With three books out now, all bestsellers and highly-rated, I still have my fair share of 1 to 2-star reviews. I often get a kick out of them — they are rarely more than a line or two and they often contain some sort of personal attack and even name-calling (‘trustafarian dewdrop‘ takes the cake). How can I take these seriously?
But, many people do. We are all human and when somebody says our baby is ugly, we get upset. We want to defend. We want to write something back in response. We are MAD.
Don’t be. Let it go. I’ve seen too many online back and forths (aka flame wars) that just turn ugly. Plus, why? Will you change someone’s mind? Doubtful. Spend the time you would’ve spent bothering with it all on writing your next book. If you’re angry as you write, then kill off a reviewer — fictionally!
But don’t take that negative toxicity on.
Conversely, as authors, we have to toughen up. We are creating art which is a highly subjective creation. Anytime we create something and put it out there in the public, we will receive feedback — both positive and negative (as it should). I’ve written about this before, but not a day goes by that an author is lamenting an unfair review so I want to address it.
1) You are a salesperson. My theory is this: everyone in the world is selling something, all the time. Perhaps I’m jaded from having been a pharma rep for 15 years — I definitely had to learn how not to take rejection personally.
As authors, we are selling books. Forums exist now (like social media and blogging) that didn’t exist before, to get the word out very quickly about our thoughts about products — whether it’s soap, food, or art. The onus is on you, the author, to create the best product you possibly can — and by that I mean hiring an editor, proofreader, formatting, graphic designer, etc. If you don’t think you can afford it, I’ve got news for you: you will pay in poor reviews and lackluster sales. If you’ve done your due diligence and are still getting poor reviews, it’s time to man/woman up and take a closer look at your work.
2) You are a marketer. Like it or not, nobody can purchase your spectacular product if they’re never heard of it, haven’t seen any reviews, or found articles/interviews/features about it. I’ve written a kazillion articles on using social media, blogging, ads, and more to flesh out your author platform, but many people still seem to think ‘if I write it, they will come.’ How’s that working out for you?
I cannot stress this enough. Your work should be perfect before you upload that file. Crit partners, betareaders, even friends you trust are awesome, but that does not replace utilizing professional editing and the other services I mention above.
3) Poor reviews. A few points here.
- Take nothing personally. Low reviews suck, but so what? You’ve no doubt been rejected before. Get over it. Move on. (If you just can’t, pick up this book — The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz — short, simple, helped me immensely).
- Bogus/fake reviews. You can practically get someone to sleep with you on Fiverr. Why should reviews be any different? They’re not. You can pay someone to write 5-stars for you or 1-stars for a ‘competitor’s’ book (for god’s sake, don’t!). Read this instead. Many 1-stars are bogus, many are not. Oh well. Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble all have imperfect systems but we have to work within the guidelines. It is what it is.
- Merit. If the 1-stars have merit, read them. Learn from them. None of us is perfect. But if it’s ridiculous stuff (How can she let her children listen to Queen? She’s a terrible mother!‘), laugh and move on.
I hope this gives you a small taste of handling reviews. It’s all in the perspective. Trust your vision and don’t waver. People told me not to write Broken Pieces — that it would be a downer. That people read to escape and want fantasy. That it would fail.
But I ignored them all. They didn’t see my vision. And the fact that some people don’t get it is fine. So is the fact that some people love it. All good.
Because I stayed true to my vision. That’s what counts.
And the money. (Kidding).
Rachel Thompson (@RachelintheOC) saysApril 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/2QrEyfRED4
IndieBookPromos (@indiebookpromos) saysApril 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm
#MondayBlogs Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/yuLFIi1TRK
Steve Furman saysApril 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm
Everyone has an opinion that is informed and shaped by their experiences, environment and DNA. Many of those attributes are much different from our own. See their innocence. Stay detached and above all keep writing. Keep creating.
RachelintheOC saysApril 2, 2013 at 7:52 am
Yes, that is so incredibly true, Steve. That’s basically the premise of the Four Agreements — why take something personally when the words/opinion are reflective of someone else? We haven’t lived their life, nor them ours.
