we saw some people we know. We ran into a couple that I used to attend church with when I was growing up. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them that they were surprised to see me with a baby of my own. We chatted for a few seconds and then the lady, Malinda, knelt down to say hi to Jodi in her stroller—not to touch her or pinch her cheeks or even say boo, just to offer a friendly hello. Did my daughter respond with the sweet little “Hi!” she has recently learned to say? Um, no. She started screaming. Red-faced, tear-soaked SCREAMING like I have never heard before. You’d have thought Malinda yanked on Jodi’s overabundance of hair! Of course, Malinda felt awful for making Jodi scream, and I felt terrible that Jodi made Malinda feel bad for no apparent reason. We quickly exchanged apologies—midst the screaming—and I raced Jodi down the next aisle hoping to get her distracted. In seconds she was fine and back to her regularly scheduled happy day. Goodness, what a bad reaction! Future unexplainable behavior like that will require some discipline! :)

Do you ever hear from readers who have had bad reactions to your books? Usually readers send fan mail, but I occasionally see some that I’d consider “not-so-much-a-fan” mail. :) If the reader offers constructive criticism, I forward the mail on, but occasionally the comments seem just downright mean and uncalled for and get put in the trash. Very rarely does this happen, but it makes me wonder, do any of you authors ever get really bad responses to your books by email or blog/website comments? Do you ignore them or respond? If you do respond, how? Hopefully you don’t have many, but if you don’t mind sharing, post a comment and tell us (tactfully, of course) about a “not-so-much-a-fan” mail experience.


Jennifer Johnson said...


I'm sitting here thinking, "Oh man, I hope it wasn't a letter about one of my stories that she was reading!!!"

I haven't had any bad responses. I had one lady point out that I'd messed up on a location know, had a football stadium outside when in actuality this particular one is INSIDE! Who'd have thought? Every football game I've ever watched has had men running around in a blanket of snow. I know, I know...proof of how often I watch football.

I did respond to her, telling her what a geological goof I can be. We then went into some dialog about some other geographical stuff I got right, and she shared how much she'd enjoyed my books.

So, if...okay, when, I do receive not-so-nice comments I hope that I will step away from the comment. Lick my wounds before Jesus, then if He nudges, respond with explanation, thanks, or encouragement to the reader.

One of the things I really enjoy about you, JoAnne, is that you have a very kind, sweet spirit in every correspondence...even rejections. If I respond to someone whose hurt my written 'baby' with that kind of spirit, they will first, be willing to look for the good in my stuff and second, respect that I'm open to criticism (even if it isn't nice).

I hope I don't get to practice that now that I've written it out. :-D

On the flipped side, yesterday I found a review from a 12-year-old about my story in Kentucky Keepers. She said I was one of her new favorite authors. When the bad comes, I'll try to focus on responses like that.

Mary Connealy said...

You know I can complete sympathize with Malinda. People have that same reaction to me all the time. My husband in particular.

Very unpleasant.

I have two really, really bad reviews on B & N (one of the reviewers helpfully pasted the same review into CBD---how efficient!)

Seriously, if I was critiquing her writing, I'd advise her that she was re-using words. She needed to branch out from 'disgusting'.

But it was anonymous so what can you do. But I did then have other reviews saying, wow, how'd you get that weird twist on this book? None of that was in there.

So I didn't exactly respond with love, but I'm sure I would have, had the chance arisen.

Beth Loughner said...

Sometimes it's isn't even the not-so-much-of-a-fan mail, as no mail at all. My last HP, Bay Hideaway, had a total of 1 (yes, one) tear sheet response. There were 4 good comments to my website, but that was it.

The two previous books received plenty of mail and then "poof", nothing for the third. Personally, I thought the third book was better than the other two.

I'm hoping it doesn't mean I've flopped as a writer or that the book really, really stunk. Maybe it's just a weird burp in the road to writing or.....a Postal conspiracy. Yes, I rather like that idea. That might make a great plot for my next book called, "Going Postal; Writer's Style"

Still Writing Regardless,

MaryLu Tyndall said...

