In my opinion, the next best thing to a sale is a review. I'm always happy to send out a review copy to anyone who writes for a public forum and is interested in reviewing one of the books I publish. Even better when a reader takes the time, unbidden, to write some helpful comments about something they've read.
So, I was briefly thrilled to check my email this morning and find that someone had both read and reviewed my new book, "The Journals of Simon Pariah" on DriveThruComics.
Apparently this reviewer was less than thrilled with my book, rating it a mere two stars, an adding the following comments:
"I felt like I had been misled based on what I had read in the
description. I thought I would be reading original ideas using past
events/figures both real and imagined. This story was basically a
retelling of RE Howard's "The Thing in the Crypt" featuring Conan the
Barbarian. The author freely admits after the tale his character was
inspired by Howard's creations as well as another sword/sorcery author.
The art was good and supported the story but I found the illustration of
Wolverine to be unnecessary and detrimental to the feeling of the time
period the author was trying to create.
The text could have benefited from a good proofreading. There are
numerous grammatical mistakes in punctuation and spelling that could
have been caught.
I did like the format. I like comics that are text heavy with fewer illustrations allowing for better fleshed out storytelling.
All in all this might not have been the strongest issue to start the series. Perhaps it might have worked better as a flashback."
What I'd like to do is go through this review point by point, constructing a good argument to explain how this reader has misunderstood the book, and how what he sees as flaws are the same things I consider strengths.
I'd like to do that, but I won't.
I won't do it because there's nothing to be gained by it. If I respond to every bit of negative criticism, I'm only going to make myself look worse, and not add anything productive to the conversation.
I also think that no matter how good an argument I construct, I won't change this reader's mind...he's read the book and formed his opinion, and that's that. Better luck next time.
I won't do it because I think he's right. At least insofar as to say that his criticism is as valid as anyone's, and whether I agree with him or not, he's got every right to express it.
Finally, and most importantly, I appreciate that this reader took the time to write this review and let me know what he thinks. It's well written and attempts to be constructive, and balanced with some positive commentary as well. Whether he enjoyed the book or not, at least he took the time to respond to it, and give me something I can learn from and, hopefully, grow on. That's worth a lot to me.
The lesson is, if you're looking to get into self-publishing, you'd better grow a thick skin when it comes to reviews. Not everyone is going to praise your efforts, and people will more quickly jump on the keyboard when they've got something negative to say. Don't turn every bad review into an argument or it will only weaken you in the eyes of your readership. Instead, try to appreciate the feedback, learn something from the comments and move on. That's just one of the ways you grow as a creator.
In the meantime, why don't you try the book for yourself and tell me if you agree with this review? If you're a blogger/reviewer/journalist, contact me and let me know where you'll be writing your review, and I'll set you up with a comp copy of the book. Everyone else can grab a copy for under a buck over at DriveThru Comics and then join in the conversation.