“From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”
~ Isaac Asimov
Gentle Readers and Reviewers, this post is not for you.
It's intended for the Gentle Author, published or pre-publsihed, who has had his or her heart stomped on in the form of a negative review or contest feedback.
Reviewers have the right to say whatever they want, express their thoughts, warn future readers against reading such drivel or tell the world the story is wonderful, etc. I'm not disputing the necessity of authentic reviews, and I respect and appreciate the time and thought reviewers put into sharing their thoughts.
As it's been said, reviews are not for authors.
But reviews do matter to authors, on a professional and personal level. For some of us, acceptance can turn into an idol (tipping my hat to Tim Keller, here). This may be why, for some of us, negativity sticks in our brains, and praise goes in one ear and out the other.
Before I was published, I received varying types of contest feedback. Some helped me immensely, but a few comments sliced me to the core. One particular letter--handwritten, since this took place in the stone age before electronic entries--sent me outside to cry over my tomato plants so my kids wouldn't see me. (While it's always been important to me that my kids see that dreams take work to achieve, I didn't want their impressionable minds to freak out over my boo-hoo session.)
Reviews and feedback are part of the business, yes. We need to cultivate thicker skins, yes. But that doesn't mean we turn into rhinos. We will all have our moments.
But those moments should not define us.
“Frankly, anybody who's going to kill themselves because of a bad review has no business writing a novel in the first place.”
― Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling)
Gentle Author, it is important to know a few things. Thicker skin, sure. But there's more.
|Even thick skin gets owies sometimes! https://images.app.goo.gl/Bj74dnZ4Cg8GouSu8|
The first is you are not alone. Look up your favorite authors on Amazon and Goodreads and you'll see the evidence. Famous, household names like JK Rowling, Steven King, JRR Tolkein, and a host of others have negative reviews under their names.
Negative reviews do not keep you from selling books. In fact, it can help. If an author has nothing but 5 star reviews, readers might suspect they are too good to be true, written by family and friends. A few negative reviews lend authenticity to your good reviews.
“It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends.”
― Samuel Johnson
Learn from contest feedback and reviews, if they're well-intended. This is a key distinction. Some negative reviews and feedback can be helpful for our growth as writers. We didn't connect the dots in the story or we've been using a word incorrectly? Our pace is slow, our mystery too easy to solve? Good to know for the future.
But if criticism is not well-intended? If it's mean-spirited or cruel? You can fight (maybe not the wisest choice) or let it go.
“I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
On that note, it can help to twist your perception. I made a decision to view poor reviews with humor, if possible, and to look at the overall picture.
One review I received recently didn't like my story at all. She could barely finish it, she said. Ouch. But other people did finish, and I didn't even have to pay them.
Focus on the positives, weigh the feedback, and make the choice how you'll handle the slings and arrows that indubitably come. Remember that you are or are working toward being a professional author, with professional being the key word, and God is our first Audience. We obey by doing our best and being teachable.
His review of "well-done" is the one that ultimately obliterates the rest, good and bad.
Gentle Author, Reader, and Reviewer, how do you feel about negative reviews?
Susanne Dietze is the author of several romances. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.susannedietze.com