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The Good. The Bad. The Downright Nasty!

There will soon be 62 books published written by Carolyn Brown or Abby Gray (my pen name on the first four)  so you’d think I would be used to the whole process, right?

But here I am chewing my fingernails (thank goodness they don’t have calories or fat grams), waiting eleven more days until my first woman’s fiction book hits the book stores. I’ve got a virtual launch party all ready and the blog dates are set. The cover is awesome. Everything has been completed. Nothing left to chance. So what on earth do I have to worry about?


I remember my first review very well. 

The review was one of those downright nasty, folks! I still shudder just thinking about it. The machete the reviewer used to cut up the story and the author who wrote it was covered plumb up in red sticky stuff and it didn’t smell like cherries or strawberries. No editor was ever going to buy another book from me. I was doomed to be a has-been when I'd barely gotten a good runnin' start at being an author.

I called the funeral director who was a friend of mine, told him to go on and order that gorgeous red casket with gold plated handles. I told him that I was getting pretty close to being ready to crawl up in it, cross my hands over my…chest…and stop breathing.

Two weeks later, a very reputable reviewer gave the same book a good review. I called the funeral director and canceled the order for the red casket and my editor called to offer a contract on the next three books in the series.

And I’d learned a lesson.

Reviews were the opinion of one person, not the whole world.

Since then I’ve danced jigs over the good…starred reviews, RITA nomination, NYT and USA lists, books of the week, the month and the whole nine yards.

I’ve chewed my nails over the bad…one star, two star, no star.

I’ve worried about the nasty…minus six stars, bless their hearts!

I figured out that some folks were going to like my books.

Some weren’t.

Simple as that.

I needed to grow a thicker skin and learn not to wear my heart on my sleeve.

These past couple of weeks I get up every morning, look in the mirror and give myself that same pep talk. I even throw in that old adage about not pleasing all of the people all of the time.

And then I eat chocolate.

Chocolate sales were up 28% in 2012 and topped $17.3 billion in sales. And about 32 million books, across all genres and formats, were sold in 2012. That’s a heck of a lot of reviews, folks! A lot of chewing nails. A lot of happy dances. A lot of eyeballing that red casket.

A lot of chocolate!

Chocolate helps us celebrate the good reviews.

Chocolate helps us endure the bad reviews.

Chocolate keeps us away from red caskets when there are downright nasty reviews.

It’s a wonder drug!

We really should at least be recognized with our picture on the advertising or maybe a picture of the cover art of our upcoming book. We deserve recognition because with those stats, I’m sure authors buy more chocolate than any other group of folks out there.

Tell me, as authors do you worry about reviews? As readers do you base your whole reading experience on reviews? Am I the only one out here keeping the chocolate companies in business?




  1. I don't worry so much about reviews anymore, particularly because I've never bought a book based on a review in my life. But when it comes to books, you can't please everyone. It simply isn't possible!

  2. Carolyn, they don't bother me much anymore. Most of the time they make me smile or I sort of agree with them. I just can't take myself too seriously anymore. I mean, I'm playing with Cinderella Barbie half the day...

  3. Good luck on your reviews, Carolyn! Yes! When the new jaguar series started up with Savage Hunger, I was definitely concerned whether fans and new readers would like the jaguar series as much as they have the wolf series. So definitely I was hoping for good news! :)

  4. Yes, the mean ones bother me--when I read them. They don't bother me as the last word on my Fate As An Author, they bother me because the romance authors and readers who've been in the industry from day one perpetuate and have left a legacy of honorable, adult behavior. We don't trash anybody for the fun of it, we don't attack the author when it's the book that's come up short, we don't view the internet as our personal bullying ground.

    An internet generation of commenters on the romance scene has degraded that legacy. I write romance because I believe in love, I believe when you pull your share of the emotional load, your life and your world are richer for it. That snarky, mean, destructive element now loose among us is clearly attuned to some other value, and they rattle the daylights out of me. I don't see them coming, I don't understand what motivates them.

  5. Cheryl: Amen. Pleasing everyone is an impossible task that will drive a person to drinking.

    Shana: Forget chocolate. I'm going to buy a Cinderella Barbie!

    Terry: Breaking into women's fiction has me spooked about reviews, got to admit it! Glad I'm not paddling the boat alone!

  6. Grace: Well said, my friend, well said. Thank you!

  7. As a relatively new author, I've learned to accept the inevitable. You're not going to please everyone.

    I remember one review that called my book "a bottom of the barrel romance." And then that same book received a Top Pick from Night Owl and 4 1/2 stars from RT. The emotional turmoil is definitely not worth it.

    I agree with Grace. I write romance because I believe in what I do. And if I touch the heart of even one reader, I've done my job.

    Great post, Carolyn. And yes, chocolate does help!

  8. Victoria: Thank goodness for the chocolate! I really thought I was over the review virus but found it can strike in the same place more than once and debuting in a brand new genre must've set up shop for it again!

  9. Carolyn, if I ever needed a crash course in the lesson that you can't please everyone, I got it when my debut novel came out in December. Within 24 hours, I'd received a lovely, perceptive, 5-star review from one website, and a disgruntled, negative, below-average rating from another. It's an emotional see-saw, no question!

    I found some words of wisdom in a blog written by another author. Namely, as a general rule of thumb, assume that a third of the people who read your work will love, a third will hate it, and the remaining third will be indifferent. Your job is to write for the third who love it. Also, don't Google yourself--it only leads to heartbreak.

    And my personal corollary to all that, which I came up with after fuming a bit over some of the less kindly reviews: Don't look back. The book is done, the work is done, it's not like you can snatch it off the shelf and rewrite it in a desperate attempt to please the naysayers. If you've told the story you want to tell, to the best of your current ability, you've done all you can do as a writer. So take the time, energy, and emotions you might expend fretting over a negative review and put them to better use developing your next project.

    And yes, chocolate helps! :-)

  10. Pamela, thank you! You'd think after more than 60 books I'd be immune to the review worry wart. It must be the idea of a brand new genre and yes, ma'am, chocolate does help!

  11. First, I am always amazed that people actually read my reviews because, naturally, they are written within my paradigm...based on my experiences and my expectations. I often read other reviews and wonder if I read the same book as those people because our impressions are so diametrically opposed. Nonetheless, I definitely try to give a fair and reasoned opinion, and, if I didn't like something, I try to explain what it was that I disliked. I don't believe in being mean and I think that those who delight in writing cutting and rude reviews are just sad people who want to bring others down to their level, i.e. they're unhappy about something in their lives so they want to make everyone else share that pain. I figure, you do something that you love, put out the best product that you can, learn from your mistakes and trust the opinions of those who have your best interests at heart (and don't give mean people any power over you--just laugh at them and continue on your merry way).

  12. With a new series starting in July I’m hoping that the people who loved the goblins will love fairies. And that maybe the people who didn’t like goblins will give the fairies a shot. I love dark chocolate—I eat a little every day, it’s also the reason why I have to run…


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