Â (Not only am I annoyed by bad reviews of my own books, I’m also annoyed by nasty reviews of fine books by other authors.Â Â WhenÂ I saw a dismissive 2-star readerÂ review of a thriller thatÂ I considered one of the best of the year, I got irritated on the other writer’s behalf.Â I felt his book was horribly misjudged, and I was moved to write this blogpost about how we writers sometimes value certain books more highly than readers do.Â I’m happy to say that my own opinion of the book has been supported by other authors.Â That book is now a finalist for Best Thriller of the Year.)
Frequently I’ll cruise over to Amazon.com to see what readers are saying about books by other authors.Â And often I’ll be startled by negative comments about books that I’ve enjoyed or even adored, books that I consider so well written that I can’t imagine anyone not loving them.Â Â And I’ll wonder, what’s wrong with these readers?Â Why don’t they appreciate the skill and talent that went into creating Author XYZ’s masterpiece?
I think the answer is this: we writers notice what the average reader completely misses.Â We understand the enormous effort that goes into creating a special character andÂ brilliant dialogue and a complex story.Â We know how difficult the process is, and we know that what seems like effortless storytellingÂ is often the most accomplished and difficult writing of all.
When writers areÂ asked which of their books is their favorite, they will often nameÂ aÂ title that their readers failed to appreciate, a title that perhaps sold poorly.Â That book may have been the most challenging, the most artistic of all the writer’s works, the one book that he’ll be proudest of.Â Yet theÂ majority of his readersÂ won’t recognize the achievement… because they themselves aren’t writers.
I remember a scene in the filmÂ “Amadeus”, when a nobleman (not a composer)Â offers his critique of Mozart’s brilliant new opera.Â He says something like, “Very nice.Â But perhaps aÂ few too many notes.”
“Which notes do you mean?” Mozart asks.
“Oh, I don’t know.Â But there are just a few too many of them.”
Everyone listens to music.Â Everyone thinks they know good music from bad music.Â Â Yet that scene of a clueless non-musicianÂ telling a musician how to compose an operaÂ got a big laugh out of the audience because everyone recognized its absurdity.Â
Whenever I see a nasty comment directed at a book that I know in my writer’s soul is a great book, Â I think of that scene between Mozart andÂ the nobleman.Â Everybody’s a critic.Â But very few of us can actually compose an opera — or write a book.
Â I’m off to the UK!Â No blogging for the next two weeks.Â More when I get back…