I Hated Your Book!

Okay, folks, it’s time for what I feel is going to be a yearly tradition: the “I hated your book” blog. Last year I wrote a blog post listing my top ten favorite negative comments that had come in for my first book Mistress of Rome, and I had a blast doing it. Judging from the 500 views and 20+ comments, a lot of you had a blast reading it. So here we go for Round 2: I’ve written a second book, out for nearly five months now, and plenty of people had mean things to say about it (or me).

Which is fine, really. Mistress of Rome got panned a few times, and so did Daughters of Rome, and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all, and I knew going into this line of work that I wasn’t going to please 100% of my readers. Everyone gets negative reviews–you can go on Amazon, and the Bible has negative reviews. Even God does not get a break on this one. The last thing I will ever do is be unprofessional and argue with a reader about their opinion, whether in person or on the web. And I have learned valuable things from some negative reviews–a Latin scholar, for example, who tactfully pointed out that my hero’s made-up name was actually a common adverb in Latin. Believe me, that detail got carefully worked into my next book, and I’m grateful for the correction.

But I have gotten some negative reviews of Daughters of Rome that are so bizarre or so flat-out filled with loathing that I have been left scratching my head in wonder. Here are a few memorable gems from readers who have contacted me with negative feedback. I have rephrased some for anonymity but all are true in essence:

1. There is a depraved amount of sex in this book. From beginning to end, I was just appalled!!!
So appalled that you finished the book anyway?

2. Not enough sex in this book! I was so disappointed that there wasn’t an orgy!
Probably not as disappointed as Reader #1.

3. I hated your last book. I don’t know why I bought this one.
Well, don’t look at me; I certainly don’t know either.

4. It’s too confusing to have four heroines named Cornelia.
Okay, valid. Historically it’s true that Roman women in the same family got the same name . . . but judging from the number of readers who thought it was confusing in Daughters of Rome, the four-identical-names thing might not have been the best idea for a novel. At least my four girls are all immediately separated out with different nicknames, so it’s not too confusing after the first chapter.

5. It’s distressing to see an author’s racist prejudices make their way into mainstream fiction. (Condensed from 11-page 6-point-font email)
Not really sure what ethnic group I pissed off in Daughters of Rome. First-century Gauls, maybe? Far as I know, they’re all dead . . .

6. Palid bodiss ripper with dull heroin and unreelistic senario.
I believe that’s “Palid Pallid bodiss ripper bodice-ripper with dull heroin heroine and unreelistic unrealistic senario scenario.” C-minus–I know you can do better. Please see me after class to discuss use of spell-checker.

7. Your first book was so much better than this one.
See next comment.

8. Your first book was so much worse than this one.
See previous comment.

9. This book is wrong and inaccurate–no Christians! Not a book a good modern-day Christian should ever read.
Oh dear, I think you’d better sit down. I know it’s a shock, but–deep breath, now–not everyone in the ancient world was Christian. There, there, don’t cry.

10. Yr buk sux. U suk 2.
Thank you for taking time off from your World of Warcraft schedule to get in touch with me. I think I hear your mother calling upstairs; she wants you to vacuum the basement.

As you can see, my approach with negative reviews is to keep my sense of humor. Plenty more bad reviews will come my way, so I might as well learn to laugh about it–nasty readers and all, this job is still far preferable to working in a cubicle with Excel spreadsheets and an “Office Space” coffee mug. For those readers who didn’t like my book but wrote thoughtful, well-reasoned reviews why–thank-you; constructive well-written criticism is always useful. And for those many people who liked Daughters of Rome and wrote such nice reviews about it (on Amazon, on Goodreads, in their blogs, or just in a nice email to me), thank you for the praise. All of you really made my day–and I hope I can make yours when I read, enjoy, and review your books too.

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