Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

a little wine with my whine

 image from Stencil

Being a writer has pluses and minuses. When a book doesn't sell well, it's hard not to feel badly about it. As I writer, I don't put out anything where I don't believe in the characters, story, and its message. From the beginning, I understood that not everything I wrote would be liked by others. How could it-- I don't like everything either.

Amazon, with its system of voluntary customer reviews, allows readers (and even those who don't have a verified purchase) to have a stake in whether a book sells well or sinks to the dreaded black hole, from whence it shall never be seen again. 

What one such reviewer put in Amazon about Red Hawk Christmas, a book I wrote last fall, may explain what happened to its sales.  First the review and then the whine:
First off, this book popped up when I was looking up non-fiction books about RV life. I didn't realize this was fiction. My mistake. But it started out ok, seemed interesting. However, I soon realized this Diana wasn't really into RV life--she was really just a tourist traveling in an RV. It really deteriorated at about 50% on kindle when it was total dialogue. Not very pleasant to read.

I disliked Diana when she kept waffling about not wanting any kind of relationship with a man and she was rude and unfriendly to anyone who tried to just be polite to her. Until.....she met a handsome man, then her hormones kicked in and she acted like a teenager. Why didn't he try to kiss her, he must have a girlfriend, why didn't he call her......all the while still saying she didn't want a relationship.
Meantime, some other guy who she met at an earlier RV park was interested in her, she kept telling his she didn't want a relationship, but yet she tells him where she is because "she didn't want to be rude." He asked several times if she minded if he came to where she was and she told him no, then when she gets off the phone/email, she says she doesn't want him to come, yet she doesn't tell him that. Good grief.

And this woman is 58 years old! It just seemed so stupid to me. Sorry, but no other word to describe this. I guess this is a series of short novellas, and I surely won't be reading anymore.
From my perspective, as the aggrieved writer lol, I wish there was an option for commenting on such reviews. Every writer recommendations says-- stay out of it because reviews are for the next reader. Fair or not fair, the reviewer gets the floor. What I'd have said, had that option been available, would have been-- 
Sorry you didn't like the book. This is the first in what I intended to be a series about starting over later in life. In her late 50s, the heroine is facing a difficult situation. She hadn't expected to have her husband divorce her. She hadn't expected that the other woman would have been someone she had regarded as a friend. With the divorce, other friends avoided her as the suddenly single woman or because they chose her husband and his new wife with whom to socialize. Her children are well settled in life and her grandchildren beyond needing babysitters as they set out to make a life for themselves. A retired teacher, she has a pension and her half of what had been community property. Money isn't a problem-- life purpose is.

When the book begins, she has made a choice to give away most of what she owns, sell her home, and buy a Class C motorhome. She has no idea if this will be a forever deal or just a transition. The book is about finding a way to get rid of negative thinking, and she did this through reinventing herself, seeing new places (many she'd only read about), and meeting new people. Through the history of others, she got a new perspective on her life. I liked her, and she did have a small romance toward the end, but whether it was going anywhere, that's undecided when the novella ends.
Since the woman said she'd gotten the book by mistake, I rewrote its tags to be sure no one else mistook it for non-fiction. It's hard to say if anyone will see them. If you didn't know what Amazon's black hole looks like-- RHC's ranking last I looked was 1,141,957. Using a search for any subject is unlikely to come across it.

I won't say it was selling gangbusters before that review in mid-February, but since then it literally never had another sale. Amazon puts first the last review (obviously hers) or the review with the most likes. Her review is what anyone would see if they had considered the book. What is a bit ironic to me is although I knew it hadn't had sales, I had no idea why, until last week when I read that review for the first time.

That reviewer, accomplished her stated goal of protecting any other reader from buying that book. She went beyond disliking it to doing a character assassination of the heroine. Heck, if I read that review for someone else's book, I might not bother scrolling down to look at other reviews. Why read a book about an obnoxious heroine (most of us have enough of that in our own lives).

I've heard other writers talk of going through a crisis of belief in their writing after reading something like that. It did lead me (besides the new tags) to see if the second half of the book was all dialogue. It's not all, but yes, there is a lot as I prefer to reveal people through what they say to others-- especially with a book like this one where the only point of view is the heroine's. 

Writers need reviews. Some places you can only get your book featured if you have a lot. There are places writers go to purchase reviews, which Amazon will delete if they find out. I never did that anyway, feeling it was bad karma at the least. 

I am not sure what makes readers take their precious time to leave a review. All of them are appreciated (yes, even that one) as it is a connection between writer and reader just too bad it can't be a two way street. Although I do not regularly read my books' reviews, I do the first couple for each book-- hoping I have not disappointed a reader. I always go to that first review with trepidation. Some writers never read their reviews. I can see the logic in that as sometimes I can change something based on a review-- but not when it's a book in which I believe. 


Tabor said...

I can see where the author writing back is not a useful exercise. What she left helped you to re-tag the publication. Amazon's black hole is something else. I have found books I never heard of at book sales that were most rewarding. I am so sorry for that painful review. It must have been like someone cutting you open to see what was inside!

Rain Trueax said...

The hardest part was what she did to my heroine. She didn't actually insult my writing (that has happened). It was her destruction of Diana's character, where I didn't see her that way at all. She'd lost her friends, moved out to do something that took courage, and I felt she had a strong character. For years, she'd done what she should. Then she was moving out to find a different way. It was hard for me to understand what the reader saw in her that I did not. But that is the nature of life-- our differences ;).

One thing, if you put your work out in the world, there is that risk. Get a tough skin ;)