Wednesday 7 April 2010


I’ve mainly been pleased with the reviews I’ve seen for The Prophecy. It has been reviewed all over the world. The reviews have been mainly very positive and even the less positive accounts have had some positive comments.
But here are a few thoughts.
By the time your novel goes out to review, there is little you can do about it. You should fear the review even more than you fear the rejection slip. At least when you get a rejection pre-publication you can go and do something to the text. You can’t do anything to the published text – it’s out there, it’s published. What’s more, so is the review. The most you can do if you get a bad review is ask someone who has written you a good one to counter the argument.
Bad reviews are more worrying than good ones are pleasing. And even with good ones there will be one or two less pleasing comments. We tend to dwell on those. It seems to be part of human nature. We fail to celebrate what we do well. We worry about what we do badly. Would it be a good strategy, then, to make ourselves read them more carefully? More logically and less emotionally? After all don’t we always say that we are too close to our own work to know what works and what doesn’t. A reviewer may be able to tell you. But as always, this is just one opinion and reviewers don’t always agree. Nevertheless, it’s worth a look. Do they have a point? Is this a lesson for the next time?
Just who are these reviewers? Well, I’m one. I review because I am a published writer and it feels like something that goes with me being a university lecturer. It’s another professional angle. I try to be quite balanced in my review: I start off with what works, then go on to what works less well and give a sort of summative statement at the end. A verbal marks out of ten. I mark my students’ work in similar way – though I remain formative throughout. But the others? Well, there are the fans, friends and families who post their reviews on Amazon. There are the professional reviewers like myself and they can review on all sorts of forums from little-heard-of web sites up to the Sunday Times. There is also a whole raft of amateur book lovers who set up book-reviewing sites. These are sincere aficionados and give a sense of how readers will react to your work.
Yet it still irks when you get a comment that is born if ignorance. “This just needs editing.” No it doesn’t. I’m extremely careful abut my editing. So careful, that I edit the published works of other authors. Or did this reviewer mean I should have done nineteen edits instead of eighteen? I think they meant “copy edit.” Yet, the text did contain the average number of typos that you get in all published books. It may actually need a different sort of edit. After all, The Prophecy was part of a Ph D thesis, so the comments condemn a university and a bunch of examiners as well as an author. Sometimes a reviewer can assume ignorance in the writer who has carefully done their research when the ignorance is actually with the reviewer. Avoid that particular reviewer in future if possible.
Worse case scenario: you receive a terrible review, and hand on heart; you have to admit the reviewer was right. You can’t rescue the novel at this stage. Remind yourself, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Remember what Anne Fine’s review of Doing It in the Guardian did for Melvin Burgess’ sales. Remember too that reviews create reader expectation. Readers who are brave enough to try despite a bad review are usually pleasantly surprised. This may even be better than a disappointed reader after a fabulous review.
So, no need to worry too much after all.
Some of the reviews for "The Prophecy"
A site for which I revew

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