Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Not Be Offended By Bad Reviews

You are a writer. No. You're a creator of worlds. NO. You're more than that.

You are an artist. 

And artists change the world with a flick of their well worded thoughts. Social change happens in large part with our help. TV shows, books, blogs, you name it. We write it, and the world is exposed to it, and then suddenly BAM things that were taboo no longer are. Science Fiction that was once a book is now real. As writers, as artists, its our job to push. To expand the social and imaginative aspect in our readers. To move them.

But sometimes readers aren't moved. Sometimes readers are going to look at your book and do this:

I know. That hurt you more than it hurt the book. Your soul is shattered. That nasty little voice in your head that had been pushed to a corner and silenced thanks to all the good book reviews you've been getting comes back full force. It looks like the Incredible Hulk times 10 and has the voice to match.

"What did I tell you!?" it screams at you with a smug grin. "You're useless! Your book is crap, and you're crap, and everyone who says your book is good is wrong!"

And that one person? Or those five people who reviewed your book and didn't like it or thought it was boring or lame or whatever? They are not the 99 people who gave you five stars. So before you go and jump off a cliff, eat a tub of ice-cream by yourself, or throw yourself in the ocean to be eaten by hammerhead sharks, take the following words into account:

1.) Your book isn't for everyone. 

That's right! There are going to be people who buy your book because they're friend recommend it, or bugged them to read it until they bought it simply to shut them up.

Did you buy it yet? Did you buy it yet? Did you buy it yet?
And do you really want to care about those reviewers? See that face? That's the face of someone who probably isn't going to like the book anyway. And do you really want to throw your writing career away because one or two people said your book wasn't great? Don't do it. Just like you have books you don't like, so do other people. And that's no one's fault. Just people with bad taste, obviously.

2.) Don't take it personally 

No really. Don't. Please don't. These people don't know you--and you don't know them. It's hard, it'll feel impossible sometimes. I can hear you now. "But that's my soul I put into the book! They're obviously attacking me!" But they're not. They're reviewing a book they didn't like. They're not reviewing you. They don't see your face. They don't know your life or where you live or the name of your pet goldfish (It's name is Bubbles, by the way). So when you see a 1 or 2 star review, channel your inner teenager (or take notes from your own) and repeat this phrase until you believe it:

3.) Grow a thick skin 

You know why I don't let one or two star reviews ruffle me? Because I've lived through the worst portion of the internet you can get reviews on: Fan fiction. I spent the ages of 12-18 writing and writing and writing. And I wrote a ton of fan fiction. And for every 100 e-mails or reviews I got that said how much they loved it, I got 10 or 15 who said I should give up on life, delete all my work, and get off the internet because i'm wasting valuable internet space. Yeah.

The trolls on those sites are truly pieces of work. it hurt my tender little 14 year old feelings to read those. But then I took a step back. They don't know me. Hell, they didn't even know they were writing to a 14 year old girl.  And hey, they read my work. And also, I may have gotten 10 that said they didn't like it, but I have a 100 that say they do.

Writing is a rough, rough business to begin with, and if you can't handle a couple of bad reviews, then you won't be able to handle the editors who will edit your book. Whether you self-publish, go with online publishers, or traditional, some one is going to rip your book apart and you have to be thick skinned enough to pick it back up and fix it. Or as Taylor Swift says, you gotta:

So there you go! Your three tips on how not to be offended! And if I'm honest with you, what it's really going to to take to be able to do those three things, is receive bad reviews and deal with it. Now I have two caveats for these rules: 

1) If you are getting SPAMMED with bad reviews and all from annonymous people, this is some one trying to troll you. Alert Amazon or whoever is carrying your book and let them know. You don't need that in your life. 

2) If you read the three or four bad reviews and find that they all say the same sort of thing or point out the same thing like "The middle seems to fall flat of an otherwise action packed book" then maybe you should have a look at that. Especially if they're writing the review in a thoughtful, non attacking manner. Sometimes those strangers can be a big help and make your next book stronger!

Your book is your baby, I get it. Believe me, I do! But when you put it out on the internet just remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion and not everyone is going to agree. And that's okay. You don't like all books, and other people don't like all books. You wrote a Romance but the reader only reads Fantasy. They're not going to review it with as much enthusiasm as a Romance book (if they review at all).

And one more thing fellow writers: Reviews aren't everything. If your sales are steady and stable, then clearly you've done something right! And if you're still nervous, Benedict Cumberbatch has your back!

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