Any author who has novels on the market knows about “those reviews”. You know those bad reviews where you just know that the person sitting on the other side of the screen typed those nasty-beyond-nasty words just out of spite.
Maybe they know you personally or met you in a public place and without meaning to you made them feel hurt or unappreciated. And ZING. They left a bad review.
Maybe they were even once a friend or distance family member that feels you didn’t hold up your end of the friendship. And ZING. They left a bad review.
Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they would love to write a novel, but when push comes to shove, they just can’t put their imaginations to work. And ZING. They left a bad review.
Maybe they are just those crazy people that love to do things like this because, well, I said they were crazy, right? And . . . oh you know where this is going.
No matter the reason, we know about them because we’ve all come in contact with them. We call them trolls. We negate their opinions by ranting and raving to our friends and family—or anyone who listens—about the evil person bent on hurting our feelings for no reason.
So what happens when a troll really isn’t a troll?
Wait? What? What do you mean they aren’t trolls? They are mean aren’t they? They posted their review just to ruin your day or lower your rating on purpose!
But did they?
Or is it that you just didn’t agree with their opinion of your work?
While, yes, it’s hard to believe that someone could not like your novel, thinking that the plot lacked depth, your characters were shallow, or—gasp!!!!—your writing is horrible, the fact of every authors life is there will be people that think those things about you and your work.
I’ve always had the opinion that books are subjective. Some will love your work. Some will hate your work. Of course, I don’t like having to say the word hate; however, I remember one time I finished a novel and was so mad that I just wasted minutes of my life on it that I wanted to shout from the rooftop, warning anyone and everyone I’ve ever known not to read this book. I never left a bad review, because I know as an author how it feels to read them, but I sure wanted to. I felt betrayed. I felt cheated. I felt angry.
If I’d left my review, I’m sure I would have been written off as a troll—someone out to hurt the author just because I’m a mean person. Which of course is the furthest from the truth. The book was bad, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
So what does this mean? Well, to put the point straight, while some reviews are mistaken for just being trolls, sometimes it’s quite possible that someone is just nothing more than a mad person who feels cheated at the end of your novel.
One of the sure signs of this is that if their complaints are the same complaints of everyone else who is leaving you a bad review. One or two people (out of hundreds) saying your writing is bad might just be trolls—friends there to support each other, especially if they feel attacked by good reviews—or flukes for some reason or another. But if there is review after review after review after review saying the same things . . . well, then, unfortunately, you might want to take another look at some of their reasons and take some of what they say to heart.
Ouch! How dare I say that! That’s not nice.
No, you’re right. It’s not nice. But neither is calling someone a troll who just might be right.
I know I’ve had my share of bad reviews. Sure they’ve stung, sure they’ve made me mad, sure they are the worst things known to an author. However, I will admit that when I’ve taken a step back and actually read their comments, I’ve seen a little bit of where they are coming from. I know I’ve made mistakes in my stories. With every novel, authors get better. Some of the things we’ve done in our debuts we have learned not to do. Our crafts evolve. We lose bad habits and gain good habits. It happens. It’s the natural part of progressing as an artist of the written word.
And when you are under contract with a publisher and you can’t correct the things you know is wrong with your novel—say things that maybe the reviewers touched on that they didn’t like—you know that their complaints probably have some merit.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I know that once I get my rights back to The Woman on the Painted Horse, In the Land of Gold, and When the Black Roses Grow, the first place each of the manuscripts are going before I publish the second editions are back into the world of edits and revisions. I know they have issues, and I have known this for a long time, so I also know that my trolls really aren’t trolls. And if mine aren’t trolls, how can an author say all of theirs are?
So it’s with that, that I ask are they really trolls? Or do we call them that to make ourselves feel better? Is doing that right? Or should we, as authors, be a little more open minded when it comes to our readers opinions? At what point do we wave our hands in front of someone else’s face and tell them their opinion doesn’t matter and that they are wrong? What if we are the wrong ones? Is there someone who is wrong?
Facts can be proved right or wrong. Opinions; however, can’t. They are going to differ from one person to the next. That’s the beauty of being a human being! Having your own life and living that life how you want. A life where someone shouldn’t just automatically call you a troll for not liking their work.