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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Did I Say Too Much?

The other day, my friend Patti Larsen talked about a very interesting subject regarding watching your tongue as a writer. Go on and read it, especially the comments — I’ll wait.

Done already? Okay. I think we’re talking about a couple of different topics here, because there is a difference between ranting about something going on in your life and tearing up a writer in a review or exposing too much of yourself in a blog. The topic on Patti’s post seemed to gravitate more toward what an agent might think of you through book reviews on your blog and how a negative attitude may impact your chances of being signed to a contract.

As I said on Patti’s blog, I’ve critiqued and edited hundreds of stories for over a decade. I’ve edited novels and non-fiction work for clients. You don’t have to be the Simon Cowell of the writing world. Why be cruel? What’s the point? Some people do find that kind of thing funny, but to me it’s immature, unprofessional and unnecessary.

Yeah. Don't be like him.

I do reviews occasionally here on Word Webbing, usually on Fabulous Fiction Fridays. They will become more frequent, as I’m participating in the ABC Indie Reading Challenge this year and part of that is to provide an honest review. I fully suspect I will pull some stinkers, as a partial reason for this challenge is to act as a type of gatekeeper. As we all know, the indie/self-publishing ocean is full of fish, and they’re not all tasty. That means I will be honest — fair, but honest. It’s important to my own integrity as well as to those who follow me and value my opinion. But I won’t stoop to being cruel.

But for the sake of argument, say I was cruel (much different from “snarky”, in my opinion). Will that have an impact on my chances of being signed with an agent? I’m sure it can, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to speak with my own voice. I’m sure being cruel and mean-spirited would have an impact on the type of people who read me, the friends I have, on a whole lot of other aspects of my life.

I know there are bloggers I have stopped following because they have crossed the line — my line, mind you — and I just don’t buy into the negative mindset they’ve developed. If I see a blogger tearing up some hapless person who just happened to piss them off, I’m outta there. Who needs it? To me, it’s just another form of bullying and there’s too much of that going on as it is.

In essence, it all boils down to respect. Respect for yourself, respect for your readers, respect for anyone who has the balls to take on the career of writing in the first place. You can get your point across without calling someone names or attacking them personally. At least, that’s how I see it.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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