I’m strangely attracted to the petulance of the classic author I-can’t-believe-I-got-a-bad-review meltdown. I’ve been watching my first novel rating fall away daily with a slew of recent lukewarm reviews, but I can’t even imagine a review that would tempt me to go all Alice Hoffman on a critic. I wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect me. I’m a story animal after all. When your story is rejected, it hits you right where it counts—squarely in the who you are.
I mean, here are these characters that have sprung forth from the bosom of your imagination. They’ve been born into a world that you’ve laid out for them, taking shape on the page, tentatively exploring their first steps into the unknown. You guide them and love them with the patience of a new parent. These are your precious children who need to be protected from the cruel, harsh realities of the world.
But, much like our children, at some point—you have to let go.
There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like what you do, always, no matter what. There’s no such thing as a book that every reader will like. You’ve told the story. It’s out there. It’s a gift to the world. Now you have to let go.
I’ve opted to practice a passionate detachment to reviews. I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to be in this position at all.
In the indie market, I don’t believe it’s realistic to ignore all reviews—positive or negative. Although, I do have a hard time taking anonymous snark very seriously. There is something about the internet that some people feel gives them license to be anonymously mean—and that’s not cool. Don’t subscribe to their snark. You’re a writer, not a troll whisperer.
Bad or lukewarm reviews can actually give you great insights. After the 5 minute mumbled cussing and pillow-throwing-pity-party, I remind myself that bad reviews are usually about expectations.
Some of those expectations are outside your control. They come from the reader and their circle of influence. However, some of those expectations came from you—the author. What does the blurb on the back cover tell them? Did you promise tales of sparkling vampires and then give them a bat with a glow stick? Are you appealing to the right genre and audience?
I know it’s only a matter of time until I receive that really, REALLY bad review. Something so negative and viciously soul-crushing that it will suck the air from my lungs and threaten the collapse of the universe as I know it. It’s out there—waiting to be written.
I’m looking forward to it in a cautiously optimistic sort of way. Negativity draws public interest in the same way that blood in the water draws sharks. Like flies to the poop—everyone wants to watch the train wreck. You’ll find new readers who’ve come in to find out what all the hubbub is about. That can’t be all bad, can it?
I sincerely appreciate all the readers and honest reviewers of my work—regardless of the review outcome. A reader is a reader. It is someone who set aside their personal time to curl up with a story of mine. Let them take their swipes. Absorb what’s useful and shrug off the rest. Take the opportunity to grow as a writer. Learn from the criticisms. Evolve. Live another day to write.
Get them with the next story.