Bad reviews for books are inevitable. I knew I would eventually get one. Not that I don’t think I’ve got a funny book, but when you put things out there you have to assume that at least one person won’t like what you’re doing. I’m not mad about it, but it finally happened after three months.
The 2 star review:
The reviewer found a few things amusing, but ultimately thinks reading the Twitter hashtag #FirstWorldProblems is more enjoyable.
Later in the evening I found this tweet:
Hopefully not a hashtag-collation! Free today for Kindle:”First World Problems:101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us”:amzn.to/FQE2m4
— Prashanth Narayanan (@iPrash) March 18, 2012
I assured him it wasn’t a collection of tweets:
@bennesvig Heh – I see that. Just started reading – hilarious! 🙂
— Prashanth Narayanan (@iPrash) March 19, 2012
One person wishing the book was like Twitter and another happy that it wasn’t.
I can’t make everyone happy and neither can you.
All you can do is create work that you’re proud of. Work where your happiness extracted from it doesn’t entirely rely on external validation. Every product ever released has been hated by someone. Everything. Some people hate everything Apple releases yet there are always people lined up to buy on opening day.
Even classic literary works received bad reviews in their day. I’m by no means calling my book a literary work of art, but it’s interesting to see a book held to such a high standard as a classic be torn apart.
Here is a review of Moby Dick from 1851:
“This is an ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed. We have little more to say in reprobation or in recommendation of this absurd book. Mr. Melville has to thank himself only if his horrors and his heroics are flung aside by the general reader, as so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature—since he seems not so much unable to learn as disdainful of learning the craft of an artist.” —HENRY F. CHORLEY, IN London Athenaeum via You Are Not So Smart
James Altucher has interesting thoughts about negative reviews:
“Ben has just self-published an excellent book:
It’s really funny.
The only problem is: he only has five star reviews. What’s so bad about that? I, for instance, HATE when I have a one star review. It killsme. It makes me question my entire existence. Someone actually read my book and thought so poorly of it they took the time and effort to log onto Amazon and spend a precious few minutes trashing my whole life in view of anyone.
But that’s what sells books. When people are arguing, that’s controversy. Controversy sells. The #1 book on the Kindle has 81 1 star reviews (and 3000 5 star reviews). But the TOP-RATED kindle book, with 697 five star reviews and zero reviews of any other sort, is ranked down at #10,000 in the kindle store. So thank your one star-reviewers. They will drive more sales than your five star reviewers.
A few months ago I read the excellent short story colletion “Knockemstiff” by Donald Ray Pollock. Afterwards, I read the reviews. Some were one star reviews and when I read why it showed they had totally missed the point of the book. But I wrote Pollock to cheer him up and told him the one star reviews were almost better advertisements than the five star reviews. All the people offended by the “sex and violence”. Hell! I’m a buyer when I see that.”
Trying to please everyone and pleasing no one is cliche, but true. Every product should have outsiders. People who don’t get it. I think you need people who don’t understand what you’re doing. People who don’t get your jokes. People who don’t believe what you believe. Because if you don’t have people outside the circle, you can’t have an inner circle, which is full of people who really care about your brand.
I have failed to make everyone happy and I’m happy about it.