Yesterday, I received a less than stellar review for my book The Whispering House. It was 3 stars, which isn’t a bad review, per se. Having some critical reviews can be helpful to sales. Even if the 4 and 5 star reviews are from readers and not your friends and family, those who’ve never read your books won’t know that and may be suspicious of them.
As an author, we know this… logically. However, our emotions flare from the prick of criticism, it stabs at our ego, and our creative side wants to crawl under a rock and disappear. How could anyone possibly not enjoy my book?
But it happens. You can’t expect to please everyone. Even Shakespeare had critics. Tolstoy found his writing to be drivel and boring. (I’m not comparing myself to Shakespeare by any means, merely using him as an example.)
Sometimes, bad publicity makes a person famous. Perfect examples are Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Look how they used bad publicity to launch their careers, although Paris has disappeared from the limelight. Then take the musical Wicked. It received mixed to negative reviews when it first debuted, but something about it captured the hearts of those who went to see it. Ten years later, it continues to draw an audience.
So how do you survive the bad review with your ego intact?
Assume fetal position, gnash teeth, obsess over that one review, pick it apart line by line anal-yzing every word, commiserate with friends, eat an entire pint of your favorite ice cream…
All good options. (Except 3 and 4. Those aren’t helpful.) Seriously, allowing yourself a few moments (hours) to wallow in your feelings is okay. It helps you move past that initial sting as long as you don’t stay there. Once you’ve done that, read your good reviews, take a deep breath, and write. Later, when enough time has passed, return to read that review again. Does the reviewer have any valid points? They may. Then, again, they may not. It may just be your writing isn’t their cup of tea. It’s okay. I repeat, You can’t please everybody.
What _not_ to do
Attack the reviewer. Even when they are completely off base (and we’ve all had those), attacking them is unprofessional and frequently backfires. Such an action reflects poorly upon you and could discourage others from purchasing or reviewing any, or all, of your books. If it’s a personal attack, contact the distributor to see about getting it removed. If not, let it be.
Stop writing. If someone doesn’t like your book, that’s one opinion. Don’t let a bad review discourage you from following your passion. If Meryl Streep had listened to the casting director who’d told her she was “too ugly” to act in King Kong, or JK Rowling had stopped submitting after the tenth rejection, or… insert story here, none of them would be where they are today.
So, keep plugging along and remember that opinions are just that… opinions. If all else fails, conjure up Harry Callahan’s famous line from The Dead Pool (1988): “Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”