Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dealing with negative book reviews

I don’t mind negative book reviews. I really don’t. Every writer will get one at some point. I think it’s important to know what people don’t like about your writing as much as what they do like. Nobody should get pats on the back 24/7. It’s just not good for the soul. So I try to glean from them any bits of information that I can to improve my writing.

I know that a lot of authors worry that negative reviews will affect their sales…well…negatively. I have found that not to be the case. My books are still selling steadily, even with a few one-star reviews. I have seen books that remained on the best-sellers list in spite of a majority of bad reviews. People know what they like. I’m not saying reviews have no effect, but maybe not as much as we like to think.

Then there are vitriolic reviewers who will lambast you for daring to write something they don’t like. They hate your style of writing, your characters, your plot, maybe even the fact that you live on the same planet and breathe the same air they do. I have had reviewers comment that they couldn’t believe someone would publish such garbage, that only my friends gave me favorable reviews or that I wrote my own reviews under a fake name, and on and on. Not that I’m anyone special, but I can’t help but detect an undercurrent of jealousy or envy in some of those so-called reviews, especially after signing with a new publisher and a new agent.

I have found that the best thing anyone can do in those cases is to ignore it. Or do like me, and blog about it. Either way, it’s best not to engage with people who write hateful reviews. It only encourages them. Just let them fade into their own little corners of existence, and instead, focus on the good reviews and the people that support you. After all, they’re the ones you’re writing for, not the people that hate your writing.

Critique is a different thing. I love critique, especially from people who make writing their business, like editors and agents, because it makes me stronger. I like critique from readers, too, because it helps me gauge whether my audience is satisfied, or if I’m going in the right direction.

But ultimately, I have to write for myself. It has to please me first, because if I’m not really happy with what I’m doing, then what’s the purpose in writing at all? If I’m not happy with what I’m doing, regardless of the haters and the naysayers, then I’m not only letting myself down, I’m letting my audience down, as well.

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