Hi Jim,
I’m really upset about the feedback one of my book has been getting. For the most part, the reviews have been constructive, but they’ve mostly been negative. The book in question is a sequel to one that got a lot of positive reviews. The story had a great following, but now I’m afraid the sequel may have ruined it. I was really hoping to turn this into an ongoing series, but now I’m worried that if I try to publish another sequel, no one will want to read it. Do you think I should abandon the series?
Thanks,
(Confidential by request)

Hi there,

Oh boy, that’s a tough one. My sympathies on the negative reviews, they’re always tough to get through. Fortunately for you, it seems like most of them are genuinely trying to help by providing you constructive criticism instead of your run-of-the-mill “This Sucks!” or “The Author Needs To Stop!” and so on.

At the same time though, the reviews with constructive and legitimate criticism are next to impossible to ignore, and I wouldn’t recommend ignoring them either. It’s a bit of a balancing act that you have to perform. On one side, write how YOU want to write. You don’t owe your audience anything on characters and stories you created. On the other hand, you have to remember that audiences vote with their wallets. So if you’re hoping to actually be able to sell the book, you do need to at least reflect on said criticisms.

For starters, I would read through them, find some recurrent themes. What are the major complaints about the story that people didn’t like? Did you do something that didn’t make sense? Is there a major plothole, or did the story simply take a direction that the audiences didn’t like?

When you figure out what the pattern of negativity is, you can go from there. Write down the primary complaints, keep them in your mind and then go back over your thought processes, experiences, and feelings when you were writing that book. Try to pinpoint what made you take the directions you did and where your inspiration came from.

Then you have to decide where to go next;

  1. You can invalidate the previous book. To do this, you need to retcon what happened in the previous book, but then have your characters find a way to undo whatever happened (time travel is usually a pretty good way of handling this), or you can do what Roseanne did and make the previous story a figment of someone’s imagination or something like that. There are some creative ways of doing this… but I don’t recommend it. This is a pretty shallow way of handling the problem and it’s something audiences can see right through.
  2. Stay the course. If you think you’ve got a solid story and that bad novel was pretty much just a way to bridge two good stories, then you have the option of weathering the criticism and pressing forward. I’d recommend a press release in this case. Actually tell your audience. A few simple words for example:
    “Okay everyone, I wanted to address the negative feedback I’ve been getting. I know a lot of you are concerned… look, all I ask is that you give the next book a chance. I promise that this whole thing is going somewhere and hopefully you’ll like where we end up. That’s all I can ask.”
  3. Change direction. Look at the criticism, see where things went off the rails for your audience and turn it around. Find ways to restore certain characters who were altered or end plot points that people didn’t like.

I wouldn’t worry about audiences not buying the book. The thing about readers is that they tend to be very forgiving, especially if everything ends well. In the end, you’re the only one who can decide which way to take the story. It’s your story and it’s entirely up to you.
If you think about it the right way, this could actually work out pretty well for you. Your story took a beating, crashed and burned, it disappointed your audiences and crashed and burned. Now imagine if it rises from the ashes and surprises everyone by being awesome? You play with their emotions and their lack of expectations make them love the story even more. I call it the Phoenix Effect. Your story went from being good, to crashing and burning, yet out of the ashes it is reborn more radiant than it started.

Anyway, I hope this helps you in some way. Hopefully you have a little perspective on where to take your story next.

Readers, do you have any advice? Let us know in the comments!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

2 Comments on “The Phoenix Effect: After Being Burned by Bad Reviews

  1. If you have a series in mind, like JK Rowling or George Lucas, learn from the critique but write your series.

    If your book did well and you thought, I should write a sequel but only vaguely had an idea what to write, maybe drop the series idea.

    Don’t do a Disney, which is to come up with more and more follow-ups to squeeze every possible penny out of your readers until you finally produce something so bad it kills the whole idea. The world does not need another Home Alone 3 or Never-ending Story 3.

    Just my opinion. M

    Like

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