Thanks for sharing that. SO important.
Liz Crowe saysApril 2, 2013 at 4:02 am
Great post. I had my very own hater-flamer campaign on twitter for a while. It was tough to ignore but I got thru it, made a few mistakes and learned. Now, I know one thing: if these folks spent as much energy concocting hateful reviews for either 1. a few bucks or 2. the satisfaction of a higher-up who resents you we’d have more books to read. thanks for this. cheers
Liz/Beer Wench (who avoids reviews of both her books and her brewery’s beers when at all possible)
RachelintheOC saysApril 2, 2013 at 7:54 am
Thanks, Liz. We’ve all got haters or people who go out of their way to disagree. Thanks for sharing.
When I was a teenager, I started working as a cashier at a drugstore. My dad (a store manager at a different store in the chain) told me this: kill em with kindness. And it works! Thanking people for contributing to the conversation works much better than schoolyard namecalling — where there’s clearly no winner.
@KafeCastro saysApril 2, 2013 at 4:38 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/OcioAOUeOM
Dave saysApril 2, 2013 at 6:03 am
Good, honest advice! Getting in a flame war sounds fun, but we all get burned. Tee hee!
RachelintheOC saysApril 2, 2013 at 7:55 am
LOL. Yes, tis true. I learned the hard way myself. There IS no winner.
And it’s just not worth it. Walk away, create a character, whatever. Focus on the good stuff. 🙂
Erica Lucke Dean (@ericaluckedean) saysApril 2, 2013 at 6:08 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/AtyIBFQHbg via @RachelintheOC
Dionne Lister (@DionneLister) saysApril 2, 2013 at 7:47 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/AfWzuV0O5i via @RachelintheOC
Rob Guthrie saysApril 2, 2013 at 8:30 am
The term I use when referring to poor review (not a 1-star ridiculous stinker—as you pointed out, those are written for reasons other than the quality of your book) is “stings”. A poor review should sting, but that’s it. In my opinion, they will always sting. But if it’s more than that, you need to toughen your hide. A sting allows the writer to see through the pain and INTO the words of the review. There is nothing better to making your writing better than an honest critique with some truthful suggestions about how to make your writing better.
I always say, in the end, you’re the CEO—you get to decide. But just as we learn more in life sometimes from our mistakes than our successes (or at least as much), so, too, do we learn from constructive criticism. The writers who are doomed are those without ears for the critics. Don’t EVER let someone tell you not to listen. Sure, if it’s ridiculous and personal, ignore it—but realize something important: those are rare. I know quite a few terrible writers who complain all the time about the “ridiculous”1-star “zingers” and the conspiracy to take them down as writers. Then I read said reviews and think “that’s pretty much how I would have summed it up”.
Just be open-minded, know you can always improve, and you’ll be fine. Let the tough-to-read reviews sting, but nothing more. Then get back to work.
Great article, Rachel.
RachelintheOC saysApril 2, 2013 at 9:38 am
good point, Rob! Sting is an excellent term — if we didn’t feel the sting, we wouldn’t be human. The point is to either learn from it — and be open to taking responsibility for whatever that 1-star says — or ignore if it’s ridiculous.
Thanks for adding your perspective.
Taylor Fulks saysApril 2, 2013 at 9:00 am
Great post Rachel…
I invited my 1 star review after receiving it on my Facebook Fan Page, and asking the reviewer to post it on Amazon (the appropriate venue to bash and trash my book) instead of my Fan Page. Boy did she ever! I too, have found that the low reviews are more of a personal attack than anything helpful or constructive. Just as all things in life, aquiring thick skin takes time and practice.
Thanks for the reminder…
RachelintheOC saysApril 2, 2013 at 9:37 am
Thanks so much, Taylor.
One thing I have learned: there’s a difference between a ‘reader’ review and a ‘reviewer’ review. I’m not saying one is better than the other — but the point is that reviewers have experience deconstructing a book, whereas readers (like myself — I’m not a ‘reviewer’) leave reviews based on how we feel about a book. Not that reviewer reviews don’t also feel our books. I guess my point is that it’s all good feedback, no matter who reads and reviews it — at least they’re giving us and other potential readers feedback to make an informed decision.
