Jon Grilz

Mystery and Thriller writer

Handling Reviews

So, you did it, you got a book out there. Maybe you self-published or maybe you got a deal with a publishing house. Either way, what you've done is a pretty great thing. You have created something and put it out there.

To be judged...

It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but some of the best advice I can give about writing involves not reading your reviews. While there is a chance that you may get a review with brilliant and enlightening criticisms that will help shape your future writing, don't count on it.

Example: you just published. You are checking Amazon regularly to see if you got a new review.

Everything is going great, nothing but five-star reviews on Amazon!

Wait, there's a four-star. Well, that's okay, but why four? They said they liked the book...hmmm...

A three-star? What the f***?! You didn't even understand what I was trying to convey!

But wait, it gets worse. 

Let's say you start to sell. Or maybe you get a good write-up. Strangely enough, the attention brought to you by people who liked your work often comes with people who are just looking for something to trash.

My prime example is always Cormac McCarthy. Whom I consider to be one of America's greatest writers ever.

When you get a chance, go on Amazon and look up Cormac McCarthy's novels on Amazon. Start with The Road. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. 

3,294 review at the time of this article. 

1,785 5-star reviews.

600 4-star reviews.

289 3-star reviews.

268 2-star reviews.

352 1-star reviews.

Wait, what?

Oh, it gets better. Go ahead and read the 1-star reviews. Each one thoughtfully written with copious amounts of witticisms crafted to tear apart one of--what I consider to be--the great works of fiction. And a lot of them mention how Blood Meridian was a far superior book.

Interesting. Well, then Blood Meridian must be nothing but rave reviews if so many of these detractors think that it is the better read.

739 reviews.

443 5-star reviews.

101 4-star reviews

57 3-star reviews.

65 2-star reviews.

73 1-star reviews.

And please note that many of these poor reviews point out that the violence and grotesqueness depicted as being a major flaw in the book. 

I am left to ask a simple question: how the f*** can you give Cormac McCarthy a one-star review?

This isn't a new writer struggling and over or under-writing a debut novel.

This isn't a veteran just looking to churn out more books. 

This is a writer whose haunting prose might be some of the greatest works of American Literature in the 20th century. 

And still some people hate him.

Now, you are probably not on Cormac McCarthy's level.

I am not certainly not, and not above the understand that there will be people who just don't like the stories I tell.

But come on, Cormac McCarthy? What are you judging him against?

This is simply an example I use to remind people that ratings on Amazon are a strange beast. They can make your day soar and they can make you question your decision to become a writer. 

Let your work stand on it's own, stop reading the reviews and keep writing.

If you really want to be confused by reviews. Check out The Ruins. Evidently getting Stephen King to praise your book makes people a bit nasty in their reviews.