Suck It Up

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.

The woman done lost her damn mind.

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.

Boom, boom, baby. Boom boom.

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?

I'm not waking that up.

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.

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10 thoughts on “Suck It Up

  1. That reviewer was very kind in my opinion. I would have thrown that book in the trash after reading any more than one of those grammatical errors. I’ve seen a few writers respond like that over at Goodreads, where you really see some scathing reviews. It’s so tacky and juvenile. It’s important to distinguish whether a review is brutally honest or simply mean-spirited. I’ve had both, and my response is to appreciate the former and to ignore the latter (and the person who gave it). There are some people out there who get their jollies from ripping authors apart, but that reviewer was definitely fair and did not deserve to have her blog littered with obscenities.

    • Totally agree, Julie. And honestly, the “reviewers” who get their thrills from ripping up authors — well, eventually their actions catch up with them, too. They only hurt their own credibility. Some people never leave high school, I guess.

  2. Great post. I thoroughly agree with your assessment. This seems to be the topic of the day, as I’ve read two other blog posts with similar commentary (here: http://welcometotheasylum.net/2011/03/29/natural-selection-writers-edition/ and here: http://www.karolynsherwood.com/Site/Blog/Entries/2011/3/27_An_Honest%28y%29_Dilemma.html )

    I’m glad to know that there are other authors out there with realistic expectations and the understanding that reviews are a vital part of the process. Thanks for posting this!

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for stopping by 🙂

      I know this isn’t the first time, and I’m sure it’s not the last time some writer will lose their damned minds over a review. Hopefully, the rest of us will learn from it and behave appropriately.

  3. I appreciate constructive criticism and understand reviews cannot always be glowing. I take them for what they are — one person’s opinion of my work. Whether it is good or bad, it is an opinion, and I would much rather have a negative reaction than NO reaction at all.

    At the end of the day, I write to please ME, and in the process, I hope it pleases others. If someone takes the time to tell me my writing is pure crap, then I have to respect that. Going postal over it serves no purpose.

    • None at all. No, it’s not pleasant, but from every review I think a writer can learn something, if only when to keep their mouth shut. 😉

  4. I have a good friend who’s recently found a lot of success with her book. In the first month of the release, she read every review… now she gets so many that she doesn’t pay as much attention. I think it’s easy to say “don’t read them”, but when you release something new, you’re pretty desperate for feedback.

    Right now I’m reading my reviews because I’m looking for quoteable bits for my website, but I would love to have so MANY reviews that I didn’t pay attention to them any more.

    When I first read that meltdown post a few days ago, I wondered how long before she took up a pen name. Hell, if I’d done something like that, I’d be tempted to change my REAL name. =)

    • No kidding, India. I’m sure she’s probably regretting quite a few things right now. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I beg to disagree. No one wants a reputation like this.

      Yes, I’d love to see the day I have so many reviews I can’t possibly keep up with them all. Heh.

  5. Pardon my language but: Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one, and they usually stink. Write what YOU like (and get an editor for Pete’s sake!), and to hell with the critics. If you like it, chances are others will too.
    Also, respond to your critiques professionally. No one will take you seriously when you’re speaking offensively.

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