Recently, when I read a negative review of one of my books, it stopped me in my tracks. Huh!! The reader said she (assuming it's a she) liked about 80% of the book but got to a place where it became boring, boring boring. So boring in fact that she labeled the book-- DNF (did not finish).
Well this shocked me on several levels. First because even when I hate a book, and I've hated plenty through the years, if I've read part of it, I always want to find out how it ended. To literally not care what happened to these people you spent 80% of the book interested in, that is really hating it!
So I went looking for where the book might've fallen apart for this reader but before I go into that, here's my blurb for it--
Raven didn’t want her ex-husband back. She didn’t want to want him at all! Although her life wasn’t all it could be, David Bannister, who recklessly did things his way, could only add complications.It's hard to say if I would have lost this reader if it had been shorter. I looked at what was happening at what might've been the 80% point and saw two things that might've lost interest so forcefully.
As part of a murder investigation, Bannister’s plans included getting his ex back but hadn’t included modeling nude for her art class. Life has a way of throwing ringers into our plans. For David that included a sly murderer who was not just willing but maybe even eager to kill again.
A small, Oregon, college art department-- such an unexpected setting for a vicious murder. Whom among the artists might be the killer? The story entwines itself with the Greek mythologies, particularly that of Prometheus, a god who with the best of intentions gets himself in big trouble-- a prototype for Bannister’s life. There is some spice, a sly murderer, Oregon, and a question—can love be better the second time around? Adult romance.
Previously titled—“Golden Chains” at 94,000 words now expanded to 100,400 words. Trailer at YouTube-- Bannister's Way
Besides being a love story, this is also a murder mystery. With no overt clues, the hero has to find a motive for the crime as it appears to be the only way to catch the perpetrator. Perhaps where the story got into that possible motive, it got too arty for someone looking for a straight romance.
The other possibility is about there is where I expanded the role of three old ladies who I thought were interesting, informative about life, and fun to write. Might be the reviewer did not see it that way. The review didn't give a clue as to where the 80% point was reached.
At any rate, what I took away from this review is my books aren't for everybody. As romances, mine will always have more to them. The 'more to them' is what makes them fun for me to write. It also is most likely what the publishing houses didn't like.
Besides a man and a woman's complex relationship, this book is about the world of art, the difficulties of creative work, education, as well as how detectives sometimes operate. It's set in a place I particularly like but not a place that everybody might find exciting. I have long ago realized I cannot please all the ones who might get hold of one of my books. I do have a good sense of what I am trying to do with each story and try hard to get that accurately across in the blurb. I don't want to mislead.
I am happy that most likely this reviewer at least got it for free as the date of her review was right after one of its free times. That pleases me because she didn't have to ask for a refund (it has happened), and it means it was a free book that at least got partially read (when they are free, who knows).
It also is going to have me thinking more about that 80% point in future books. Do I change something there that loses the tempo of what went earlier. I won't alter this book as I like the three old ladies, the art community/murder investigation, and the conversations about art; but I will think about the next ones long and hard to be sure at 75% I don't start losing my original focus and hence the readers.
I think reviews, even the painful ones, are helpful to a writer so long as the reviewer really was expressing how they saw it and not just having fun tearing something apart (that happens too). I felt this review was serious and meaningfully given. Negative reviews don't mean I will change things because there is a certain rhythm that I look to create and use. Sometimes though I can do something differently that at least will let the reader finish the story :).