DR: Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Reviews
One of the hard things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate bad reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers on amazon.com. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, religion, ethnicity, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.
I’ll never forget my first scathing reader review (for Beneath a Southern Sky...and it’s still up on amazon.com if you want to weep along with me! LOL!) That review almost paralyzed me for a few days. It truly did. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like me as a person either!
When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably has never met me. I don’t think he/she really meant their words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than four years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking—and I’m not usually an excitable person. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.
But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an amazon.com review I had written months earlier for a book that really made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my reviewer made—I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man! But like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.
My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real people just like me.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve discovered a brand new way to develop a tougher skin: amazon.com’s AmazonConnect feature which lets people vote on whether or not they like an author’s AmazonConnect blog post. I gotta tell ya, it stings just a little to see that out of twenty-some people who voted for my first post, five of them said they didn’t like me—er, I mean my post. Sigh.
Deborah Raney is the author of A Vow to Cherish (Steeple Hill, June 2006). Work in progress: Remember to Forget for Howard Publishing/Simon & Schuster. http://www.deborahraney.com