Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Understanding Negative Reviews and Target Audiences

Negative reviews: this is something that ever author will have to deal with. There are many writers who are afraid to put their stuff out their simply because they are afraid of negative reviews (I was like this.) But I believe if authors can understand target audiences then this will help soothe the blow of negative reviews. It has always baffled me how books that I absolutely loved got negative reviews. The reviewers seemed to hate everything that I love about the book. How could this be?
I will present you with the following scenario. 

New author Jane Smith has just written her first Romantic-Comedy book with a paranormal twist. She has chosen first person narrative because she really wants to convey the thoughts and emotions of the main character. The book is about 350 pages long. Jane likes to use fast descriptions and loves developing her characters more than the scenery. There is some action in the book, but it is mainly towards the end for climatic effects. The romance between the main two characters is electric and their mishaps and love for each other carry most of the book. Jane wants her readers to be entertained, she isn't trying to give them a philosophical explanation on the origins of life or question morality. She wants her readers to be able to escape from their everyday busy lives and she hopes that her books will do that. So Jane puts her book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Within 6 months her book is flying off the e-shelves! But as her book becomes more popular the most atrocious, most unspeakable thing happens: she gets the dread 1 star review. How can this be? So many people loved it. Every one said how well written it was. Then here comes  the 1 star reviewer that has labeled her as a poor writer and vows to never read her books again. Of course Jane is devastated. This is her first book and she hasn't grown the author's thick skin just yet. Jane has failed to understand target audiences and the vast nuances of readers in the literary world. But in time she will.
    I have put up 2 diagram charts to better illustrate this. I have described 8 aspects of a novel that readers look for and their preferences. You may find yourself in one, both, or none of these preference. Personally I see myself in both of these.

This diagram IS NOT saying:
-that all people who love paranormal/romance/comedy books will have the same preferences listed in the categories below. This merely describes ONE person in the author's target audience. There are many types of readers who take into account many factors when rating a book.
-that these preferences are glued to only one genre. For example just because you like sci-fi that doesn't mean you love only 500+ page books. Once again it describes ONE reader.

This diagram IS saying:
-that readers are unique and that people look for different things in a book.
-you can't please everyone. What one person loves about a book is what another person hates.

Now that we have taken into account that readers can be so different, negative reviews make a lot more sense.

Now with that being said, there is no target audience for poor grammar and typos. If your book is overridden with these then it doesn't matter how good of a story you have. I'm not saying my books are perfect in this area, but I am going to try and get them as close to this as possible. I am also not suggesting that we throw every negative review out the window. We can learn a lot from constructive criticism. And a lot of times bad reviews help us see how we can improve our story and how we can become better writers. 

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