Studio Musings

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Negative Feedback

Sunday evening I swung by Amazon to check on the ranking for my book and noticed that I had another customer review.  Excited, I scrolled down the page, and discovered it was a one star review.  I felt like I'd been punched in the gut, except I think  that might have hurt less.  It's the second 1-star review I've received, offset by six 5-star reviews, so it seems people either love or hate it.

Here's the latest review in its entirety:
I couldn't wait for this book to arrive and I was really disappointed and returned it next day. May by good for beginners. I didn't find anything interesting in it....I also didn't like pictures. 

I hate disappointing people.  Hate it, hate it - makes me feel like a failure.  And since the book is self-published, it's all my responsibility:  text, photos, illustrations, layout, the whole bailiwick.  So I've been trying to look at this review and the earlier one to find ways to improve my book next time around.

My book is indeed an introduction to freeform peyote beading and I thought that was pretty clear.  That said, most beaders are already familiar with a number of basic beading stitches and have worked with beading for some time before deciding to try their hand at freeform beading, so from that standpoint it's an intermediate to advanced book, especially since the techniques will take you as far as you want to go and it's a technique book, not a project book.  So it's an introduction to a more advanced technique.

Original handout with b&w interior
To be clear, I wrote this book for a person with basic beading experience, someone who has at least a couple of basic peyote stitch projects under their belt who is interested in trying something a little different, moving away from pre-designed patterns to a more organic, design-as-you-go philosophy. But also hoped it would work for the ambitious newcomer.  Wonder if I should add that to the book description?

The book actually grew out of class handouts that I'd developed over several years of teaching freeform peyote.  As I worked on the book I visualized talking my students through the process.

She didn't find anything interesting in it?  What was she hoping for?  Did she peruse the Look Inside feature beforehand? Not all books have that, but mine does and I hoped it would help people make certain it was what they wanted before they ordered.  While I have no control over what Amazon selects to show, it does include my table of contents and a number of sample pages.  Do they not do a good enough job of setting expectations?  How could I do a better job of this?

And the pictures.  What was she expecting?  I'm continually trying to improve my photography, but something as vague as her statement leaves me nothing to work with.

I know my book is not inexpensive, with a retail price of $24.95.   I'm at the low end of a 30/70 split with Amazon and that did affect my book design.  Every additional page reduces my side of the payment equation, not Amazon's.  But with that, I worked to pack as much into each page, as clearly as possible, balancing pictures, text and white space to try and make it highly readable without any wasted space.  And I do listen to feedback:  I added 14 pages to the final draft before going to print based upon suggestions from early reviewers (whom I agreed with completely).

Criticism can be incredibly helpful in knowing where to improve.  But nebulous feedback simply hurts with little opportunity for correction.  Sigh.

So that said, anyone interested in being a reviewer for my latest effort?  As a reviewer, I'd ask for concrete suggestions (if you don't like my pictures tell me why - too small, not clear enough, missing a critical part of the technique, etc.) and in return you'd get your name in the thank you credits and a copy of the book.  And my sincere appreciation and thanks.  


  1. Oh girl, I am so sorry! And so glad you are looking for the positive in that feedback. I agree, she was way too vague to be able to use much of it. I have a feeling she was looking for a "projects" book, and that Amazon showed off the incredible pics you have in the book, and she thought she was going to make those bracelets. She probably didn't use the Look feature, and probably ordered several books. So, if she's sitting there with a technique book, and a project book, and comparing them, then I think that is where she was coming up dissatisfied. It's amazing how we can receive 50 compliments, and 1 criticism, and all we tend to (as humans) do is focus on why the criticism. (At least, I do). Bottom line is, we just can't please everyone, and I can assure you I did learn a tremendous amount in my journey thru your book! Hugs, Shirley

  2. I love your attitude about the entire thing! I've always wanted to be so brave as to publish a book, but didn't know where to start. I would love to be a reviewer of your book, BUT stitching is just not for me, It would be torture, I could provide feedback on phots, writing, etc, but unfortunately I probably wouldnt be much help. The good thing is that with everything, you'll get a few negatives, and if you handle those few the way you're handling this one, just know that with each publication it will get better and some things just aren't for those "few" people..good luck!

  3. Hi

    Really sorry to hear your distress, I have done reviewing for academic texts and been on the receipt of reviews and they can be so hurtful. I always try to be constructive when gving a review and think of the person behind the work.

    I am a developing beader, in love with freeform peyote, which is a developing skill. I would be more than happy to review for you if you feel I have the experience.

    Warm regards


  4. I loved your book. I purchased it after having used the Look feature. I was looking for something to inspire and show me more technique after I'd tried my hand at "freeform." It was exactly what I was looking for. I've learned a lot and will embark on another piece with a game plan and much needed confidence.
    If you need someone to critique your next work. I would be happy to. I am one who looks at pictures to see if they match the instructions. I also look for printing errors. (I write curriculum for a ministry and I edit writings for publication for a couple of writers).
    If the pictures are not clear or don't portray what the written text says then there is a problem.
    But I say again I loved your book and am looking forward to any others you may write.
    If I like your books I tend to purchase more from you.
    Anyway be blessed and keep up the good work.

  5. Thank you all for your feedback! I truly appreciate it.

    Deborah and Teresa - I had hoped to send you a direct email, but couldn't find a way to do so. If you're still interested in reviewing my book, would you email me -


  6. I'm so sorry. I'm anticipating how that must feel because I have a book coming out next year and I know someone is going to neg the hell out of it for one reason or the other. And I've had a few well-known authors send me their book to try out and review and I consider myself pretty discriminating, and I have NO idea what the negative reviewer was on about.

    If you haven't, can you add a comment to their comment (and be respectful, of course?)

  7. I like the one thing you said you were thinking about adding to the description. I think that could help clear things up. But in the end? There's always going to be people who don't agree with you! Your book sounds really interesting and if I had the money to spend on books it would be on my list :) Oh...and I'd love to review anything you want. I'm an intermediate beader and a writer, so I should have good perspective. :)

  8. Don;t be upset.It is just someones opinion.There may be so many others who will love the book and learn so much from it.Depends who is reading it...if it has the basics then a person with much knowledge will find it a waste whereas it would be a beginners delight.Never entertain damp spirits.

  9. I'm never sure what to do with reviews on books... I read them but unless they are very specific on what they don't like about the book I tend to ignore them! I like the book... just got it on Thursday would love to review your new 'book'.. YOu have my email Do you want a picture of the wonky beaded bead I made after I looked at your book?


  10. Lynne, I will send you a private email, but wanted to answer you here as well. I would -love- to see your wonky bead!

    I love seeing pieces people have made after looking at my book.

  11. Ok I'll take a picture tomorrow morning.. looking at it now I think there is too much wood showing... sat when I quit playing with it I thought it was OK... now I'm not sure!