Take Bad Reviews with a Dash of Salt

A few weeks back, I mentioned something called the “Immerse or Die” report — which is basically where this guy gets on his treadmill and starts reading a book. If he finds three glaring errors that pull him out of the story, he stops reading and marks the book as failed. If he makes it all the way to the end of his 40 minute treadmill run, the book passes. Simple enough, right?

I was a bit hesitant about sending in Imminent Danger, since A) harsh criticism makes me sad, and B) the reader is a 50 year old man, and thus not exactly my target audience. But then I thought “what the hell” and sent it in anyway.

Which was an … interesting decision. Spoiler alert: Imminent Danger did not survive the Immerse or Die report. You can read the report for yourself here.

So here’s where we get to the “take bad reviews with a dash of salt” part. Obviously, I was bummed out. In an ideal world, everyone would love my book. Not going to happen, of course, but it’s a nice dream. So I was feeling pretty down on myself as I started to read his review.

Then I finished reading the review, and I wasn’t down on myself anymore. In his review, he pinpoints three details in the first chapter that made him stop reading the book. Damn, right? Those must have been some pretty massive, glaring flaws. Except they’re not. Here are the earth-shattering problems he found:

  • fellow high school classmates” is redundant (as in, classmates implies “fellow”, so both words weren’t necessary)
  • high schools start at 9am, not 8am
  • Eris is facing the trees, and then gets dragged in backward (did she turn around at some point? it’s not stated)

Points #1 and #3 are actually really helpful, because he’s absolutely right, and those two things (redundant language and keeping track of where my characters are) are things I will look out for in future books/editing. Point #2, however, is just plain wrong. According to the US National Center for Education Statistics, the average high school start time is 8am. Here’s the link if you don’t believe me. But I digress.

Basically, he stopped reading the book because of A) a wording choice, and B) a mix-up in which direction Eris was facing. Which is fine. I, personally, tend to stop reading books due to larger issues, like the plot not making sense, or glaring spelling issues, or an unlikable main character … but hey, different people are different!

So, all in all, I’m content with my decision to submit Imminent Danger to the Immerse or Die Report. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Did his review frustrate me? Absolutely. Will I be reading his books, or visiting his site again? Definitely not. We obviously have completely opposite views on what makes a story good.

At the end of the day, the only thing you can really do when you get a bad review is read it thoroughly and:

  1. Pick out the legitimate criticisms and learn from them, and
  2. Ignore the rest

Now I just have to keep telling myself that!


Unrelated media of the day:

More excellent book dedications …

I Am, by Matthew Hubbard

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

Categories: My Works, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “Take Bad Reviews with a Dash of Salt

  1. It’s all rather subjective. Immerse or Die, in particular, has an unusually specific criterium when it comes to examining one’s work, which is deep PoV. I do enjoy deep PoV (both reading and writing it), but think the emphasis on that alone can be misleading. Douglas Adams springs to mind here…

    Oh, and I love your books 🙂

    • Hahaha thanks 😀 I love your books too, so that works out really well!

      I read a few of the other reviews on Immerse or Die, and it seems like the tiniest things can pull the reviewer out of the story. Which makes me a little sad, because I can only imagine how many great stories this guy is missing out on. But then, I’m sure I’m missing out on tons of great stories because of my own preferences. So, like you said–it’s all subjective!

  2. That’s definitely an interesting review style. Great takeaway from it too. You really have to take things as they come and factor in personal taste. To me, ‘fellow classmates’ doesn’t feel wrong because it’s a common phrase. I hear it in speeches done in school setting stories, so I think the ‘fellow’ part is more to show a sign of unity than vicinity to each other. Think I’m digressing now. Can’t really same much else because I’m sure my book would have an epic fail due to my style.

    • That’s pretty much what I thought. Like Nicholas Rossis mentioned in his comment, it’s all subjective. For example, I use the phrase “fellow classmate” all the time. I see it everywhere. But the reviewer feels it’s redundant, and that’s fine — personal taste. I do feel a bit bad for the guy, because he’s probably missing out on a lot of great books just because they don’t fit his very specific preferred style.

      • I’ve met a few reviewers like that. Nature of the beast, I guess. Some people want to give a book only one chapter before they quit because time is limited. I kind of understand when they take it as seriously as we do with our writing.

  3. Awesome bad review. Don’t feel too bummed. It is all subjective and this guy has his own review style.
    FYI my high school started at 7:30 (ugh) District needed to stagger bus service and assumed older kids needed to be home for babysitting jobs (elementary started at 9) or other part time work.

    • I mean, it’s hard to feel bummed when the review is “bad” because of three totally inconsequential little things, lol. Learn, laugh, and move on, I say! My high school started around 8:45, but another local school started at 7:50. Not nearly as bad as your 7:30 — dear lord! That’s just stupid early.

  4. I thought he was being extremely harsh, myself.

    • Yeah, but I can’t say that or I sound petty, lol. But clearly he IS capable of discerning good books from bad, because he loved Catskinner’s Book–and that, of course, is awesome 😀

  5. I’m betting that the Immerse or Die guy gets tons of books to review (just like the acquisitions editors of old, right?). So he basically has to eliminate most of them pretty fast. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he no longer reads in a normal way, where the reader isn’t actually on the lookout for stuff that pulls them out of the story. It would take a lot more than those three tiny things to interrupt the flow for someone who was just reading for fun, without all those other books waiting to be dealt with.
    So you are absolutely right to forget it and move on!

