Four Things To Do With Negative Reviews (And One Thing Not To Do)

Allison has a lot of good advice about negative book reviews in her blog post, but I feel there’s more to be said as one who reviews books for NetGalley and others.

I have never given a single star to any book I’ve read. My review history tends to be on the opposite spectrum of five-star reviews. I say tends because I have read two books that did not get a five-star review from me. One book I decided not to review because I did not want to write a poor review, so I decided not reviewing would be more beneficial to the author than reviewing. I contacted the author and explained to her why I was not going to write a review and told her I wanted to see her succeed as an author. I gave her some recommendations and offered to write her a review if she provided me with an edited revision. I also received an email from her publisher who told me they had made a few changes to the book. Unfortunately, the book was no longer on my NetGalley bookshelf as I had notified NetGalley I was not going to write a review on this particular book. I hope when this book goes to publishing that it does well and the author meets with success.

The second book I read that fell below my five-star far-right spectrum; I gave three and a half stars in my review. My review was fair, and the review was not harmful, nor did I berate the author; I lifted her up as the talented writer she is, and she is a genuinely gifted writer that we will see a lot from in the future. I am confident of this and said as much in my review. The novel I reviewed is her first novel, and she will grow. As much as I enjoyed the book, I could not overlook the obvious that was apparent to me as an English major but may have gone unnoticed by a reader without an English degree. I struggled with this one because the author is talented, but I would not have done her justice by giving her five stars.

Why do I care? I care for four reasons. I am an English major; I am a writer working on a manuscript between reading and reviewing books; I don’t want to be a half-assed reviewer, and I select books to read that I want to be winners. I find it wrong and unfair to any author that has put their all into writing a book, which entails more than merely sitting down to write. I cannot think of a book that did not require endless hours of research before beginning the writing process and if as a reviewer, you know anything about the writing process I would think more about giving an author’s book one star and stating what you did not like. That’s not fair to the author, and you cannot call this type of criticism a book review.

I will also add that as a book reviewer, I more often than not receive a book that has yet to make it through its first round of editing. As a reader and reviewer, this is frustrating to me because I find myself editing as I read the book which is distracting from the story. Many writers with an English degree will admit to doing the same while reading a book; it’s an occupational hazard.

#readers #bookreviewers #bookblogs #bloggers #authors #writers #writerscommunity

Allison Maruska

Pop quiz time.

What do the following things have in common?

  1. Traffic jams
  2. Fish in the ocean
  3. The full moon appearing every month
  4. Negative book reviews

If you answered they are all certain to happen, then you pass!

rating-24185_1280Every book gets negative reviews. The Hunger Games, a book I absolutely love, has 443 1-star reviews. No matter how good your book is, eventually, you will get negative reviews. So since we can’t avoid them, we should have a strategy for what to do when they appear on our product pages, else we collapse into a blubbering heap or decide to quit writing and join the carnival. Sure, the endless access to funnel cakes would be awesome, but your family would miss you.

Below are four actions I’ve gathered from personal experience, talking with author friends/reading similar posts, and research. I hope that by the end, you’ll be able to read…

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New Release! THE BONE CURSE, A Genre-Bending, Supernatural Medical Thriller

Carrie Rubin, with a background in medicine and public health, and is the award-winning author of Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge. Carrie’s third medical thriller, The Bone Curse, Book I of her Benjamin Oris series is available today. Early reviews are raving about Carrie’s brilliant writing, as well as her unique ability to deliver … Continue reading New Release! THE BONE CURSE, A Genre-Bending, Supernatural Medical Thriller

Writing Outside The Box

Most of us, as writers, get stuck “inside the box.” Jamie Lee Wallace (@suddenlyjamie) tells us in her blog, “There is no “always” or “never” in writing. There are some basic common sense guidelines, but, other than that, I don’t give the “shoulds” and “musts” of writing much credence. What works for someone else might work for you, or it might not. And, as the masters will tell you, even the most widely touted rules are made (once you have the chops) to be broken.”

We should ask ourselves if we are stuck “inside the box” and as Jamie suggests in her blog, “…step outside that box – outside your comfort zone and into the place where the magic happens?”

Jamie’s blog is by far one of the best blogs for writers, by a writer, that I have read. Do yourself a favor and take the time to read Jamie’s entire blog.

Happy writing!

Live to Write - Write to Live

“Think outside the box” has always been one of the phrases I love to hate. In my agency days, it was something that echoed up and down the corridors, usually tripping lightly off the tongue of some overpaid creative director-type who couldn’t come up with a more helpful way to articulate his “vision.” The writers and designers would cringe in unison and wonder exactly what the hell they were supposed to do. Most of the time, they weren’t even aware they were in a box, never mind understanding how to get out of it.

Still, getting “outside the box” does have some validity in the world of marketing if you think of the box as the “shoulds” of marketing.

The myth of “best practices”

I have some bad news: there is no silver bullet, no 100% guaranteed roadmap, no one-size-fits-all solution. I also have some good news: there is no…

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Books, birthdays and butterflies


Attention all readers! If you have not yet read The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring, here is your chance to not only win a signed paperback version, or a Kindle copy, if you prefer, but also a silver butterfly bracelet.

Please feel free to share this post. Most importantly, if you do not win, please purchase the paperback or Kindle version on Amazon. I am a reader, as well as a writer, and The Munich Girl is the best novel I’ve read in a while.

The following is an excerpt from the blog of Phyllis Edgerly Ring:

“February is the month when the two friends in this story each have a birthday, each born in a Leap Year like this one.

To celebrate, I’m having a drawing at the beginning and end of the month. On February 6, which was also Eva Braun’s birthday, I’ll draw the name of two winners for a signed copy of the book and a silver butterfly bracelet designed by artist Diane Kirkup.

