Almost every day this week there was some fight between authors and reviewers. Long story short, a reviewer reads a book they don't like, posts a not-so-flattering review, and the author responds defensively and angrily. Then friends of each side join in, and pretty soon it's looking something like this:
Bad reviews range from the polite "this wasn't for me" variety to the more direct "I hope this author loses her fingers in an industrial accident so she won't be able to write anymore." That's like real life--some people will have a civil conversation about a problem they're having with you, and others will kick you in the face for bumping into their grocery cart. And yes, that's going to hurt. But getting reviews is part of being an author. For so long the book is ours, shared only with the trusted few we choose, but once it's published, it doesn't belong to us anymore. It belongs to the readers now too, and some of those readers will love it, but some won't.
Everyone gets negative reviews, so I'm not naive enough to think I won't get them or that I'm so emotionally evolved I'll brush them off without feeling the sting. Even though publication is a few months away for me, I get why authors are hurt by bad reviews. I started writing CHAINED in 2006, sold it in 2010, and it'll be published in May of this year. Finding out someone hates it will probably feel like being told I've delivered an ugly baby after a six-year pregnancy.
Still, reviews are not about us. Reviewers don't review authors; they review books. We pour so much of our work, time, effort, and lives into the book, so yes, it's hard to separate ourselves from the book, but your book is not you.
Not every person is going to like every book. We know that people have wildly different tastes. Some people cuddle up to dogs that look like this, for example:
...but that may not be your thing.
So what can authors do when they come across bad reviews of their work? Keeping in mind that it's not personal might help, but that's easier said than done. If you must complain about the reviewer or vent about your pain, do so in a place that isn't public. That means NOT ON THE INTERNET, WHICH IS PUBLIC AND DOESN'T GO AWAY. Deleting doesn't help--if you do something embarrassing online, someone will circulate a screenshot of the evidence before you wise up and remove it.
If you can't stay away from the reviews, here are some suggestions for coping with those "I wish I could click on half a star because this author doesn't deserve one whole star" write-ups:
- Call up a trusted friend who will listen to you cry and then tell you how fabulous you are. Better yet, meet in person over a bottle of wine. Another advantage of meeting in person: you can frisk them for recording devices before you say anything incriminating.
- Did I mention wine?
- And don't you own any chocolate?
- Get back to the computer--not to Google yourself, but to write. Turn off the wi-fi and write something new. It can be mean if you feel like it. Just don't turn it into a blog post.
- Most people are not watching nearly enough baby animal videos, even though there's scientific proof that baby animals make everything better. It would be smart to keep a few of them on your desktop, so your next experience in reading a bad review will be something like, "How dare they this is an outrage don't they know I've spent my life writing this and OH MY GOD YOU GUYS IT'S A BABY POLAR BEAR PLAYING IN THE SNOW."
A few bad reviews might turn some people off of your book, but getting into a fight with the reviewer is a good way to guarantee that a lot more people will not buy that book or any others you write. 'Cause now it's not just that one story they don't like, it's you.
Quick, this kitten riding a tortoise will save you!