Oh, you didn’t like my book?
You’re so mean!
Have you published a book?
Did you slave over that book for all of your best years, and now you can never get those years back?
And, after you gave so much of yourself, someone left a bad review? (in bold to emphasise the anger and hurt you feel––I could EVEN CAPITALISE AND ADD BOLD AND ITALICS, BECAUSE THE PAIN IS REAL!)
It’s like someone calling your baby ugly, right?
If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready.’––David Mitchell, Black Swan Green.
Stop. Smile. If the fool who left a damning review took the time to do so, then guess what?
You are a winner! You gave that reader something to think about, to connect to, to have an opinion on, to take time to write about those feelings and to share them with you.
How often have you simply discarded a written piece, a book, an article, a blog post, and not cared less about it? More often than not, we don’t take the time or feel strongly or passionately enough to bother leaving any feedback. They lost us.
We’re out of there faster than Donald Trump in a barber shop!
A review–both rave and terrible–means that you have held that reader’s attention, that your writing was worthy of their feedback, even if disclosing this wasn’t their intention in submitting the review.
There is a saying, ‘No publicity is bad publicity,’ and the same is true of book reviews. While people are talking about your work, your novel, word is getting out there about your book. There can be elements within the review that, while the reviewer nearly passed out over, another potential reader might like.
“It was smut, smut, smut and more smut. Filthy rubbish!”
“Ooh, I like the sound of that! I think I’ll download that to read by the pool in Malaga.”
You see? One person’s idea of hell is another’s heaven. If you take a look on Amazon or B&N, you’ll see mixed reviews for even the literary greats and I guarantee that the literary Gods who wrote them did not have their writing careers ended overnight by any one of those negative reviews.
But it still hurts! And isn’t it tempting to retort? To let them know that they clearly didn’t get the entire premise of your story? To hurt them back?
Do not do it! Scream, cry, make a Voodoo doll of them and stick pins in the eyes, but do not respond to negative reviews! Know that there will be a positive review right around the corner. It will boot the bad review down the list and restore your faith in your skill.
When I self-published my first book and it went live it felt the same as if I’d stripped naked and run through the supermarket. Exposed. Vulnerable. Then I received some 5* reviews. This was unbelievable. Until the first negative review landed on my book’s Amazon page and my heart broke in two. They hadn’t even read past the first few pages! I wanted to scream at them, ‘You didn’t even get to the good part!’ I knew I couldn’t respond, I did–fleetingly–consider creating a fake reader account and leaving myself a good review or begging my grandma’s neighbour’s first-cousin-once-removed to do it.
What’s the point? What would it achieve?
I realised that, actually, the fact that the reader had bought the book and taken the time to leave a review was not entirely a bad thing. It dawned on me that I can’t please all of the people all of the time. I like Marmite and cheese sandwiches, others don’t (their loss). I had to accept the following:
Book reviews do not define you, your book or your writing talent.
They are individual preferences and tastes.
As always, I’d love to hear from you! As a writer, how has a negative book review made you feel? As a reader, are you influenced by reviews when making reading choices? Please comment.
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