It happens. You, the writer, get a critique or a review of your work that makes you want to throw yourself under a bus. Or, throw the reviewer under the bus and set the remains on fire. Understandable, and we can all relate. However, reacting like this is one of the best examples I have run across to argue against a writer ever reading a review of their own work.
Whoa. That was ugly in the extreme.
Now, to my mind, the review was actually very generous. The reviewer pointed out, very respectfully, that the manuscript in question really needed some help in the typo and grammar area, but the story was basically sound. That doesn’t sound so bad, but something triggered off a public meltdown of epic proportions. Instead of taking the review as constructive criticism, this writer decided to take it to a whole new level and not only ranted and raved, actually dropped the “F” bomb and blew her chances of having any kind of a career right out of the water.
It doesn’t really matter that she is self-published. I have witnessed other meltdowns similar in scope from traditionally published authors. That being said, reactions like this from a self-published author only add to the stigma we independent types are trying to dispel. Trust me, we aren’t all like this poor woman. Most of us are well aware of the valuable service dedicated book bloggers and reviewers offer us. We know, as independent writers, word of mouth is imperative and invaluable to our careers and act accordingly.
The question now making the rounds of the ‘net is…do you read your own reviews? Furthermore, what is the etiquette when someone does review your book? Do you comment on the post, contact them privately or just let sleeping dogs lie?
First of all, if you can’t accept that not every one is going to love your work, you need to find something else to do with your time. When I started in this business, I received some critiques that burned my eyebrows from my very head. Some made me cry. However, I was just grateful that someone took the time out to read my drivel and offered suggestions of how to improve or simply pointed out what did not work for them. It’s not personal — it’s business. The problem for some people is it can be very difficult to separate these two concepts. The truth is, writers invest so much into their work it feels personal when someone has something less than totally complimentary to say.
Get over it.
A review is an opinion. Take what good you can from it and move on. Your focus, as a writer, should be on improving and writing, not weeping and wailing. If you see a trend developing, then it’s likely there’s something there to which you should be paying attention. It’s not a personal attack on your character, it’s an evaluation of your work and how it affects others. Isn’t that the damned point of writing in the first place?
If you absolutely cannot take constructive criticism, then maybe it’s best if you don’t publish anything at all. Or, at the very least, send a minion to read your reviews and only tell you about the good ones, which, in my opinion, really cuts you off from some valuable information. But, the choice is yours.
Second, should you contact the reviewer, good bad or indifferent?
I say if you want to thank them privately by email, by all means. You can always take a look at their blog and see if there is any kind of a precedent, but normally I would keep any correspondence private. It just seems best.
If it’s a bad review, move on and keep your mouth shut. Vent, if you must, to close friends and family, but be careful about that, also. Be polite and take the higher road — one review doesn’t make or break a career, but if your reviews all say the same thing, it might be worth it to pay attention.
Don’t Tweet, don’t Facebook, and for heaven’s sake, don’t show the world you are a psycho-crazy-bitch and kill your career before it even gets started.
And I can’t believe I have to say that out loud.