Guest Post: How to deal with a Bad Review by Mercedes M. Yardley
It’s hard enough to start a novel, let alone finish it. And in between that Start and Finish phase, we’re populating the thing with characters, plots, romances, death scenes, manic rollercoaster rides, wicked fairies, and talking animals. Or not. This is your novel, my dear one, and your rules. Populate The Novel with anything you desire! It’s time to play.
It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes waiting, waiting, and waiting. And then finally your baby makes into the world.
After so much time and care, most of us feel like everybody should love The Novel. There are release parties and we send it out for reviews and there’s much celebration. Yay! But not everyone has the same tastes. Not everyone says the same thing. As Dita Von Teese supposedly said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
You’re going to get bad reviews. Maybe even a lot of them. And they’re probably going to make you angry. They’ll hurt your soul. “Why didn’t this person like the book? They’re obviously too stupid to understand it. Why read and review a something in a genre you don’t even like? Grrr! And waaaah!”
It hurts. Even though writers know we need to have thick skin and learn to shrug it off, it’s tough advice to take. Especially that first one star review, which says that your book is demon spawn and the reviewer couldn’t abide the main character/the title/the plot /that it’s horror/whatever. It can be haunting, and there’s a natural tendency to respond and defend your precious Novel.
Don’t do it. Take a deep breath. Take several. Responding will do nothing for you except cause contention where it isn’t needed. It’s a battle you don’t want to start. You have The Darling Novel out. Be a professional.
Let me say it again. Be professional.
I made the rookie mistake of responding to my first one-star review. It was given a dismal rating because it was a short story collection, and not a novel. Why, this wasn’t fair! It says “short story collection” right in the description! Oh, the humanity!
I wrote what I thought was a pleasant blog post addressing the importance of reviews. But I unwittingly ignited a firestorm that follows me to this day. I was added to a list of “Authors Behaving Badly” and was harassed and threatened. My children were threatened, and I was genuinely scared for our safety. If I could take that one action back, I would. A million times over, I would.
I thought I was being professional by discussing it in my safe little blog with my friends, but really I shouldn’t have said anything online at all. Stomp and rant and rage with your most trusted friends all you like, dear hearts, but never do it publicly. Show them that you’re fine ladies and dandy gentlemen. Never, ever, ever address a poor review. In fact, you never need to address reviews at all, unless it is to simply say, “thank you.”
Because it doesn’t matter. Your book stands on its own. You put the work in and you’re proud of it. Who did you really write it for, anyway? Hopefully you. Do you realize how many people want to write novels? Do you realize how few people actually do it? You’re amazing, and most likely talented, and we all know that you’re dedicated or you wouldn’t have finished the cursed thing. (And dashing, charismatic, and you probably smell really good, too. These are common author traits!)
Be proud of your work. If something negative comes your way, simply shrug it off. At the very least, try. You don’t need to waste your time worrying about somebody else’s opinion. Your time and emotion is better spent doing the things you love, like writing another novel.