For the last two years, in my mostly adult-laden neighborhood, around this time of year, a fun practice has emerged. A surprise package appears on your doorstep. Usually contained in a plastic pumpkin bucket or a white bag resembling a ghost, it sits there awaiting your discovery. Inside, you open it up, your heart beating with excitement. My own delivery consisted of a seasonal oven mitt and matching dishtowel, two glittery decorative pumpkins, a handful of Halloween candy and the piece de resistance … a bottle of white wine! (My ghost knows me pretty well, evidently)
Included in the package are some written instructions: a sign to post on your front door that says, “We’ve Been Boo’d!” which will prevent you from being boo’ed twice. And brief instructions and more “We’ve Been Boo’d” signs to pass on. You are now responsible for “boo’ing” two more neighbors with fun gift packs of their own.
It’s a fun way to celebrate the Halloween season when the vast majority of us don’t have little trick or treaters to make or buy costumes for. My husband and I were among the first of the neighbors to be boo’d this year so we had the luxury of choosing two of the few homes with children. When we went shopping for goodies to fill the packages, we knew kitchen items wouldn’t do. We bought fun skeleton toys, battery-operated witches that cackled and a pumpkin to light up and display in their rooms, along with lots of candy.
Now, as I take my twice-daily walk around the neighborhood with my dog, Weezer, it’s fun to see how this practice has spread. We walk along and almost everyone in the neighborhood has the “We’ve Been Boo’d” sign displayed happily on their front door.
In this context, being booed is a good thing — a fun thing, a desired thing. But that’s not usually true. I was never an athlete, but I raised two athletic boys, and I’ve sat through more than my share of baseball, basketball and football games. We’ve all heard the stories of parents who take their observation of children’s games to the extreme — in a negative way. I always cringed while sitting in the stands, when someone’s parent would BOOO and yell derogatory comments at the performance of a player. C’mon people, these are kids!
I noticed it was usually one of the prominent players on the field who had the chance of impacting the outcome of the game. You know, the pitcher in baseball. Or the quarterback in football. The minutes are running down, the game is on the line, and instead of pitching that last strike, the ball sails right over the plate, resulting in << crack! >> a homerun! And a lost game for the defensive team. BOOO! You stink!
Or, the seconds are ticking down on the gridiron, the score is tied, and the quarterback launches a beautiful pass … right into the arms of an opposing team member — interception! BOOOO! You stink! My maternal heart always wanted to stand up, turn around and scold those adults who so easily expressed their disapproval of someone’s dear son who was putting himself on the line to play this game. Did they really think the player made this mistake on purpose? Of course not. And who knows what negative impact these words of criticism will have on that child as they move through their sports career … or God forbid, their lives?
Because I’m a published author, when people “booo” me, it comes in the form of written reviews. An author can be likened to the quarterback or pitcher of that book. Any time I introduce one of my “book babies” into the world, I know that it’s no longer mine, really. It’s the world’s. And because it’s out in the world, anyone can push the Review button and say anything they want about it.
I’ve been blessed with mostly positive reviews. I thank God for that. Because I consider my writing my ministry to the world, I write to spread God’s message of love and inspiration. With His help and partnership, I write the books that He guides me to write so that His people can be inspired by my stories.
But that doesn’t mean that occasionally someone takes issue to them or thinks “they stink!” Fiction is subjective, and that’s something I usually comfort myself with when I read a negative review. And I can prove it: for everyone who hates a book of mine, someone else loves it.
For my August book, Finding Love for the Workaholic, one reviewer left 2 stars and said, “This was an okay read for me, but to be honest I didn’t like Isabelle for a lot of the book. She started off super shallow and selfish. Zach was definitely the star of this book for me. He was a great guy, friendly, helpful and handsome.”
While another reader left 5 stars and said, “Zach and Isabelle’s story had my interest from the very beginning and I think I finished it in less than 24 hours! The storyline was good and the characters were so down-to-earth.”
Book 1 of my Murrells Inlet Miracles series, Sanctuary, had a few negative reviews, including this 1-star: “Typical pattern of a woman of supposed intelligence with a good job goes weak in the knees for a man.”
Which made me wonder: first, did you realize this was a romance? And why shouldn’t an intelligent woman with a good job experience the excitement of going weak in the knees for a man?
Developing a thick skin is very important for a published author, or else negative reviews would send you hiding under your bed with a box of Kleenex. After 25 books published, I don’t mind them so much, especially if there’s a vast number of positive ones among the bad. I see them as a potential learning tool. It’s a way to see what readers are thinking, and determine if there’s a way to fix it without compromising my view of the story.
For example, my Book Seized, the finale of my Murrells Inlet Miracles series, came across to one or two readers as containing too much alcohol. It started out as a “gal-pal” book, and I unintentionally had them opening up a bottle of wine whenever the two friends got together. I didn’t intend the wine to indicate that they were problem drinkers, or that they were drinking to excess. The story wasn’t about that; it was just incidental. So I did some thinking about it, and praying about it. Is the social drinking that these two characters are doing, creating a barrier to the strong message of faith and forgiveness that was my intent for the story? By taking out the wine drinking and replacing it with good ole southern sweet tea, would I lose anything about my story? No? Okay, fine. I did a re-edit of that book about four months after it was published and I eliminated many of the scenes where the gal pals drank wine. It didn’t hurt the story one bit and hopefully it removed the objection that some people experienced.
So, getting booed can be helpful!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Here’s some thought starters: Have you ever received public criticism about something? Did it hurt your feelings? Did it lead you to make constructive changes? As a reviewer, have you ever left a negative review for a book or product? What was your intent in doing so? As a reader, if you were interested in buying a book, what would you think about the negative reviews?
One commenter will be randomly picked on Halloween Day to receive a Kindle ebook of one book in my Matchmaking Moms of Oceanview Church series — any book of your choice.