Reviews can be hard. It’s likely that reviews are the most difficult part of the writing process for some writers. You pour you heart and mind into something for more than a year. You draw knives and fight with your editors about it. You market and you fret and you sweat and you weep. And when you are done, it’s out there.
And people hate it.
Not everyone of course. Most people like it. If everything went well, most people might even love it. But people are gonna hate it. That’s just the way with art.
I don’t know that it matters for your first book that you be good at handling reviews. It does matter that you understand the process and you respond to them in a professional manner. You can’t rail against them. You can’t complain about them (well, maybe in the privacy of your own home.) You certainly can’t engage them. You shouldn’t try. Some people would say not even to read them. My friend Randy Tayler tweeted at me “YOU’RE READING REVIEWS!” after one post. I don’t know if he was happy for me or aghast.
You should be thankful for bad reviews. They bought your book. They read your book. They had an emotional experience with your book. You can’t dictate what that emotional experience was. If you are ever in a situation where you must respond, at a public venue, for instance, the most you can do it thank them for reading the book. Do it sincerely. Practice in front of a mirror if you have to. Like the samurai of old, remember, it’s not important that you be honest. It’s vitally important you be sincere.
The only interaction I allow myself to have with reviewers is to thank them if we have some social media connection and occasionally ask if they are on Goodreads as well to remind them there is another place where they can post their reviews.
I don’t want you to think I’m just inherently good at this. When Spacemaster came out, it was greeted positively overall, but some people’s reviews of the setting were savage. Just brutal. That was quite the learning experience and I made mistakes. I argued. I justified myself. I did it politely, but it wasn’t my finest hour. When this book came out as a podcast audiobook, the few negative reviews I garnered crushed me. But I’m used to them now. I’ve learned that you can’t get good reviews without bad, and you should cherish the bad because that means the next few good are right around the corner.
As I write this I have a 4.5 on Amazon. A 4.1 on Audible. A 3.75 on Goodreads (that one is just starting to come up after a few one stars that gave up on the book early). Most of my negative reviews are along the lines of “Did not finish.” My favorite review so far says I’m not as clever or as funny as I think I am. That’s certainly true.
No one is as clever and as funny as I think I am.
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem