Anne Rice regarding the Amazon Review

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This interview is being included in the 2013 Women in Horror Interview Series. Every February, Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support.  You can find out more about WiHM here:

http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/

The Amazon Review

memnoch

Memnoch the Devil

It is the bane of many a writers: the bad review. Modern writers face not only the historic press review, but in this internet age, are bombarded with user reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Most upcoming writers dread it: the famous Amazon user one-star review. So it might be useful to know it’s not just us: even critically well received works like “Memnoch the Devil” by well-know authors like Anne Rice, a pioneer and still one of the few successful women in horror, have to face this gauntlet. On Facebook, Anne Rice shared her views on criticism and the way it can hold back even the greatest of writers. Someday she says, she might write an essay about it. In the mean time, this is what she had to say:

Anne Rice Regarding Amazon Reviews

Anne Rice

Anne Rice

Anne Rice: Some day, perhaps, on this page (her Facebook Page) or elsewhere, we can have a discussion of how Amazon reviews affect authors.

Sumiko Saulson: That would be greatly appreciated, Anne.

Anne Rice: Authors have told me they will not go on Amazon at all. They’ve been so devastated by the savage reviews there that they simply can’t. I’m not sure people posting reviews on Amazon are aware of how much power they have not only to hurt and devastate and block the author, but to play into something of a mob mentality on the site itself. — My advice to any sensitive author would be don’t go there. Protect yourself. On the other hand I do think the quality of Amazon reviews can be improved; and I review books myself on Amazon. I only do five star reviews of books I completely recommend because I don’t see the point of talking much about something that I don’t recommend. But I think there are some wonderfully written and constructive and insightful negative reviews in all fields, non fiction and fiction. —- I think when people take the time to write a responsible and thoughtful review, negative or positive, that should be appreciated. I often vote on comment on other people’s reviews of books I’m buying or considering buying. —- But there’s a huge difference between non fiction reviews on Amazon and the fiction reviews. —- And I wouldn’t recommend any young or vulnerable author read reviews on Amazon. Authors can be blocked for years by negative reviews.

Sumiko Saulson: Thank you. I really appreciate what you are saying. I also understand it: criticism can make you feel like giving up. I have to really admire and respect the courage of great writers such as yourself who have been able to push through it: H.P. Lovecraft was heavily criticized throughout his lifetime, although now he is appreciated, he didn’t get to know a lot of that praise in life. Criticism can stop artists and writers. A lot of writers and artists are tapping into a deep well of emotion and experience to put together something very close to our hearts. I pretty much feel the same way as you do about bad reviews: I only review books I would give a 4 or 5 star rating. Honestly, I couldn’t even finish reading a book I would have given a 1 star review to, so it kind of amazes me that anyone else can.

Anne Rice: Thank you. There are so many stories about authors devastated by bad reviews. Melville didn’t write for decades due to the hurt of reviews of Moby Dick. Carson McCullers was destroyed by a review from Edmond Wilson.. So many authors have been hurt. —- We have to face that there are many kinds of negative reviews, many kinds, from ugly and hateful and irresponsible to responsible and well written and constructive. One thing I know: most authors don’t view the writing of a book as an aggressive or hostile act. And they are completely unprepared for the aggressive and hostile tone of many reviewers. —- Add to that that many in America consider it a patriotic duty to hate celebrities whom they love and do not wish to do without. Look at the kind of gratuitous hate heaped on people like Tom Cruise or Madonna simply because they are perceived as famous and powerful. — Maybe some time I’ll try to write an essay about the subject. There are so many factors in play.

Sumiko Saulson: I agree. There is a lot of unnecessary animosity towards celebrities in America. I was born in Los Angeles, when you live in L.A. you get to know that celebrities are just people, and fame doesn’t cause you to launch out into orbit and lose all of the same human emotions a person is born into this life with.

I would love it if you wrote an essay about it.

I don’t know if you realize it but what you have to say is very important and encouraging to aspiring writers. Fear of bad reviews and one star reviews can easily stop people from even wanting to try… and I was wondering can I quote you? I think people need to know we are not alone. Thank you for being so open with us.

Anne Rice: (via email) Yes, you may indeed quote me.  I never say anything on the page that cannot be quoted anywhere and at anytime.  Sometimes in my spontaneous posts I don’t say something as well as I might if I took more time, but I do try to make every  word count, and yes, I am honored that you might quote me.   Do it.

From: Anne Rice’s Facebook Page, Facebook Thread Regarding Amanda Pike’s One Star Review of Memnoch the Devil

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~ by Sumiko Saulson on August 18, 2012.

17 Responses to “Anne Rice regarding the Amazon Review”

  1. Back when I was in a play at 19 years old, I got a bad review. An actress whom I respected very much told me that the best advice she ever got was to take a bad review with a grain of salt, and a good review with two. Nothing brings out the worst in people like keyboard cowboyery! I loved both the questions and answers in this interview, and hope that it helps many authors! It sucks to not be liked, but how creepy would it be if everyone liked you? Ms. Rice, I’ve always respected you immensely and love your writing. Sumiko Saulson, I will start following your blog. Thank you both for the wonderful interview!

    • Thanks for following my blog, Judi Sunshine. I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to like anything, so from that “borg mindset” sort of standpoint of course it would be very creepy. If someone has actually read my writing, I try to listen to criticism though: I don’t like it. Some people claim they do, but I’m not going to lie: I don’t. There is a whole category of people who refuse to read anything that has a horror or sci-fi genre label, in that case, I don’t really take the criticism to heart: I don’t think people should as a habit criticize genres they don’t like or understand. I agree with you that it’s totally awesome that Anne Rice cares enough to put herself out there and let other authors and aspiring authors know what’s up: the problem with Amazon reviews is that someone could say that they don’t like a book they haven’t even read because they don’t like the person’s politics. Although I think that’s more of a problem for Anne Rice. I am more on the level of having to hope I don’t get a bad review from some dude who is still pissed off that I dumped him in 1995.

      • Amazon is sort of a hot mess in general when it comes to personal politics. I hope that the thrill of having a book outweighs the suckiness of any butthurt reviews! Thanks for the reply 🙂

  2. Great post – I have very mixed feelings about reading reviews. I’m quite willing to take constructive criticism from well-written negative reviews, and I find a great deal of motivation that fuels me to write more in positive reviews, but there are some reviews out there that are just plain hateful and don’t offer anything useful, positive or negative. Those reviews suck all the creative energy right out of me for at least a day or two, and sometimes for a week or more. I don’t see to the point to them, other than some miserable person trying to make other people feel just as bad as they do. I won’t write a review myself for anything I wouldn’t give at least 3 stars. I don’t see the value on wasting my time writing something that is mostly negative. Those who want to invest time in doing that have got to be inherently cruel and mean-spirited. Thanks for this insightful post.

    • I agree with you… I’m not a fast or speed reader, so when it comes to a novel, that’s five to seven days worth of my consolidated leisure time I’m investing into entering someone else’s imaginary world. It’s like going on an internal vacation. If I haven’t gotten into a book after the first fifty pages, it’s going to wind up donated to someone else. I can’t force myself to read non-homework just to review it. However: in the spirit of full disclosure, I did set up an account on Yelp just to give a car wash a one-star review: that’s because they stole my mom’s disabled parking placard. So.. yea, I think they deserved it.

  3. Wonderful article. I love it when my books get great reviews, but it hurts when someone leaves something negative. Some of these reviews seem so callous and unnecessary. For example, one person left a negative review of my entire book because she felt the child in my story took too many naps. ????

    I reviewed books for years. For three years I wrote reviews for a large newspaper. I never wrote a negative review. If I loved a book, I let people know. If I didn’t, I declined to review the book – or I just gave a synopsis. Really wish more people would think about the impact their comments can have on an author – and on their success. I can’t help but wonder how a reviewer would feel if I flounced into their place of business and casually informed their bosses and clients that I thought their work stunk. Pretty sure they wouldn’t take it well.

    • When I worked for the music magazine, I had to give some bad reviews: it was my job. They weren’t going to run all glowing reviews. Yet even there, I tried to make sure that I was only reviewing things from genres I understood, because it’s too easy to say something is bad because you don’t like the genre itself, and that is unfair. I am glad I am not reviewing professionally anymore: frankly, it was a drag.

  4. I think that instead of simply calling negative reviews irresponsible, writers should find out what they’re doing that some people don’t like. You can’t please everyone, but you can still look at it as constructive criticism. I haven’t personally had any one-star reviews, but if I get one, I’m going to read it over and over and try to absorb what the problem is instead of just getting angry. And, the hatred of Tom Cruise isn’t remotely just because he is “famous and powerful.” It’s because he’s a dangerous cult leader who has done some horrible things to families. Just because people don’t like something doesn’t mean that they have no reason for feeling that way.

    Also, if you have a lot of money and free time, spending some time and money on a terrible book is no biggie. Personally, I get time for about one fiction book a month right now, and sometimes even that is hard. If I spend my limited time and money on a book that’s terrible, I’m mad. No, writing it was not an aggressive act, but it can make people feel aggressive when they’ve wasted their small discretionary income and scant free time. I don’t like the idea of only leaving positive reviews. Honestly, that seems a little irresponsible. Any book, no matter how terrible, will find a few people who love it. And if all you see are the five people who loved it and not the 200 people who hated it, you are likely to waste your time and money on on a rotten book. I think that’s the definition of irresponsible.

    • L$ – I think it’s okay that you feel that way. I don’t have a lot of money or free time. In fact, I don’t have enough time to finish reading a book that I can’t stand. Leaving no review for a crappy book speaks volumes. I don’t think I’m being irresponsible because I’m not giving good reviews to bad books. To be honest, I rarely give reviews at all, and unless I feel really excited about something, I’m not likely to review it.

  5. Great post! Excellent interview and some very encouraging comments from Ms. Rice.

    I write novels and also review them for my blog, so I know how important it is to balance honesty with diplomacy. So far, the only review I’ve issued that fell below the three star rank was for a book that needed extensive editing. I gave it two stars, but I was careful not to be disrespectful or disparaging with my comments.

    I’ve also issued a few three-star critiques, but I couldn’t truthfully rate them any higher. Since they were for a bloggers’ book review program and I was required to finish the books and review them before I could request any more, I had to give my honest opinion. So I tried to be constructive about it, pointing out things that could be improved as well as things I liked.

    Still, I have yet to read a book that is so bad it merits only one star. If I ever do, I’ll quit the review program before I post something that could be so hurtful.

    • Thanks! I think you’re right: diplomacy is part of what makes constructive criticism constructive, rather than an exercise in spitefulness. The purpose of reviews is to give the potential reader an idea of whether or not this is something he or she would be interested in so you are right to give your honest opinion.

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  9. […] Anne Rice […]

  10. […] Anne Rice regarding the Amazon Review. […]

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