Someone Burned My Book

I’d been warned: the 5-Star reviews couldn’t last forever. “Be prepared,” people cautioned me. “Trolls are out there and sooner or later one of them will pan a book. It’s going to be ugly.” I don’t check for reviews on Amazon much as I take the long view. Writing a book is a slow process, and building up a list of reviews can take a while. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to receive consistently solid, glowing reviews.

Until now.

I got my first 1-Star review. The German guy says Tsunami Cowboys is the worst book he’d ever read. He didn’t finish it. And, after page 56, HE BURNED IT.

WTF? Really?? In the 21st century, people are still burning books?!?

I went into shock. I was horrified. Shaken. Ashamed, even. In my worst nightmares, I never ever ever imagined someone would actually destroy my words like this. Until now, it was beyond my powers of imagination.

I got out a copy of the book. What could possibly be so offensive? I opened to page 56 and the peak of a chapter in which Coreen, one of the main characters, is trapped in a cult and can’t get out.

Ok…. Maybe the troll was upset by the topic. I sure was; that’s why I wrote about it. If he’d made it to the end of the book he would have learned the following: I’m religious. I believe in God. My heroine’s story continues well past the page where he stopped reading.

If he’d bothered with the author’s Afterword, he’d have learned my personal reasons for even including this thread in my book.

I’m appalled that someone would be so hateful. I questioned everything I am doing as a writer, and worried about the consequences of exercising my voice. Then I remembered: I just went to a high school reunion. It was a fantastic weekend spent seeing wonderful people again. By far one of the most lovely is a woman who was a missionary.

She’s read both my novels. At the reunion, she made a point of telling me that the story of Coreen and the cult disconcerted her, and she had to put Tsunami Cowboys down for a while. It hit a little too close to home. But, she said, she picked it back up a few months later, read it to the end, and liked the story I told very much.

So that reassures me.

Words contain a lot of power, more than we realize. My encounter with the troll really brings that realization home to me, and in the future I will pay closer attention. His other reviews have the same ugly caustic tone, so I’m not alone. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better, or worse.

As my dear writer buddy Nancy Carroll remarked: “You’re now in good company, Jadi. Think of the books that have been burned through the ages.”Tsunami Cowboys

Indeed.

Think about them.

NOTES: [1] http://www.ala.org/bbooks/

http://uwm.edu/libraries/exhibits/burnedbooks/

[2] I swear it just came to my notice that this is Banned Books Week: September 27th – October 3rd.

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59 thoughts on “Someone Burned My Book

  1. That’s just awful. There are some books I don’t finish. I may never try to read them again and I may share my view on why I disliked it, but to burn a book. That’s really something.

    • Thanks for commenting Gary. I will stop reading a book in the middle; life is too short to waste reading bad writing. But this felt surreal when I first noticed the tirade on the German amazon.

  2. Jadi, this is a compelling post and would make a wonderful intro to your book. But when I went to share it, I couldn’t find any share button–no reblog, Twitter, or even FB. If you are up for a share, please let me know. I think there are so many who would like to hear about your experience. Meanwhile, thanks so much for this reminder. I’m off to download Tsunami Cowboys!

    • Thanks so much for this comment Barb. I just remedied the problem — DO feel free to share this post or anything else on my blog! (I’m thrilled you are downloading the book, too. I wish you an entertaining reading experience.)

  3. Any serious book that makes people think will excite strong feelings, both negative and positive. You should welcome that.

    As for burning your book, the guy clearly has issues that go well beyond anything you wrote. This may be of concern to their friends and family (and possibly his local librarian), but you really mustn’t worry about it.

  4. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
    Can’t legislate for nutters, Jadi. Just remember that.And, on a more normal note, remember all reviews/critiques are subjective. Can’t please everyone – especially the ‘nasties’ – you’ll never please them. Also – if you can bear it – check him out for his other reviews. I had a horrid review some time ago and did just that – found I was in excellent company of brilliant writers who they’d panned. Take care of yourself.Jx

    • I’m thrilled by the reblog! My husband had an interesting take on it: that a bit of controversy is good, and only glowing reviews are suspect. It did make me think that the story I wrote contains more power than I suspected.

  5. I haven’t had anyone respond to my books that way, but I banned myself from reading both Amazon and Goodreads reviews anyway. So many of them are trivial and witless. To hell with them, and to hell with the book burner. Write your new one, whatever it is, knowing that the last one was powerful enough to kick off a strong response.

  6. Probably one of the best things that can happen to an author is their gets on a banned book list (not that that’s what happened.) but it suggests the writer has made a statement so powerful it brings out the best or strongest emotions in people. At least it wasn’t forgettable.

