Back in the time before my retirement when I was busy in the manufacturing arena, we had a phrase related to our quality programs that indicated that we weren’t perfect, but we were always trying to move in that direction. That phrase was ‘Continuous Improvement’, and it meant simply that our purpose was to improve our processes in exactly that manner over time.
When I wrote my first novel, I was woefully unaware of what the editing process entailed, or that it was even a basic necessity. This ignorance of the basic rules of my new occupation brought me some very poor reviews for editing mixed in with a majority of great reviews for content, so I decided to utilize my old pre-retirement training to continually improve in my new found occupation.
The first step was to solicit the help of beta readers that would read the manuscript before publication, and I installed grammar and spell check software for help in reviewing my manuscripts. While this certainly helped with the elusive typo errors, some still slipped past and were discovered after each book was published and already in the marketplace. As quickly as I’m able now with five titles in both print and eBook versions, I am correcting the errors that we’ve found and uploading the revisions to the printer. Does this make the book easier to read? Probably not, since most of the errors that I now find are not recognized by my readers once they are engrossed in the storyline. I can’t even see them when I read through the first few times looking for them. What this does for me is tune up my ability to edit my own work, and to pursue that perfectly crafted masterpiece that all authors dream about. It also lets my readers know that I do pay attention to their critiques in an effort to continuously improve my craft and make their reading experience more enjoyable.
Well, it had to happen eventually; I received a few negative reviews of my novel “COUGAR!” after the Amazon promotional campaign last week that gained us around fifteen thousand new readers. Now there are negative reviews and there are negative reviews, but a couple of mine were downright hateful, and at first glance did not seem very helpful as a critique of my writing abilities. To be honest, my bad reviews in the last two years number in the single digits, and my good reviews number in the triple digits, so I can dismiss some of these as people picking up the wrong book by accident and finding out that I wrote a fictional conspiracy thriller when they were looking for another genre altogether. Okay, unlike other writers, I received a bad review, the question is; How do I use this review constructively? The first thing that I do is to filter out any criticism that deals with the philosophical differences that the reviewer might have with me, or what they assume about me from what I’ve written. Once that filter is in place, I am then in the position to accept or reject the remaining criticisms of my work. As an example, my first novel, “COUGAR!”, went to an editor who worked with me to correct the most glaring sins of both omission and commission. When we had finished this laborious undertaking, I overwrote the original manuscript with the edited and corrected version, not knowing that having Adobe Acrobat installed on my older computer with Windows 2003 created a situation where the file changes did not overwrite. That file went to the publisher and, voila, I have a novel that has a few typos…okay, probably more than a few. Am I going to act on this criticism? Absolutely, and hopefully within the next ten or fifteen books those objections will be put to rest! The point that I am trying to make, is that you do not have to take a negative review personally, but at the same time, your skin should not be so thick that you cannot receive a little constructive criticism that might just help you present a better product to your growing audience. Learn from the story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; If we only listen to glowing reports of our literary prowess and dismiss the occasional bad review as the lunatic ramblings of folks that we differ philosophically from, we might end up old, bitter, and broke with no one taking our writing seriously.
Well, as some of you may have seen, the reviews have started coming in for “COUGAR!” on Amazon.com and they are overwhelmingly good! The funny thing is that one four star review was from a self professed liberal whose head did not explode when she read the book, although she was upset that I seemed to blame all of the problems on liberals. The upside is that she is looking forward to reading the sequel…yea!
The other one was a one star from someone that didn’t like the little kitty cat killing the bird in the manner that cats are known to use. Who knew that a member of the Audubon Society would download a book named “COUGAR!”? Anyway, they are from Alaska, and the six months of darkness probably has to be taken into account. God bless them. 🙂
We are finishing up at close to 15,000 new readers which I think is awesome! Thanks to everyone that helped with this campaign, and I really do appreciate honest reviews since they help me fine tune my writing skills.