Pleasing the Many…or Else!
I’ve been monitoring the reviews coming in on my books pretty heavily lately. Well, by heavily I mean I check sometime in the morning every day – if I remember. So maybe not so heavily, but the fact that I’ve been keeping an eye on reviews is a chance for me. The question is why? After all, there’s virtually nothing I can do about them except in rare exceptions.
Amazon has a good system in that it prevents authors from having any impact on the general public’s opinion of a product. As a consumer, I approve of that. But as a provider of content / products, it can be frustrating. I have a few reviews that are irrelevant. A friend of mine has one review that is intentionally spiteful and borderline libelous against her and her family. Yet we can’t do anything about them. On the other hand, I had one reader who copied and pasted the same review and applied it to multiple books, even indicating he hadn’t read all of the books in the review. I did get Amazon to remove those reviews.
So the answer is to write books that everybody likes. Or buy reviews. I’m not in the habit of buying, so that leaves me with needing to write books that are likely to be well received. Since I’ve been monitoring incoming reviews lately, I seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.
But having said that, I was still momentarily stunned the other day when I saw a 1 star review come in for The Lost Girls. I read the brief review and felt a flash of irritation. It said something to the fact that, “I downloaded the book and found it had strong homosexual subplots. I deleted it immediately.”
I have to ask, why was this person so stunned by it? The book is included in a category with the word, “Lesbian” in it. It’s not erotica, but the main character is a hardcore man-hating lesbian. She mellows over time but she’s got a lot of issues she has to work through. And yes, she likes girls. There’s nothing misleading about it, so why did this person feel the need to light a torch and post a 1 star review?
After the brief moment of annoyance passed (it was surprisingly brief, I think that means I’m growing up finally), I let it go. Everybody has a right to their opinion. Unfortunate for me that my book was hit with it, but the review clearly indicated the readers problem and explains that they didn’t read the book. Aside from dragging the ranking down ever so slightly, it does nothing to discourage people who are interested in that type of book from reading it. Clearly it was a case of not being able to please everybody.
Likewise, I’ve received a couple of reviews on this book that I believe were written by men asserting that I had no idea how to write a female character. Conversely, I’ve had more reviews from women that applauded my depiction of the female characters and said I touched them very much because it brought back memories and emotions they’ve dealt with themselves. To the women out there that felt that way – contacted me, I thank you very much! To the men who claim I’d make a terrible female lead – Pthbththtbtbbbt!
Um, hang on. I’m not saying I want to be a female lead. I – aw, crap, you get the idea.
I reasoned a long time ago that I wouldn’t want everybody to like my books. If they did, there’d be no controversy and no reason for people to buy them. Looking back, I don’t fault that line of thinking but I think I’d rather have universally liked books. Then everybody would still by them because they like them. Maybe they wouldn’t generate as much passionate conversation, but I’d be okay with that. Conversation doesn’t put food on the table or electricity in the power lines, after all.
The other unfortunate part is that I can’t write generic crap that everybody is guaranteed to like. My characters are quirky and troubled. They’re often super-heroes in disguise – but I feel that way about every one of us, real or imagined. We’re all the main characters of our own story and we all do amazing things at time, even if we’re the only one around to see it. And we all have faults that we’d like to overcome – or that others wished we would overcome.
I’m disappointed that this person did not read The Lost Girls. I have a suspicion that if they had they might have found that the main character’s sexual orientation didn’t really matter. It’s a story about stopping cruelty and her own path to find acceptance and forgiveness. Those are topics that should be near and dear to all of us. As with just about everything I write the genre and the action is just a backdrop to a more important story, the story of a character (or characters) growing and healing.
So yes, I think my books could please the many, but they won’t. We have too many ideals and morals that prevent us from looking beyond the surface. There are great stories out there, whether they belong to me or somebody, but they require a person to suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to honestly ask the question, “What if?” That’s why I love science fiction and fantasy, they challenge me to be open minded and to wonder at just what possibilities are out there.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.