He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. ~Leo Tolstoy

Friday, November 7, 2014

What I've Learned from Reading Negative Reviews

My book is a new release and, at the time of this writing, has 6 whopping reviews. That's great, and I'm grateful for them, but they're not enough. They're not enough from a marketing perspective (as the volume of reviews is an indicator of sales, exposure, etc) but it's not enough from a learning perspective either. Hopefully my free sale, which garnered 1650 downloads will remedy the first situation. As for the second,  I'm fully aware (thought probably not prepared) for getting some bad reviews out of that number. From these I will endeavor to learn all that I can about what worked, what didn't, etc. I'm new to the romance genre, haven't read too much, and readily admit that I'm not terribly familiar with the common modalities, tropes, habits etc. Negative reviews can be a teaching tool and I hope to use them as such.

But in the meanwhile, I've been reading the negative reviews of some other popular novels to get a sense of where the readers are at, what they want that they're not getting, and see if I can find some common complaints.

1. Cliffhanger endings. Lord, people HATE those.

Note to self: never ever leave a book on a cliffy, especially as a marketing ploy to get people to buy the sequel. This doesn't really apply to me as my book did not end on a cliffy (well, there's a LITERAL cliff but that's beside the point), but I do feel vindicated in no small part. My hubs read my eight-page epilogue that wrapped up every loose end and finished with a huge HEA. He thought the HEA could have been downplayed and all those loose ends didn't really need tying. Ha HA! Turns out, aside from not ending on cliffies, readers really want a good HEA and loose ends tied up. Score one for my instincts.

2. Too much sex is not a good thing.

This one surprised me. I read several romance novels and was not distracted by "too much" sex, but then read numerous reviews that stated it was excessive. I think the magic Nora Roberts Formula is 2 scenes per book with some other minor bits here and there, and not a lot of body-part naming or play-by-play. (Unless it's erotica, of course)  I'm not saying I'm going to tailor my every move to these opinion, but it's something to keep in mind. Romance readers know what they want and it's not all action. On the contrary...

3. Character development is a good thing.

Who says romance readers are just out to be titillated? It should go without saying but I'll say it anyway:  it only takes a rudimentary glance at reviews to know that most romance readers demand a strong plot and character development just as they would in any other book. And why not? Take this for granted at your peril.

So that's my primer while I wait for my own reviews to roll in (I hope) at which point Part II--What I've Learned from Negative Reviews: MINE will be forthcoming.