  7. Burning a book says one hell of a lot more about the person who burned it than the book; his worry, not yours. Do remember, though, that negative reviews aren’t always from ‘trolls’ ~ sometimes they’re from people who just didn’t like your book, who have chosen to use the facility to say so, as is their right. At some point you will get one of these, everyone does; best is just to shrug your shoulders and move on!

  8. I’m so sorry this happened to you Jadi. I notice a trend with bad reviews – they are never constructive. I have read books that I didn’t enjoy, some I didn’t finish but I would never ever burn a book. Sometimes returning to them later, I’ve had a different reaction.
    Something similar happened to me just days ago, with a slightly different type of publication. My reaction was the same as yours. Mostly because I can’t imagine acting in such a passive aggressive and cowardly way. If I have thoughts of value – constructive criticism – I’ll share them. Anything else is just venting spleen / trolling / last night’s bad cabbage.

    • I agree – the criticism was anything but constructive. I have panned books myself, but always give my reasons for doing so. And I’m in a monthly writers’ group where we’re diligent with feedback. You can say you don’t like writing and phrase it in a way that helps the author (and doesn’t leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth).

  9. Someone who would post a review saying he stopped reading the book and then burned it obviously has problems. Although the professional reviews have been good, I’ve had all sorts of negative and weird reviews of my books. I’ve just try to ignore them. Most of them seem to be by people who are clueless about the book, and clearly have not read it. I saw one for my Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast that said it was probably a lot of cut and paste. Who says that??

  10. I smiled when I read your post. I have several friends who are published and their reaction to the first negative review is identical. There are people who don’t like Hemingway or Steinbeck. I don’t like Stephen King but adore early Michener (gasp!). Tastes differ and sometimes buttons are hit. Revel in your success (it’s quite an accomplishment to have two books completed and published) and hope that he finds something more suited to his likes. Let’s hope he didn’t waste the fire and at least had s’mores!

  11. It happens, Jadi. Like you, I get good reviews on the whole, and then for some reason, a book gets panned, sometimes for the silliest things (in my opinion). I just figure the person was triggered (he doesn’t like organic food, or he works for an evil corporation, or he thinks women should be obedient, who knows). The main thing is to look at your reviews as a whole – that’s where those averages come in handy. 🙂

  12. All I could think of as I read was Don Miguel Ruiz’s “don’t take anything personally”; cause it’s never about you. He has some story going on that has nothing to do with you and your book.

  13. Oh that is awful. I read a lot but never leave reviews. The internet gives people the chance to act out their nasty selves with no care for whom they hurt… Be proud of your work and feel sorry for one small minded idiot…Michelle

    • Thanks for this response: it helps me to see that it was less the negative review and more the fact that it was supposed to hurt that was awful. Feedback is always good – being nasty, never!

  14. Wow. I have never wanted to burn a book. I can’t imagine what that’s all about. Your words must have been extremely powerful to elicit such a response. Makes it all the more alluring to read.

  15. At this point, I’d be happy for any review of “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses,” though I’m sure I’d find it depressing to receive a #1 and “I burned it.” On the other hand, I’ve noticed that even the best of authors get that kind. Somehow it makes some people feel good to be hurtful.

  16. Wow–that guy has issues! I wrote a book review just the other day, for a blog I frequent. I can’t imagine trashing someone’s hard work, even if it didn’t suit your taste. Some people need to give their head a shake!

  17. Unbelievable. If I don’t like a book, I normally just put it in a very dusty corner of my bookshelf. If I really hate it (which happens rarely, only with books I have been given as a present, never with books I buy myself) I just let it collect dust on a pile of unread or stopped-reading pile of books. I did bring a few of those to a second-hand-book seller last year and let him have them for free. 😉 But I would NEVER go so far as to really burn one – and I seriously doubt that guy pulled it through. He probably just said he did it to annoy you. So, the real question here is: What is going on in his head to write such an review? It probably makes him feel better. Which says a lot about the state of his mind. If he does not like it and thinks he needs to share this with the world, why put that into polite words, explaining is reasons?
    Oh well, hope the initial shock has worn off by now and you can laugh about it!

  18. As a writer, you can’t worry about what others think. All you can do is put out your best work and let the chips fall. If they burn your book, may the light of the fire illuminate their soul. And if it cannot illuminate their soul, may it illuminate their face–that we may see them from a distance.

  19. Ignore the trolls. Your writing is amazing! Thanks for visiting my blog and liking. I’ve now followed you and am looking forward to reading much more.

  20. Pingback: # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # | jadicampbell

  21. “Tsunami Cowboys: A Novel will be auto-delivered wirelessly to Brian’s 4th Kindle via Amazon Whispernet.” Well, look at that. The twerpy little fire-starter just inspired me to make my OWN statement… 😉

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