Tuesday, January 22, 2013
How to Deal With a Bad Review, Revisited
When I got my first bad review it wasn't easy. I felt a punch in my gut and physical pain I thought reserved for ... well, physical injuries. Of course I got mad at the reviewer for what I considered her unnecessary rudeness, but I got over it. Life went on and my book continued to be read. I've gotten a few very positive reviews after that one. I've also gotten a couple more bad ones, however I don't fret over them anymore.
As a reader and reviewer, I understand there are a lot of books out there that are not for me. Either they go into themes I do not enjoy, their characters have characteristics I find annoying, or they are simply bad quality stories. However the case, it is hard to choose books among the sea of options Amazon offers us. How do I do it? I read the reviews left there. First I check how many reviews the book has. More than ten give me more reason to believe in the story. However, if all of them are positive, I tend to distrust the book. How is it possible everyone likes this book? I mean, Anna Karenina has detractors, for goodness sake. It simply can't be that a book written by this totally unknown author has managed what no other writer in the history of the written word has ever achieved: Perfection. And not only perfection, but a consensus of perfection. Impossible. So I go on and choose another book.
My point here is: A negative review is not bad per se. It lends credit to the rest of your reviews and to yourself. A balance between good and bad is what you should aim for. Think two out of ten reviews, or five out twenty. Human taste is impossible to predict and homogenize and such should be your reviews. Variety is key. A few three-stars, and a couple of one-stars among many four/five-stars will scream "Legit" to a knowledgeable reader.
So what to do when the bad ones come?
There are two main things you can do. Either ignore them, or (when particularly outlandish or ridiculous) talk about them. Remember the old adagio: There is no such thing as bad publicity. If you can laugh about it without sounding snarky, go for it. The worst that can happen is that others will be intrigued about that story/author everybody is talking about.
Be careful, though. One thing is to poke fun at your book and the reactions it is getting out of people, and laughing about people. Your readers deserve respect, even when they are not nice to you, and if you cross that invisible line there, it will turn its ugly face at you and bite you in the ass. Ferociously.
So, go on. Be happy. The most important thing you have to remember is to have faith in yourself. As long as you are being the best that you can be today, you are on top of the world. You'll get better, and if you get really better, millions will hate you. Ask JK Rowling or Stephen King.