Someday, if I’m really, really lucky someone will write a blog post or an Amazon review of my book explaining why they hated it. They may even call me names or accuse me of being anti-something or other (women, dogs, democracy, breathing, what have you). It won’t necessarily be true, but someone will read my book and they won’t like it and they may even take it so far as to reach conclusions about me as a person.
That’s part of what I’m signing up for by pursuing this whole published author path. If the couple thousand people I’ve met in real life don’t all like me (and trust me, they don’t), I can’t imagine that a bunch of random strangers will all like my book or, by extension, me.
And there are many, many examples out there of authors who did not react well when this happened. There’s the author who created a fictitious handle on Amazon and started arguing with reviewers about their negative views of her book. There’s the guy who posted a blog post slamming fellow authors for offering negative reviews of his book (and I think may have called for physical harm or some such). There are people posting personal information on reviewers who they disagree with as if they’re suggesting that it would be ok to find someone in the real world and what? Intimidate them? Hurt them? For having a different opinion about a book??? One that will be forgotten five years from now if not sooner?
Not cool. And not the path I want to take when that day, hopefully, arrives. Because if I get to the point where people who don’t like my book read it that means I’ll be at the point where more than just my family and friends are reading my book. (I would hope that anyone I call family or a friend would at least refrain from a public negative review…) And wouldn’t that be nice? To be published? And read by more than a hundred people?
So, in that spirit, here are two good reactions to negative reviews:
Jim C. Hines: A Good Negative Critique of my Work (I should note that after reading the link to the negative review he provided, this series of books made it onto my list of books to someday read. Not sure when that day will come, but he’s on the list now.)
John Scalzi: It’s Okay Not to Read Me (I’ve been wanting an excuse to link this one for a while.) Here’s one quote from it: “When a writer and a reader find their respective books and tastes don’t match, there’s always a sad little moue of the mind, a wistful wish for what could have been. But then you both go on with your lives. For the writer, there are other readers. For the reader, there are other writers. That’s how it works.”
It’s still really early days for me to even think about this, but that’s the type of person I am. And, hopefully, if I think about it enough, then when that day does come and that person does call me some awful name or talks about my stilted prose and clichéd phrases, I’ll be prepared. And I’ll smile graciously and walk away instead of arguing or crying or refusing to ever write again.
So, here’s hoping someday I too can deal with the emotional rollercoaster of publishing success. And, when that day comes, that I handle it with half the class that both of these men have shown.
I sometimes worry about leaving negative reviews for authors (I’m always signed in to Amazon or Smashwords with my author name), because I worry about them exploding. I had a lady on Etsy explode on me once. She asked, on a forum, for a review of her listing, and I told her that she might want to retake her picture, because the lighting made her jewelry look tarnished. I was then subjected to a tirade and a detailed listing (which I had not asked for) of everything that was wrong with what I was selling, how horrible it was, etc.
Yeah. Some people do not handle it well. If I recall correctly, the guy who posted about negative reviews by fellow authors decided he was going to retaliate with his own negative reviews. And the review in question wasn’t all that negative either.
So, it may be safer to use separate user names to distinguish between what you do as an author and what you do as a reader…