Today I got my third review, the first negative one, on the Amazon website for my book ‘Love, Gramma’. I have been anticipating this, wondering how I would feel when it happened. I have to admit, my first reaction was feeling kicked in the gut, but my second reaction was almost instantaneously after that, and it made me laugh out loud. I thought, “Well that’s okay then, because it wasn’t written for you!”
Before I decided to write this, I assumed you have to buy a product to review it on Amazon, but I decided to check out my assumption. I was wrong. I tested it out by logging into a ‘review this product’ on something I hadn’t purchased, and not only could I review it, I could change the reviewer name to anything I wanted. Yes, my negative one star reviewer could have easily been just a troll, their opinion even less reliable when they did not post their name. This one action by an unknown person caused me to evaluate, to ask myself a simple question. What are the expectations both of us had in our dance between the author and reviewer?
My expectations upon writing and publishing this book were twofold. One, to write down everything I could possibly think of that I would want to share with my grandchildren, advice that they could carry with them in a concrete format in the event of my death. Did I expect to become an overnight sensation? Ah, not by a long shot. Did I expect that the world would suddenly recognize me as a literary genius, ready for the accolades and awards reserved for those noble writers? Nope, I know what my talents and weaknesses are, and while I’ve always been in love with the English language, I understand how much more I have to learn. So, my expectations were quite simple, actually. I expected to write a book of advice for my teenage – young adult grandchildren to give them guidance throughout their lives. I was aware that not everyone would find it helpful, but I felt if one other young person found a grain of advice that could ease their transition into adulthood, then it was worth taking the risk and making it publicly available. In my heart and mind it has always been about helping them.
So, now we come to the expectations of my dance partner, the unknown reviewer, who removed their name from the review and wrote ‘boring’ in its place. If that person was just trolling to make negative comments, which they could do because on Amazon you can review a product you didn’t actually buy, I feel sorry for their lack of engagement. It would be awful being that vapid that you need to spend your time in such a plebian pursuit of stimulation. However, if they truly read the book and their honest assessment is that the book did not have any substance or meaningful advice for them, then it simply wasn’t meant for them. There is no product out there that will meet everyone’s needs equally and completely, that is why we demand such a rich assortment of options to choose from in our society. The same holds true for books.
While my first impulse of feeling attacked was visceral, my second reaction was intellectual, recognizing that the intersection of our lives over my book had two different expectations attached to it. We both have the right to our expectations, it’s just a matter of how we manage them that makes the difference.