Charity Parkerson (@CharityParkerso) saysApril 2, 2013 at 9:38 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/Fmj74XafjW via @RachelintheOC
@junglereds saysApril 2, 2013 at 11:43 am
Only the FAB ones 😉 XOR RT @badredheadmedia: Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/YJtaT7Ig1M
Marla Martenson saysApril 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Great advice Rachel, especially about making sure that your work is perfect before putting it out there. A lot of new writers are eager to get their work up and out to the world, but do so with typos and bad or no editing. It is hard to recover from that once you put out shoddy work. It is better to wait, but have something you can really be proud of.
Lorca Damon (@LorcaDamon) saysApril 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/byi7QIcqmM via @RachelintheOC
Janie Junebug saysApril 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm
What good advice. I’ll share this with some of my writer friends.
IndieBookPromos (@indiebookpromos) saysApril 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/tiyjXfk5Md
Beth Ann Garland (@BethAnnGarland) saysApril 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/FXJUWebpyp via @RachelintheOC
Amanda Taylor (@A_K_Taylor) saysApril 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/c37rOoQhwx via @RachelintheOC
Melissa Tackett (@LyssaAnn42) saysApril 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm
@mcmillendc: Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/lkbsUECL7G via @RachelintheOC
@ThePoetPyronius saysApril 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/dQdrWgue3m via @RachelintheOC
@houndgirrl saysApril 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm
this applies to actors as well! RT @cateartios: Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/uJjqnVCquU via @RachelintheOC
Ciara Ballintyne (@CiaraBallintyne) saysApril 3, 2013 at 1:40 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/PUylnmWqm4 via @RachelintheOC
Raine Thomas (@Raine_Thomas) saysApril 3, 2013 at 5:17 am
Taking Reviews Personally? Well, Stop. Now. http://t.co/dEC5VVAykK via @RachelintheOC
Emily saysApril 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm
Great post, Rachel! My reaction to poor reviews (which admittedly is not on any published work yet, but on things I’ve posted in a few places online and such… but the principle is the same) is usually to make myself a cup of tea, try not to think about it for a while and then go back to it later, maybe even the next day, with a fresh mindset. I think it’s important to distance yourself from that immediate urge to defend your baby as much as you can.
Emily saysApril 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm
Also, “trustafarian dewdrop”?! That’s fantastic! I think I need to find an excuse to use that in my writing somewhere.
RachelintheOC saysApril 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm
I agree — I consulted Urban Dictionary (figured it was a trust fund thing) and when I found out it was, I LOL’d — considering I’ve worked since I was a freshman in high school! But hey, it’s wonderful fodder for future characters, no question. 🙂
RachelintheOC saysApril 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm
Thank you for reading and commenting, Emily! It is important to not take it personally — above all else. But also to be open to learning. We put ourselves out there for feedback, by default of publishing, so we need to take what comes with that — the good and the bad.
Megan Bostic saysApril 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Love it. Great blog. At first, I admit, they really upset me. Not anymore. I like to go read other things they’ve read and given low stars to and I’ve been lumped in with some awesome writers.
Now I take them in stride and laugh.
Terry Tyler saysApril 8, 2013 at 10:58 am
Excellent post. I wrote one a few months back on not getting all arsey about bad reviews and just accepting that not everyone will love everything you do – or worse, declaring that someone must be a troll if they don’t like your book. Re the fact that so many writers don’t take your advice – I think the main problem is that many, many writers have no experience of online social networking and have no idea how to use it, just signing up and posting links to their books which is, of course, pretty ineffective. I don’t know that you can teach some people how to use sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, because many are in denial about it, perhaps seeing them as at odds with the creative and spontaneous nature of writing.
RachelintheOC saysApril 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm
You’re right to an extent, Terry, absolutely — some people simply have no desire to learn how to interact and use social media most effectively. Plus, while it’s not rocket science, it takes effort to learn. Adult learners are notoriously stubborn!
Those who want to succeed and learn how to be more effective, will. It’s not that difficult. 🙂