My Favorite BAD Reviews

My first thriller, The Shekinah Legacy, has now sold nearly 200,000 copies. And it’s had about 300 Amazon reader reviews. Shortly after release, it was the #1 bestselling thriller on Amazon. Soon, the Amazon reader reviews started rolling in.

At first, the inevitable bad reviews stung, but over time I’ve come to see many of them as humorous, and some as simply perplexing. So I’ve decided to share some of my favorite bad reviews and weird reader perspectives with you. Perhaps not the best strategy for selling books—but I wanted to share the joy.

Like most authors, I always wanted to be seen as a good writer. Before long, however, I got my comeuppance in this review, which I score high on creative mean-spiritedness.

This is not a good book. Now, if the author is a 7th grader, I apologize, and congrats on the C+ you probably got in your Intro to Fiction Writing class.

Love that review now. But when it first appeared, it cut like a knife. As did this one:

This book feels like it has been written by a 13 yer old. The writing is simpistic (sic)…

At least I’m good at spelling. Another writer summed up my deficiencies in just three words, a master stroke of economy:

Too many words.

The statement reminded me of my favorite scene in the movie Amadeus in which the king feels compelled to come up with a criticism of Mozart’s most recent work. After frantically searching for something to disparage, the king at last exclaimed that the opera had “too many notes.” Fortunately. most of my readers seemed to agree with the reviewer who wrote:

Which is what thriller writing should do, I think. As for the plot of my story, which I spent countless hours researching and developing, one early reviewer broke my heart by complaining:

Too much development and not enough story for me.

What? Not enough plot? But at least I kept the story moving, right? Apparently not for the reviewer who wrote:

It started out very slow and just got worse from there.

This kind of stuff can make an author tear his hair out, if he hadn’t torn it all out already. A thriller has utterly failed if it doesn’t have ample action and a fast-moving pace. My ego was salved, however, by a rush of other reviewers who wrote things like:

There is great action in this story. Mesmerizing! Action Packed! Terrific detailed storyline!

And from a vision-impaired woman (yes, in ALL CAPS)…

I CAN’T REMEMBER WHEN I READ A BOOK THAT HAD SO MUCH ACTION PACKED IN ALMOST EVERY PAGE. I SIMPLY LOVED IT.

I had taken pride in creating three-dimension, interesting characters. Until I learned that I had failed:

No character development to speak of.

I wondered if that reviewer had read the same book as the ones who wrote:

An exceptionally creative story with well-defined characters and story line.

And…

From the first page you are drawn into the story and feel sympathy for the characters.

What stunned me even more, though—and now entertains me endlessly—are those reviewers who felt threatened by the beliefs of my made-up characters in this work of fiction. It turns out that my thriller was actually a highly controversial treatise that attempted to debunk the central principles of Christianity. Who knew? Not me. I thought it was just an entertainment about misguided people with conflicting points of view about religion. Sort of like real life. My favorite review of this kind was:

There is great action in this story, but it is filled with twisted religion and history. I kept thinking that some readers would take this garbage as truth. This could have been a great book if the author’s personal agenda hadn’t blocked the way.

I still don’t know what my agenda was. Something nefarious, apparently. One reviewer went even further, using my story as a pulpit for her own beliefs:

I believe in the resurrection, our righteousness before God comes through Christ’s work on the cross.

Okay, duly noted. Oh, and there was this review:

As a Christian I was not in agreement with some of the story.

To be honest, I was not in agreement with the beliefs of ANY of the characters in this story. They are assassins, defrocked priests, CIA and Mossad agents, and terrorists. But I never felt the need to publicly state my disagreement with this unsavory group of people.

At last, though, another reviewer expressed his dismay with this string of one- and two-star reviews by stating:

Will all you fundamentalists give it a rest? This is not a history book and neither is your blood-soaked Bible.

So now my reviewers were arguing among themselves. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the food fight.

My all-time favorite review is too long to print here. Naturally, it was absolutely glowing and full of praise. Except for one thing. The reviewer gave my book a 1-Star review (worst possible rating). Go figure.

Today I have a number of books in the market, and many more reviews. I have learned that an author can’t please everyone. And that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I’ve also learned that the only sure way to know if a book is satisfying to you is to buy it and read it. Because the book your neighbor hated, you may love.

Just so you know, the next book you should read is here.

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