View Full Version : novice writer learning review etiquette/questions

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 03:42 AM
Ok I will take out the link and quotes and am learning about the sins of review responding!

I think that I do need to take some of this to heart, but the part I am upset about most is that they used the quote "if people used to think different skin was bad and no one cares". (spoken by the MC who has a white father and black mother) The very next sentence is Dawn, who is black, who says "It's not the same thing and you know it." So I really wasn't trying to say that's how I felt. And I wasn't try to say "gay is the new black" either. But then again that might be how it still came across. I really first envisioned a post-racial future just because I think that will be what the world will naturally become.

In the sequel maybe I should make it more apparent that this wasn't my intention . . .

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 05:33 AM
I couldn't help it. I had to write a letter to the editor because this is upsetting me very much. I don't know how much bearing this has, but the reviewer is not a PoC either, so I'm not sure on what grounds he decided PoC readers would feel "left out" by reading a book which was very much trying to be all-inclusive. ETA. No I did not end up responding publicly.

02-14-2013, 06:46 AM
In the real world, non-white/PoC QUILTBAG people are disproportionately targeted compared to white QUILTBAG people. They're more likely to be attacked and denied needed services. They're also more likely to have issues finding support within QUILTBAG communities. So this is a thing about intersection. Prejudices feed into each other, rather than replace each other. People with one extreme prejudice usually hold lots of extreme prejudices, and a person who is in the target group of a lot of those prejudices gets the worst of the treatment.

Basically, in a near future based on our world history, the idea of really extreme homophobia, but no racism, is going to raise eyebrows. This isn't the same as a far future world where most prejudice has been tackled across the board or a secondary world where there was no racism to start with based on its history. There, it fits organically with the setup of the world. Here, it's a little close to denying/dismissing that things are tough for people in multiple discriminated groups.

(I'm the BTA of the bag and identify as non-white, so take that as you will.)

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 06:56 AM
The time of my book is about 200 years in the future, but it isn't specifically stated. However, it is mentioned that there has been a Civil War Two in which much information was destroyed, a Great Oil Shortage after that, and also that the states of California, Oregon, and Washington broke off from the US in a great earthquake and are now an independent Nation of California Islands. There is also reference to several generations of living inside The Divide, such as characters talking about how it was worse when their grandparents were young.

The review says that there is a bleak future for "the next generation" but technically that is not true. But I do state that the government withholds information from the citizens, including about the racism and prejudices of the past, but rebel groups are working to piece together the real history. (That is included in the very same conversation with the "tunnel-vision rhetoric quote", which btw is spoken by a character with a white father and black mother who has just learned about racism for the first time.)

So I think in my sequel, it should be a part of the plot where the information about the past (which one of the character's parents are working on finding) is discovered and my computer hacker MC will find ways to distribute information to the "normal" public. I do take the suggestions to heart, but really the quote about skin color was not the point of the conversation, but the statement afterwards saying "it's not the same thing" was the point. Later I will post that entire scene here, if that's ok. I do want to make sure I am not offending PoC, but trying to include everyone, shatter stereotypes, and create a metaphor for what GLBT youth today go through. Of course, today, the GLBT youth of color do have extra challenges. So this should be considered for the sequel.

02-14-2013, 07:28 AM
When I started writing my reply, your second post was on the lines of the reviewer being white so what did he know. It changed to emailing the editor. This is a bad idea. I realise you're upset, but that just makes it even more of a bad idea. Don't reply to reviews. Don't read them if you can't resist replying.

If you ask for opinions, give people time to provide them, and yourself time to think about them, before taking any action (though action shouldn't be contacting the reviewer or their editor). And consider that all the details of your world were your choice. You chose to remove intersectional issues from your world, so the details of how you did it won't change my opinion on it. I'm uncomfortable with single-issue novels, because my life is not single-issue, and no amount of detail will persuade me otherwise. However, others here will have other views... which is why you need to slow down and give people a chance to reply.

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 07:37 AM
Sorry about that Polenth! I am really just devastated that my attempt to write a book that would include LGBT of all colors is apparently doing just the opposite, and want to know where I went wrong.

I was coming back here to say that, since there will be a sequel, I do have a chance to make things right. If anyone here would be interested in a free e-copy of this book and giving me suggestions of where I went wrong I would greatly appreciate it.

No one even uses the terms white and black because I am trying to show that those labels, or what we might think today when we hear the words, are not the same. I also use mostly Asian and Hispanic last names in order to try to get the point across. People's families are supposed to be so diverse that the idea of judging on skin color is ridiculous. But the government with-holding information about the past is supposed to be considered wrong.

The main characters, and what our society would racially label them, are as follows: (ETA everyone in this group except Joy is either lesbian or gay, but there are also major transgender characters, and the next book adds a new bisexual character)

Serenity Blackwater, black/white
Dawn Delgado, black/Hispanic
Malaki Cheyenne, white/Native American
Akasha Amaya, black/Japanese
Joy Kai, Japanese/Chinese/white
Enrik Garcia, Hispanic/white

To be told that everything I have done to try to make this something good was completely off the mark is very upsetting. I will slow down and try to process, though.

And yes, I did wonder if I had offended the reviewer, and did not know the person's own race and how the book affected them. I'm not sure how I offended or why, so the understanding would really help me.

02-14-2013, 08:02 AM
Kim, seriously - the thing to do here is not to respond to the review, but take in the criticism and resolve to be better and more clear in the next book/s.

