Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Deal With a Bad Review, Revisited

This is a question I constantly find plastered all over writer's boards and Facebook groups. Every writer with a book, story, or any kind of written piece out there to be read, is subject sooner or later to negative feedback. It can be a post on your blog or the brain child in which you worked relentlessly for years until it was published. It doesn't matter if we published it ourselves, if it was traditionally published, or if we hit the publish button to the blogosphere. We mean each word we put into those blank pages and, in some measure, a bit of us is exposed with them. That's why we want so much for others to enjoy our work, to like it, to find something special about it. And even though in this business we know we should eat rejection for breakfast, it is easier said than done.

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.


Yolanda Renee said...

Good points all, I think it's the third bad review where I finally found my footing. Now it falls off the back like water off a duck -- I've been rejected by the best -- no one else can hurt me -- gee don't I sound strong.
My problem are the folks you give a free copy to because they promise a review, and then you never hear a word -- they no longer answer your emails -- Why? If you don't like it say so -- like you said not every story is every ones cup of tea. But to promise a review and deliver nothing -- very poor manners.
Good post -- always a good discussion.

Shelly said...

Excellent points. I've only gotten 1 review but its only been out since Christmas week.

I thinks its best to ignore it. I've already had someone try to tell me the car in my novel didn't exist in the eighties and that I didn't do my research. Funny, I owned the car I wrote about in the eighties. But I zipped my lip.

Hugs and chocolate,

Roland D. Yeomans said...

John Locke looks at bad reviews as merely saying the reviewer is not part of his target audience! :-) Great if you can pull that off, but it is true in a certain respect.

Mina Lobo said...

That's a great spin to put on the bad reviews, Gina. You're right, of course: what matters is that we have faith in our work and in ourselves. Rock on!
Some Dark Romantic

Charmaine Clancy said...

Good outlook to have. It makes me cringe when authors feel the need to argue or defend their novels against bad reviews. I think most people review to be helpful.

Tonja said...

Here from Shelly's blog. Great post.

Nicole said...

Excellent points. It's not worth worrying over or dwelling on. The best thing to do is get back to writing your next book!

Georgina Morales said...

You are so right Yolanda! This has happened to me innumerable times and I hate it! Just say it, or don't, but at least send a private message stating the fact that you won't review the book because you think it's garbage. Poor manners indeed. =)

Shelly, I just read a comment by another writer who says a reader complained because in his book a girl fusses over her image in mirrors... Go figure. Just be happy and ignore the grinches of the literary world. Best to you!

Roland: In a sense, John is right. Not everyone will like your book and that's that. No need to over think it, right?

Right you are, Mina! And the fact that we have a community like this where we have the support of others helps a lot.

Thanks Tonja! Glad you like it =)

Nicole, you are wise beyond your years. =) Let's keep writing!

Deniz Bevan said...

I think it would be easy to ignore a bad review if it was obviously just a case of the reviewer having sour grapes or griping. But what if they said something that really hurt? I hope I would try to learn from the experience...

Michael Pierce said...

You can't please everyone, nor would you really want to try. That's that hard thing with being a writer, putting yourself out there at the mercy of the masses. All we can do is try to continually improve. Great post! :)

William Kendall said...

It's impossible to please everyone, so of course there are going to be negative reviews from time to time. As writers, we have to have thick skins.

PS: that Simon guy needs to be dropped into the Marianas Trench.

Georgina Morales said...

Deniz, I think we all need to be critical of our work and know when it could have been better. Now, when you have gone to every possible extreme to ensure your work is ready to be read, then it is out of your hands. Bad reviews will happen with or without reason and you need to be prepared for them.

That's right, Michael! To put ourselves out there and then keep growing is the best goal we can set for ourselves.

William, OMG the Marianas Trench! That's a good one! I haven't laugh so hard in a long time. Thanks for that =)