    • Good point! Yeah, I can see how a reviewer with a billion books to review would become picky about how he spends his time. I myself tend to get a lot pickier when I’m low on time and high on commitments.

      • I was thinking the same thing. He will now be actively searching for ‘de-immersifying’ words or phrases.

        And yes, ‘de-immersifying’ is (as in, should be if it isn’t already) a real word.

  6. Dust it off and move on. I wouldn’t send the guy any of my work because running on a treadmill is no way to evaluate something that requires sitting down and reading to yourself. My opinion of course. I recently had a review that knocked off a star because of a couple of typos and this reviewer even pointed out that one word stood out – quite instead of quiet, I sometimes mix them up. Anyway, I thought oh no how bad is it. I did a search and replace on my Word document and found that in this particular story it happened once. That’s it. Now, that review is out there and it seems like I do it all the time. C’est la vie. You are a great writer. Don’t let it bum you out. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

    • I personally could never read while running on a treadmill — partially because I want to sit down so I can focus on enjoying the prose, but mostly because all that up and down bouncing while running would just make me dizzy if I tried to read at the same time, lol. It’s definitely an interesting review strategy, though.

      Awww, that quiet vs quite thing messes me up all the time too. Your eyes just skim right over it during a proofread. I really wish there was a function where you could fix the items mentioned in a review and then resubmit your story to a reviewer so they could change their review. That’s expecting a lot from the reviewer, though.

      • I have thought about seeking out some of those bad reviewers after my fixes, but then I thought they might think I was crazy.So I let it be.

  7. Reblogged this on s a gibson.

  8. Jeff designed IoD to be different from the standard reviews which focus on the whole book. not because he is looking to eliminate quickly, but because some readers are: the Amazon samples system is creating a subset of readers who download twenty samples then junk 18 of them.

    Because each time someone stops reading is a moment in which they might decide to do something else, he chose things that bumped him out of the story enough to notice as his metric.

    I’m aware of several books that failed, that he went on to read because he liked them enough, so he doesn’t see failing as a sign the book is “bad”; just not able to hold his attention for 40 minutes.

    So, it isn’t really a review in the usual sense so much as a stress test to identify where you might lose a potential reader.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I am the other reviewer for IoD.

    I can’t speak for Jeff, but I lose immersion over the same things when not reading for IoD; I just don’t apply as strict a rule over whether to keep reading or do something else.

    • Now, that IS interesting! I was under the impression that a “fail” meant he didn’t like the book at all. But this lends a whole new insight into it, if he goes on to read some of the books that fail. Thanks very much for bringing this up! I don’t think I fully grasped the concept of Immerse or Die — or, at least, not the subtle nuances 🙂 And I have to say, I’m glad I did submit Imminent Danger, because his #3 point was very helpful to me for future writing endeavors.

      • A “fail” just means the reviewer lost immersion three times in under forty minutes. There have been several books I’ve failed despite wanting to carry on reading.

        There’s no way to be utterly objective about the “worth” of a piece of fiction, but the method is designed to be different from the “read the whole book then make a few subjective remarks” reviews that many readers post.

        Despite that, Jeff is the first to admit that all of the WTFs are only one person’s opinion; other readers might not notice an issue, or be bothered by it if they do.

  9. I agree about the harsh comments, particularly the start time of the school. Using his own knowledge hardly seems reasonable unless he’s lived, like, EVERYWHERE!

    None of the comments he picked up would have slowed me as a reader. The third one I would have assumed the character turned in the grappling.

    His comments on the review before and after yours were picking up more serious problems so I definitely wouldn’t worry about it.

    • The more I think about it, the more I’m coming to realize how vastly different readers are. I, for example, appreciate a clever bit of prose, but for the most part I read books for the stories. Which is why I’m not a huge fan of classic literature — sure, the writing’s beautiful, but if the story doesn’t grip me, I just can’t muster up much on an interest. Whereas some people read purely to enjoy the writing itself, with the story being secondary. Not sure where I’m going with this, lol. I guess just that, even though I think his reasons for getting pulled out of the story are a bit inconsequential, for him they obviously aren’t, and that’s A-okay 😀

  10. Interesting. How can he hit the buzzer on high school times, seriously? My kids high school times were something ridiculous like 8:34 and 25 seconds or something. No, I think it was 8:45, actually. But in your universe school starts at 9.
    Fellow classmates? Not as bad as a round circle or wet water!

  11. Pingback: Lazy Sunday #3 | Paula Acton

  12. mikeakin1

    This post is excellent. Take the legit criticism, learn from it, correct it and press on. Nothing more you can do then that.

    • Exactly. And at the end of the day, even criticism that isn’t legit still has value — it makes you stop, take a step back, and evaluate. And through that process, you might find other things to improve on.

  13. Oh, good thing you mentioned that, because I didn’t pay attention after submitting. My own book also didn’t make it, but I feel we both did well enough in comparison, making it past the seven minute mark 😉
    Onward to the next novel!

  14. “the reader is a 50 year old man, and thus not exactly my target audience.”
    Not feeling sidelined at all… 😦
    Andy (51 & 1/2)

    • OMG. To quote my mother, “Different people are different.” You are, of course, a gentleman of exquisite taste, hence why your interests have such range and variety. Common mortals are not so lucky as you. 😀

  15. admin@reviewsfix.com

    Good reviews, bad reviews..it can ALL be good because it causes chat and draws attention.

    • True enough! Although that only works if you have attention on you to begin with. A bunch of bad reviews on a self-published book that no one knows about will just sink it.

  16. Great read thank youu

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