Kitty Pryde
02-14-2013, 08:46 AM
I agree. I don't think you come off looking better by posting a response arguing with your review. It's even got a name, The Author's Big Mistake: http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/06/authors-big-mistake.html

This is a good time to walk away, hug your family, and eat an ice cream sundae instead. I can see where this review would hurt your feelings, but arguing with it in public won't improve your life. By publishing it, you put it out in the world for people to love, hate, mock, or pee on.

02-14-2013, 08:58 AM
Oy. Even with the best of intentions, trying to explain that you didn't mean it that way is not going to help you.

You got a critical review, which said things you may or may not agree with and think are fair. Deal with it (privately) and move on. Take notes for next time.

If you try to make a bigger deal over this, you're heading for the sort of disaster that winds up on fandom_wank or Requires Only That You Hate.

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 10:03 AM
I agree. I don't think you come off looking better by posting a response arguing with your review. It's even got a name, The Author's Big Mistake: http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/06/authors-big-mistake.html

This is a good time to walk away, hug your family, and eat an ice cream sundae instead. I can see where this review would hurt your feelings, but arguing with it in public won't improve your life. By publishing it, you put it out in the world for people to love, hate, mock, or pee on.

I was at work when I discovered the review had been published; I really wasn't expecting it. So now I finally had the chance to actually go home and calm down and while there is still a part of me that wants nothing more than to debate this, I know I am supposed to just let it go. But considering this is only my second review ever it is difficult. It wouldn't be so bad if the one thing they nitpicked about was the one thing I actually worked hard on in an attempt to make the book include every color and sexuality.


Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 08:03 PM
Ok... now I am even more calm. And I found out that Amelia's Revolution received a Single Titles Readers Choice Award for 2012!

That story has a white MC, but her best friend is Native American and her girlfriend is black. I don't have a single published story without diversity. So I have to keep learning. I even pulled a free short story about a bigot because some readers were confused and thought I was trying to promote racism, but I was mocking it. I guess they hit me at really the most sensitive nerve possible. But obviously it means I should either learn from it or walk away. I think I did learn, though.

Kim Fierce
02-14-2013, 09:30 PM

02-15-2013, 02:28 AM
I understand you're upset, but I have to agree with everyone else here that responding is a terrible, terrible idea.

The criticism that you've quoted is very mild, as these things go. It's not saying "This is a horrible racist piece of trash!" It's saying, "Gee, I wish this aspect had been handled better; I feel it over-simplified." That one person's reading of the text, and their opinion, and a polite, quiet version at that.

Responding is going to make you look defensive and hostile to any hint of criticism. People who otherwise glossed right past that part of the review will go back and read it more carefully, and start going, "Well, I didn't think it was a big deal, as a little side note in this review, but clearly it's a huge issue after all." There is no way this makes things better.

If it's not too late, please, please write the editor back and tell them you don't want your response posted. Please. Especially if you're using your relationship with the editor to get your response posted; that's treading remarkably close to "I can get a bad review 'corrected' in my favor because I'm friends with the editor." It's a bad road to go down. Don't. Leave it be.

02-15-2013, 02:51 AM
Arguing with a reviewer, even assuming they are completely wrong, is just not a good idea. It could cause a cascade of responses fixating that that one line, not the book as a whole. Good forbid it hits Goodreads.

02-15-2013, 03:44 AM
Why are you trying to convince us?

Just get over it. Write another book. You are edging dangerously close to Author Behaving Badly. You haven't gone off on anyone yet, but you clearly think you(r book) has been treated unfairly and that this cannot stand.

Drop it now or I predict there will be more heartache in your future than some tepid criticism in a mildly positive review.

02-15-2013, 04:08 AM
It Doesn't Matter.

Pass it by.

Work on the next book. Seriously, this can only end in heartache for you

I have a one star review for a book. The reviewer complains that at some length I don't ever talk about using the software on Windows, and that said reviewer wasted their time and money on a "terribly useless book."

(The software is OS X/Mac only, it says that on the cover and in the first two pages).

I just shrugged it off.

Rachel Udin
02-15-2013, 05:17 AM
I double on the intersecting issues as stated by Polenth--though in a different area and also the "Let it go." It's ONE person's opinion. When you were getting critiques, did everyone agree on everything? I see it that way. Take it gracefully. Be a class act.

02-15-2013, 06:30 AM
One of the risks of putting our stuff out there, in any kind of public forum, is that someone may not understand it, or not like it, or really not like it. Somebody might trash it publically, or write something about you, the author, which rankles because it is far off the mark, or maybe too close to it. . .

My mom told me something once that shocked me: "K---, not everybody's gonna like you." WHA?? But the truth is, she was right. Not everybody's going to like or appreciate or understand your work. Accept that and move on. You are a writer, a professional, so act accordingly. Don't burn your bridges, you never know when something you write in anger or indignation is gonna come back and bite you in the ass. Be smart.

Good advice given here, I hope you take it.

Kim Fierce
02-15-2013, 09:05 AM
Thank you everyone for your comments. And no I am not going to debate the review anymore and I already contacted the editor to say i changed my mind.The reason I was asking for further advice is because I am writing a sequel...otherwise there would be nothing to do but let it go. I just don't want to continue making a mistake and want to make sure my book achieves its goal of including everyone in the QUILTBAG community, including PoC. I will delete other references to the review here, and I actually admire this reviewer and had read some other articles by this person. I really didn't think I was doing anything wrong by talking about it.

(PS and yes I changed the heading, and I am the novice writer referred to lol.)

02-19-2013, 06:20 PM
Terrific advice in this thread and I can add no more.