Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dealing With Reviews Both Bueno and No Bueno

By James R. Tuck, @JamesTuckwriter

Part of the How They Do It Series (Monthly contributor)

You can't control what your reviews say, but you can control how you react to them. 

In the sane week, I got two new reviews, one on a book that was about to come out and one on me as a writer (yes some would say it's the same thing, but I choose to not for sanity's sake).

The one on the upcoming book was one of the most brutal reviews I have ever received. They savaged my book like a pack of starving wolves on a side of raw meat. The term “. . .underwhelming, sloppy novel,” was one of the nicest things in the whole review.

For backstory, this is an early review by Publisher's Weekly. They have reviewed four of my books at this point and have not liked any of them to date, so this one is only a surprise in the sense that it is so harsh. My writing apparently just doesn't work for them. I did have a tiny kernel of hope that they might like this one. It's a different book from what I've written before and I'm damn proud of it. It was hard to write and I worked my fingers off making it as good as I could. My editor loves it. My agent loves it. People who have read it love it. Overall, it's been very well-received.

And then this major trade publication comes along and tries to kneecap it with a lead pipe of a review.

I say tries because last Saturday (Free Comic Book Day) I was in line at my local comic shop, waiting to get my comic buying on with the Missus, when this gentleman walking by stops and says:
“Are you James R. Tuck?”

“I am him.” I reply.

“I thought so.” he smiles “Your stuff is great. I love it. Thanks for writing such good books.”

“Absolutely no problem. Thank you for reading.”

With that, he left, walked away with his comic books in his hands but he left me with a good feeling in my soul and, because of his kind words, the ability to shrug off Publishers Weekly and their nonsense.

The point is this: Reviews are part of this gig. You write and put your work out there, you are going to get reviewed. It is often a harsh, soul crushing part of the gig.

Common advice to new writers is “Don't read reviews”.

That's great advice.

No one listens to it.

You will read your reviews. The bad ones will hurt. They just will.

But there will be good ones. Ones online and in person. THOSE are the ones to hold onto. There are forces out there that will continually come at you, trying to take the wind out of your sails, working against you and your writing.

Don't let them.

Store up all positivity and leave any negativity on the road behind you.

Hang on tightly, let go lightly.

James was born and raised in Georgia and grew up drawing and reading a steady helping of Robert E. Howard stories, Golden Age comics, and books he was far too young to be reading. Combined with a very Southern involvement in church and watching horror movies, this became the bedrock of his creativity. He became a tattoo artist, and now writes dark fantasy. He's the author of the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter series, a variety of short stories and novellas set in the same world (and some outside of it), and the editor of the Thunder on the Battlefield anthologies. His newest series (co-written with Debbie Viguie), is Robin Hood: Demon's Bane.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

About Robin Hood: Demon's Bane

Sherwood Forest is a place of magic, and Prince John and his allies are demons bent upon ruling Britain. The solstice draws close, and Prince John and the Sheriff hold Maid Marian, whose blood sacrifice will lock the prince’s hold on the kingdom and the crown. Unless Marian can reach Robin with a magic artifact coveted by the enemy and entrusted to her by the Cardinal, the ritual will occur. 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. Some have also argued that reviewers should write books themselves, but rarely any do. Even though this also goes to show that it is much easier to critique the works of others than being productive yourself.
    I have made it a goal always to find good points, but I do agree that I have found one or two books that were - to put it bluntly - a CWT, Complete Waste of Time... :-)

  2. Hi James,
    Well-written opinion piece. I have had a few of those as well. One of them, after reading my latest sci fi/fantasy, questioned words she'd never heard before - sure they were typing errors, and couldn't understand that this world was different from ours. Next there was a complaint to Amazon for spelling errors in the book - all words created for the fantasy series. It took me a while to recover from that one.
    But I did, and the next book was just released. I say, don't let them slow you down. :)
    Sylvie Grayson

  3. If you play, sometimes you get hurt, but it's better than sitting on the sidelines!

  4. My favorite horrible review said my book was filled with grammar and spelling errors. Between my editor and I, we've taught English and grammar over thirty years, have seven degrees, and have written close to two dozen books. So, I don't think so.

    The only thing I can think of is that either his digital review copy had a massive transfer glitch, or he thought that dialogue was supposed to be in perfect English.

    Oh, and his review was filled with poor grammar and typos.

    Sometimes, you just have to laugh.