It happens to all authors at one time or another. The dreaded bad review. How could they not like your stuff? You’re dumbfounded.
How an author receives bad reviews, though, says more about the author than the reviewer. So, today I thought I’d give BAM – three tips for receiving bad reviews.
The first instinct when reading an “attack” on your creative baby is to fight back. You puff up, roar, “That stupid reviewer has no idea what she’s talking about!” and, before you even blink, your fingers fly across the keyboard. A couple hundred words later, you’ve put that reviewer in her place…and failed to embody the principle of acting with kindness and love. So, before you start typing, breathe. Walk away from the review for at least an hour.
Remember that your reaction is yours. You’ll have to own what you say and how you say it for the rest of time.
Most bad reviews have a kernel of truth to be found within them. Oh, I know you don’t want there to be any truth, but a wise author is inwardly honest. Be real with yourself – no one will know but you and God – and re-approach the review. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I be a better writer? What in this review can teach me? Is there anything here that shows an area in which I can work harder? Is there something here that another reviewer has said?” (That last one is really telling – if more than one person says it, the critique deserves more thought from the author.)
Since sharing a client example could get me in trouble, I’ll share an experience of my own. One reviewer ripped into me for portraying an Asian character as cultured and disciplined. She accused me of falling back on the stereotype of Asians. Little did she know I’d based the character completely on my German sister-in-law! I’ll admit, my dander was up after reading her review. Yet, when I took the time to breathe and ask those questions, I realized I could do a better job next time by thinking through my character portrayals more fully and considering how my audience might perceive my choices.
3. Move on.
Unless there are factual errors in the review (e.g. the title is listed incorrectly or it’s categorized as historical romance when it’s actually chick-lit), let it go and move on. Confronting a reviewer will not result in anything favorable for you as an author or as someone who wants to be perceived as a professional.
Don’t talk badly about the reviewer to others – especially in the blogosphere! You did your job. You wrote a book. The reviewer did his/her job. She wrote what she thought of it. The outcome rests in God’s hands, not yours and not the reviewer’s.
Ultimately, it helps to remember this: someone read your book! You didn’t spend all those hours slaving over word choice and plot development for nothing. Someone actually took time from a busy life to spend a few hours in a world you created! Enjoy your success…just for a few minutes…until your fingers get all pruny.