Sunday, April 17
They’re Just Not That Into You: Dealing With Reviews
A common question I get asked at events is, how do I handle negative reviews? Sometimes it’s asked matter-of-factly, other times with this look of dread in the asker’s eyes (I can tell right there they’re writers, too). Do I respond? Do I cry? Do I get mad? Do I change my writing to fix what they said? How do I possibly go on?
I’ve been pretty lucky so far in that most of the reviews of my books (The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall) have been positive. Even the reviewers who didn’t like them had some positive things to say (a sign of a good reviewer). There have only been a few that were downright nasty. But this holds true of every book out there, even the ones with hundreds of five-star ratings. Be kinda silly for me to expect different treatment, wouldn’t it?
Do I respond?
I haven’t yet, though sometimes I’m tempted to say thanks for trying, and it’s a shame it wasn’t for them. But I’m never sure how that might come across, so I stay silent. I’ve never been tempted to say more than that, though, because everyone really is entitled to their opinion. And just because that person didn’t like my book, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or that no one will like it.
Do I cry?
No tears, but there have been a few reviews that hurt. It wasn’t so much the review that got me, but the comments after where people said they’d seen the book and were thinking about buying it because it looked good, then changed their minds now that they read this review. Those really stung. But then I told myself that if these people liked the same kinds of book as the reviewer, and the reviewer was usually spot on in their tastes, then my book probably wasn’t for them. Had they read it, it might have generated another bad review somewhere.
Do I get mad?
Nah. There’s really no point, and it’s a waste of energy. Even though a bad review can feel personal, it really isn’t. They’re not attacking me, they just didn’t like my book. And that’s okay, because I don’t expect everyone to like my book. Naturally, I hope most folks do, and I hope folks are willing to give it a try, but everyone has their own tastes.
Do I change my writing to fix what they said?
Sometimes, but only if it’s a comment I see in a lot of reviews, and I think they’re right. I look at reviews as another way to gain valuable reader feedback. If I’m doing something that hurts the book even a little, then it might be something I want to address in my writing. My goal as a writer is to entertain readers, and understanding what entertains them helps me do my job a lot easier. And hopefully, a lot better. While I won’t change something to appease one reviewer when hundreds more liked what I did, I have found things in bad reviews that I agreed I could have done better. I tried to improve on that in my next book.
How do I possibly go on?
By developing a thick skin, and understanding that my books are products, and people are going to have every opinion about them there is. Not every book is for everybody, and that’s a good thing, because it gives us an enormous variety of stories to choose from. Besides, personal taste has zero bearing on the talent of the writer or the quality of the book. There are bestsellers out there that I couldn’t get past the first chapter, and books than others panned that I adored. Entertainment is subjective, as is art, and books are both. The goal is the get the books into the hands of those who like your kind of book. And reviews can be good way to do that.
I give kudos to reviewers, because I imagine it has to be a bit nerve-wracking to write about someone’s work, especially if you have some criticisms. Will they be upset? Will they comment? Will they say bad things in return? But as an author and a lover of books, I enjoy discovering new books and seeing other readers discover mine. So I really can’t get too upset about what’s said about my work.
’Cause after all, at least they’re talking about me, right?
Originally published during the Blue Fire blog tour at The Bookologist.
Labels: writing life