I'll never forget the very first review I received for the third book in my pirate trilogy, The Restitution. The lady said my writing was "horrible" and the whole book was "garbage". Being a fairly new writer, it took me a couple of days before the throne of God before I could stop crying! I don't mind if people don't like my book. In fact, I don't expect everyone to, but please, have some manners. Anyway, my reaction? Nothing. It didn't deserve one. Actually I prayed for the woman. Obviously she has pent up anger issues. :-) After that I received many raving reviews on that book, thank God!

Janet Spaeth said...

I haven't had a bad reaction--that I know of! Maybe there's a folder at Barbour just bulging with "Janet should step away from the keyboard...forever" letters that you're shielding me from but I haven't heard of them.

I do, however, totally connect with the picture on this entry. I love it!

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi JoAnne,
I've only received positive fan emails and letters, so that's a relief. I did have one review that was mixed, and I had a hard time recovering from that. I was raised with the rule, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Not sure that really applies to reviewers, as it is their job to tell readers their honest opinions. But when I receive a book as an influencer, I only post positive reviews. If I can't find something good to say, I keep quiet.

Kim Vogel Sawyer said...

Interestingly enough, just TODAY I received an email from a woman who berated me for taking the Lord's name in vain in one of my books. I was dumbfounded--I would never in my personal speech or written word do such a thing! She demanded an explanation, and the only one I could offer was I was committed to writing entertaining, edifying fiction--that is my ministry--and I love my Lord too much to use His name casually or inappropriately. I hope she's satisfied with that...and I hope she discovers she has me confused with someone else! lol Sometimes, it can be really confusing to hear from readers...

Anita Mae said...

Hey JoAnne, about Jodi screaming at the lady...after 4 kids, I found that sometimes just a smell will set them off. It doesn't have to be a bad smell, just something that the child doesn't like or feels uncomfortable with. Bad breath is a possibility as is a sudden whiff of overpowering perfume that engulfs the child and threatens her.

Since I'm pre-pubbed, I haven't rec'd any bad reviews but of my 3 critique partners, one of them really doesn't like the hero in my current wip. She thinks he's too brash, too strict, too mean, too everything! It's actually funny reading her emails when she keeps saying things like 'I really don't like this guy. Are you sure you want my opinion on him?' And she'll make these funny comments whenever he speaks or reacts to something. But my other 2 CP's love him! Go figure.

Cara Putman said...

I'm waiting for that first bad review. Sometimes I wonder if God's decided I need to be handled with kid gloves right now LOL. The closest I've come is a reader's comment that she didn't like the story because no one got saved. That's okay. That's not the kind of story I'm writing right now. Instead, I usually have two Christians confronted with life's problems and trying to handle them -- sometimes without God until they realize they absolutely need him in every area.

Stephanie Reed said...

This is so weird! I just got one today. I mostly have positive reactions, but this person had agreed to do a review months ago. Heard nothing, figured, "Really busy." Then I grew concerned. Maybe the book never arrived. So I nudged today. Here's the comment I heard: "Yes, I got it. I just didn't like the way it's put together. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I'm even going to read it." Ouch! So I very politely asked what "put together" meant, for future reference. "I don't like the topic and I don't like the cover." I said thanks for the feedback. I've been down in the dumps for the rest of the day. When I have time later I'm going to read the rest of these responses. It's nice to know I'm not the only one. I wish I didn't take it so personally. Oddly enough, copies of both my books have sold on Amazon today and also on several other sites, and a new library has my first book now. I know I need to shrug it off.

I feel a little better now.

Stephanie Reed said...

PS my first print review for my new book, The Light Across the River, was obviously for my first book, Across the Wide River. Still shaking my head over that one...

Colleen Coble said...

It comes to all of us eventually. Usually it has to do with a theological difference. People can be REALLY nasty about things like that. I usually answer as sweetly as I'm able (sometimes I have to wait a while to manage to do that. LOL) and explain my stance. If they answer back nastily, I delete those figuring I've done the best I can.