It was bound to happen sooner or later: the bad review. I received my first 2 star review the other day. At first, I thought, no! This couldn’t happen. I’ve honed my craft for decades, I’ve labored over telling the best story I could, I’ve edited and re-edited, and edited some more—how did this happen?
My mind went into a spiral of complicated thoughts, trying to reason out why said reader didn’t like what I wrote. Since the review lasted only three short sentences, and contained no details, this was a fruitless and a mainly fictional attempt to apply “intentions” to the review, which, quite frankly wasted a lot of mental energy.
I realized I needed to come up with an attitude for dealing with negative feedback. Not constructive criticism, which I think is quite different than bad reviews—constructive criticism is something that improves your performance over time and is based on weaknesses that you display (and is usually delivered by people that honestly want you to improve). But bad reviews are usually just opinions. And the truth of the matter is: everyone is different, and everyone has different tastes and motivations.
I’m reminded that I went to a popular movie last week. I was appalled at how boring and poorly executed the story line was…and yet, as I walked out of the theatre, I heard other movie-goers praising the movie with the utmost of enthusiasm and excitement.
Regardless of this reality, it still hurt to feel “rejected” with a bad review. In my attempt to build some protective armor and subsequent Googling of how to deal with bad reviews, I was inspired by the writer who never read their reviews—the good or the bad. I knew this wouldn’t work for me. I’m too compulsive in nature to ignore them. Then there were the authors who learned from their reviewers in order to take their writing to new levels—this, I thought, was a productive idea, but I didn’t want to dishonor my own truths and become reactive in the process. And of course, I lived vicariously when I heard of the infamous story of an author who actually spat on a bad reviewer while attending the same party. Though I might fantasize about such uncouth actions, I know I could never, ever behave with such audacity. Though some held grains of opportunities, none of these tactics were quite right for me.
But the most reasonable advice I’ve read about reviews comes from John Locke’s book, “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.” John says, those 1 and 2 star reviewers are simply not your audience. That’s what this is about, right? Reaching people that actually enjoy the books you write?
Sometimes you reach readers that actually don’t enjoy the story, but that’s okay. If you’re anything like me, you’re reaching out to the people that will be touched, inspired, or entertained by your words.
It’s a lot like that in real life in that respect. I’ve been hurt by people, that, for whatever reason didn’t like me. They found things about me that rubbed them the wrong way, or simply didn’t understand who I was at a core level. But if I stressed over those people, then I’d miss out on the real people—the ones that love me just the way I am.
It’s like that with writing, too. You’re going to have readers that love what you write—and those are the readers you’re writing for. Sometimes, the wrong readers may stumble upon you. Sometimes they may write a negative review. But it doesn’t diminish the fact that other readers found you perfectly entertaining and worthy just the way you are. And in the end, if you’re honest and true to yourself, that is the best validation of your worth as a human, or as a writer, that you can ever possess.
Tips for Dealing Ridding the Initial Sting of Negative Criticism:
O Acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion
O Acknowledge that everyone has different tastes and preferences
O Remember that you will never please everyone – and that is not your goal – your goal is to reach people that love your writing (or you!) just the way you are
O Make a list of the best compliments you’ve received and reread them daily until you’ve let go of the negative words
O Ignore bad reviews or negativity all together
O Take a look at any well-praised or top selling book—they all have “bad reviews” – this just comes with the territory. Realize that there’s no way you will escape a bad review. Accept it’s part of the process and move on to nurture those readers who value your writing.
O Believe in yourself, and/or your writing – to get to any goal takes a lot of time, devotion and energy – the fact that you’ve invested in, and believe in yourself is all that matters in the end – reward yourself for your faith and devotion
O Realize that your time is better spent in loving what you do than fearing someone else’s opinion, and dedicate yourself wholly to the thing which you love. In my case this is writing and just being true to myself. In your case? That’s for you (and not your reviewers) to discover.
And one last tactic that I find especially therapuetic: find a book you love and write a wonderful review 😉 There’s nothing better to uplift your spirit than to uplift another’s.