To enter, send an email to with“Butterfly” in the subject line. Those who include any thoughts about the book or a photo of themselves with it will receive 3 entries.”

Good luck!

Leaf of the Tree

il_570xN.780155660_2l95Enter by Feb. 6 to win.

As my novel, The Munich Girl, reaches more readers, I’m continually moved and surprised by the level of response that the book is bringing.

It’s a privilege to receive readers’ impressions about themes that weave through the story.

Gayle Hoover notes,  “It’s the women in this story who have the real strength, even in instances when they easily could have been seen as only victims.”

At the heart of it all, the story’s goal is to encourage discussion at levels that will take another look at many things, including our very own selves.

Albert Marquet - Jardin du Luxembourg, 1898. Oil on canvas, 15 x 17 3_4 in. (38 x 45 cm). @ Sotheby's Images, London_nAlbert Marquet, Jardin du Luxembourg, 1898. Oil on canvas, Sotheby’s Images, London

Those who’ve made the way through the novel know that many objects and events in it invite the way toward looking at things anew. One image in particular that does this is a butterfly.

February is the month…

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Generating Page-Turning Momentum -Characters & The Wound

Whether you are a seasoned, an intermediate, or a new writer that is just starting to get your feet wet and you do not know Author Kristen Lamb; you must get to know her, and she has a great blog you can follow to become acquainted with. Kristen Lamb is the #1 best-selling author of We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me. Writer, Kristen Lamb is quite witty. If you’re anything like me, you tend to tune in and retain more from those who are intelligently humorous and believable.

Let’s face it, the writing industry is confusing, and especially if you do not have a background in English, Journalism, or Communication. If you are reading about your craft, and hopefully you are, as well as reading other writer’s books, blogs, etc., the terminology, method of putting a story together can be overwhelming. Writing a book is a lot like putting a puzzle together. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, it’s not. Like pieces of a puzzle, our stories have pieces too, and if you fail to put the pieces in the right order, your novel will not work. You may be scratching your head, rolling your eyes and thinking what I’m writing is psychobabble fluff, but I promise you it’s not.

Let’s talk about some of the confusing write-speak just briefly. When it comes to writing, if you are a writer, you know what a plot is, hopefully, but what do you know about log-lines? Characters sound natural enough, but there are many elements to your characters too. The emotional connections, and distinct wounds, and how you tie these problems and dramatic events to your characters? What about generating story tension and timing the introduction of your characters and their problems/wounds? There are many pieces, but the timing for introducing these pieces is critical to GOOD writing.

I am traveling; the truth is I am camping, and I am without the luxury of my 24 hour Wi-Fi, so I am remiss in re-blogging Kristen’s excellent blog post, Generating Page-Turning Momentum—Characters & The Wound. Unfortunately, there was a give-a-way that accompanied this blog post that expired on July 31st, 2015. Personally, I believe the blog itself is a give-a-way. Kristen’s blog lays it ALL out better and more concisely than I’ve yet to see it explained. It was a great refresher for me. Anyway—read, giggle and take notes. I guarantee Kristen’s blog will allay some of the confusion that writer’s encounter.


Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 10.17.54 AM Hmmm, what’s the story behind THIS?

Can we answer the question, “What is your book about?” in one sentence. Is our answer clear and concise? Does it paint a vivid picture of something others would want to part with time and money to read? Plot is important, but a major component of a knockout log-line is casting the right characters.

Due to popular demand I am running my Your Story in a Sentenceclass in about two weeks and participants have their log lines shredded and rebuilt and made agent-ready. Log-lines are crucial because if we don’t know what our book is about? How are we going to finish it? Revise it? Pitch it? Sell it?

Once we have an idea of what our story is about and have set the stage for the dramatic events that will unfold, we must remember that fiction is about PROBLEMS. Plain and simple…

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Thunderclap Campaign

Writers supporting writers. I’m in, are you? If not, please get in and support the group of international authors who came together in aid of WE ARE MACMILLAN CANCER SUPPORT to write this book, “You’re Not Alone – An Indie Author Anthology ” of short stories with the theme being relationships.

I don’t know anyone who has not been touched by cancer. Last July, I lost two Aunts (sisters) six days apart, both to cancer. What better way, whether writer or reader to get involved and have the opportunity to help others?

The Quill Pen Writes

Hi Everyone!

There is currently a Thunderclap Campaign #thunderclap running to help boost the anthology presence around the world… I wonder if you would help us to reach our goal of 100 supporters? We’re at 84 and it won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. The link you need is here:

This will take you to the thunderclap campaign. Simply follow this campaign, then share via your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr accounts in order to add your social reach to the total gained so far (716,000). That’s it, painless.

Your support will generate more exposure for the brilliant collection of 28 stories from indie authors around the world, that have been compiled into an anthology entitled You’re Not Alone. You can also follow our progress as we head towards launch day on 11th July or you can pre-order a kindle copy here:

All monies raised in the sale…

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Feeding the Holy, crafting a spirit

Words of encouragement shared by Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring. ““Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive,” says Toko-pa.” And so much more to help us through our writing journeys.

Leaf of the Tree

IMG_3667 Medium Photo: Thad Ring

So many thoughtful souls keep us company when we’re on a path of creating.

“Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem,” said Rollo May.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”

“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore,” Anna Quindlen has noted. “It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit.”

lkpoppy10415589_10154179886320181_4114162474730864319_n Photo: Lara Kearns

“Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive,” says Toko-pa. “And as we put all of our lostness and longing into the beauty we make, we do so knowing that we…

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At the shores of discovery

Struggling with your writing process? Feel like you've hit the wall? Read Phyllis Edgerly Ring's blog post below. Phyllis has the gift of explaining those moments that we feel we are sinking in quicksand, but her gift extends to showing us the way out.