Thursday, 28 January 2016

Your book sucks...and other pieces of constructive critisism.

'A very imaginative story by a man who experiments with words. The experiments are sometimes disastrous.'

That is one of my favourite, critical reviews (though to be fair, I received 3 out of 5 stars for that on Amazon!). It made me laugh out loud. 




Reviews are one of those strange, nebulous things as an author. From the moment you cut the apron strings to your story and characters who have shared your life and heart for so long, you wish and hope for the best for them...you don't want them to come to any harm and want to keep them safe. You know you won't be able to forever, and that inevitably, one day someone will come along and break their heart, and yours.

Of course, in between those moments, you get fragments of pure joy, where all you feel is love and warmth and enthusiasm for the lives you have created.

'The plot in this book is fantastically good! Very unexpected and I can't remember reading a serial killer themed book like it ever and I read a LOT of them.'

That one made me humbled and proud in equal measure. Especially as it came from a wonderful lady who reviews books for a living. 

'I read many serial type thrillers, but this really tested my patience. So much so I gave up at 70%.'

This one had me puzzled at how someone would know they had read 70% of a book until I realised it would have been on Kindle (I imagined someone counting the pages and dividing them by the total amount). 

Reviews are what make an author. Sure, the readers make you feel accomplished, and they generously pay for your book in the hope it will provide them with some escapism. But reviews are an authors life blood, something I never really appreciated until I became one. On Amazon for example, if you receive over 50 reviews then they will start recommending your book independently. This is how others start to see your work. And we need them, good, bad or indifferent.




I personally have loved every review I have every received because someone paid for and took the time to read something I had written. That is an amazing feeling and something I always want to thank every reader for personally. Even if someone hated it (and one reader did not like Hellbound at all!!), they spent precious time in my world, even if they didn't finish it and took the time to tell me how they felt. 

All reviews are valuable. I have learnt something from all of them. Someone accused me of using too many big words...I am guilty of that and am trying to tone it down. I find it hard, as I love words!!! But I take on board others might not, especially if no one understands what the word means. I would never change my style of writing, as it is mine and you write for yourself, hoping others will enjoy it. But I agree, sometimes I get a little carried away! Literary elephantitis. 


There are a few typos in Hellbound, which are my fault. One reviewer blamed my publisher, but they are all on me. Maybe one day, BNBS will have a proof reader and editor in house who can help with such things, but as a fledgling company a few years ago, they made it explicit in the contract that the author was responsible for the quality of their work. Some of my colleagues were ridiculously diligent, as one should be, in editing and proof reading their work. I had someone for the early chapters, but with a new baby and debt, I couldn't afford it so it was just Kelly and I. I could have taken more time, my publisher wouldn't have minded , but Liam was born and I rushed it towards the end. In doing so, I missed a few things, nothing major but enough that they ruined it for some readers and have irritated me ever since because I better than anyone know they are there. I feel bad for anyone who purchased Hellbound and felt cheated by the typos, I truly do and would love to apologise personally to them all.  I don't think there are too many (I hope!), but those that there are I am sorry. Completely my bad. Trust me, no one is more annoyed than me. One day soon I will have them kindly corrected and all will be well, but until then, it's on me. 

However, I wouldn't change it.  And you know why? Because it taught me a valuable lesson. that I couldn't take writing for granted. I just read the final proof for In Extremis today with the publisher  and together we went though all the grammatical and punctuation errors. Some were silly, some were so obvious I couldn't believe I had never spotted them. But it was so worthwhile. I am doing a final, final, final read through tonight and then it will be off to the printers. And it will be free of errors. Of course, no book can guaranteed error free (Kelly found one in Martina Cole's book the other week which made me feel better!) but it is as perfect as it can every get. It does cost money, money I do not have but was worth every penny. I refuse to let anyone down again who pays to read something I have written. If I haven't given my best then I do not deserve your loyalty. I only exist because of you so I promise never to let you down again. 





So, reviews. We learn from them. They are the best educational tools around. Whether they say your story sucks or is the best thing they have ever read, they are all equally important and should be treated with respect. They keep us grounded, especially the bad ones, so we are never in danger of getting above our station.

I love every one I have every received and every one I may ever get. To all who leave them, thank you. You make me a better writer, or at least make me try so very hard to be one. 

I shall leave you with another of my favourites...

'What could have been an excellent book with a fantastic storyline is ruined from the very start by the fact that capital punishment is outlawed in Ireland and cannot be reinstated for any reason whatsoever due to a constitutional amendment following a referendum in 2001. This invalidates the book from its very beginning and renders the storyline less than useless..I really suffered through this book and cannot really recommend it to other readers.'



Oddly, by not recommending it to other readers, people contacted me saying they had only bought it because of this review. I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity!!!!