Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's Not You, It's Your Book. Wait, Now It's You.

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!


  1. Baby animals DO make everything better.

  2. Great post! Yay common sense, with a bit of wine and chocolate to help out! And baby animals!

  3. And never read reviews on Good Reads! Yikes!

  4. This is a fabulous post--with great suggestions for coping strategies. Watching baby animal videos is an excellent way to bring your blood pressure out of about-to-have-a-stroke territory.

  5. WHY didn't I think of this???? Baby animals make everything so much better. Always. Forever. :)

    Great post!

  6. Baby animals!! You're a genius, Lynne. (Over here via Tweet from Sarah Fine--and now a follower.)

  7. I kind of fell into that a little. I didn't really get into it with the blogger, I just blogged about how reviews are subjective and everyone should form their own opinions. (she really really hated by book. lol)

    Unfortunately, she came and posted a comment which didn't post for some reason unbeknownst to me, then thought I'd deleted it. haha, I'd never even seen it. Oh well, hopefully water under the bridge.

    Great post. Coping strategies are good when it comes to bad reviews. We don't want to come out looking like a cry baby whiner writer.

  8. Lynne, you are all kinds of awesome, and so is this post!! Thanks xox!

  9. Great post, Lynne! Wine + chocolate + good friends are lifesavers for many situations.

    And that baby polar bear! GAH SO CUTE.

  10. I love this post! I am stocking up on chocolate, wine and baby polar bears so I'll be ready.

  11. Wise post - thanks for the reminder, Lynne. And I'm going to have nightmares about that was a dog, right?

  12. I love this post. It reminds me a little of this scene from the Mighty Boosh.

  13. Elisa, I hadn't seen that clip before, but how appropriate!

    And that sounds a little nightmarish, Megan! Good idea to remember the subjectivity of reviews, although it still has to be hard when someone talks about hating it.

    I was at an author event today where C.C. Hunter (aka Christie Craig) said, "Books are like ice cream. Everyone has their own taste; if my favorite is vanilla, don't go bringing me pistachio!"

    And yes, Joanne, I'm afraid it is an actual dog. A few years ago my daughter sent that picture to her friends and told them it was her new dog, Cuddles. The girls were completely grossed out but boys walked to our house to see the dog.

    I appreciate the new follow, Mike, and the sharing of the post, Sarah!

    Thanks so much for the comments, everyone! The baby animals will rescue us all.

  14. Awesome post, and great advice! I have bookmarked videos of baby penguins in sweaters for when I feel down. I'll make sure to pull it out the next time I get a bad review.

  15. Nice post, Lynn. I've felt rage on behalf of some of my already published colleagues, but never responded to a review.

    People might keep in mind those reviewers are trying REALLY hard to be funny. Oh, sweet anonymity, so easy online to spew all that snarky shit you aren't brave enough to say to someone's
    face. Oh, the powerful feeling of making your Goodreads pals LOL. Often a negative review is probably just your book getting seated at the front row of a comedy club. Wrong place, wrong time.

  16. Great post. I love the video of the fight. Hah. Personally, I might like to watch Godzilla trashing a city, followed by the baby animals. heh.


  17. Kelly, I can't believe I hadn't thought of the penguins in sweaters! It's hard to find anything cuter than that.

    I agree, Fiona, a lot of the reviews that offend people are meant to be funny; just doesn't feel that way from the author's side.

    Yes, Raven, Godzilla would work too!

  18. Love this! Just saw the first clip - pahahaha!

  19. Among the funniest, most sensible responses I've seen to the blogger/author/online review drama of this week. Great stuff!

  20. Lynne, you are just wonderful.

  21. Excellent observations and advice. I came over from Sarah Fine's post. Glad to find you, and congratulations on your book sale! May your path be smooth with no need for those adorable baby animal videos.

  22. Personally, as a reader, bad reviews often sell me on a book, because I want to find out whether I agree.

    As a writer, I'm terrified of them. I've only got short stories published so far, and I'm pretty sure no one has ever read them, but when I get a novel published ... I don't want to think about it.

    That polar bear cub helps.

  23. Wonderful advice, Lynne! And I'm so looking forward to reading your debut novel in May. It looks perfect!

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  25. Marissa, I think that's one of my favorite movie scenes ever!

    Thank you, Em; I've read several great posts about the drama, so I feel like I'm in good company.

    Aw, Vonna, you're sweet!

    Glad you found the blog, Linda, and thank you! I'll keep the baby animals nearby just in case; they come in handy for so many things.

    Matthew, I've heard the same thing--sometimes people read a negative review, but realize the book sounds like something they might like themselves.

    Thank you so much, Kathryn! So happy you came by the blog, and I hope you enjoy the story.

  26. Absolutely wonderful!! I haven't published a book yet, but I think I'll bookmark this post for someday.