Monday, April 20, 2015

6 Truths and Tips about Authors and Bad Reviews

What a wonderful gift it is to be able to share our stories, our dreams, and our passions with the world in the form of books. We hope that everyone will like what we've written, but the fact is that there are many who won't. Some will be vocal about their opinions, and others will simply set the book aside and say nothing. 

So, what happens when a reader leaves a review that is not only less than complimentary, but disparages the author and the book? What happens when readers leave low ratings on a book that has yet to be released or read by anyone (yes, this has recently happened to me)?
I could just say get over it, but that would happen only in a fantasy world. Every book and every author will receive at least one (though probably dozens or hundreds) of bad reviews during the course of their writing career. It's a by-product of putting yourself and your work on display for the world to see. 

My career began long after the advent of the internet, social media, and book blogs, which meant that every mistake, every misstep, and readers' opinions about my books--good or bad--were going to be made public, and not just to a few, but to anyone with access to the internet. This world is filled with critics of all kinds, and many who like to be heard. 

What do you do about these critics? Most importantly, don't react badly. Don't be an author who inserts themselves into forums and review sites with the express purpose of praising readers who leave a glowing review or argue with those who don't. Rise above it. There are a few hard truths and tips to consider when you receive a bad review. 

1. Don't think you're special when you receive a bad review, because every writer does.

2. My comment earlier about "getting over it" is true. A thick skin is a prerequisite, along with the ability to shake it off and get back to work. Eat a little chocolate, go for a run, snuggle with your pet, but get back to work.

3. Do you like every book you read? No. Not everyone is going to like your book either. No matter how many of your friends, family, and legions of readers tell you that your book is wonderful, there will be almost as many who find it mediocre or just hate it. That's all right because you're writing for yourself. If others find enjoyment and entertainment while reading your book, then you've succeeded. 
4. Not all bad reviews are bad. Sometimes those poor reviews can give an author insight into their book. Don't immediately discount the reviews which offer valid and considerate feedback. However, feel free to ignore those who disparage, but don't react. Give readers the chance to decide for themselves which reviews have merit without you telling them.

5. Bask in the positive reviews, but leave your ego at the door. Positive reviews help bolster our spirits and reinforce our credibility as authors worth reading. Enjoy them and share them in moderation. 

6. When all else fails, don't read reviews. Seriously, don't do it. If you're on a book tour or someone shares a review, that's a different story, but otherwise I've found that the best practice is to not read reviews of your book. 

Okay, so this post is riddled with cliches, but they work. What else works? The reader-author system. Yes, there are dishonest reviewers who rate and review a book without reading it, or leave a bad review to bolster their own books or to help another author. Keep in mind that these readers shouldn't be given validation or recognition; engaging with them does both. 

The honest readers and potential buyers of your book know how to spot the dishonest ones. Trust the system, because as an author it's what you have to work with in order to make it in this business.

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