I found it interesting to be greeted with this little warning on Goodreads today which I actually had to “click to agree” with.
Have to admit, I was pretty surprised this needed to be stated in such a blatant manner — across the board to all authors. But I guess there have been some problems. I mean, I know there have been problems. I see “authors behaving badly” flagged all the time in the blogosphere.
So I thought I’d do a blog post on the topic of authors and reviews — from the Michelle Rowen perspective.
Ah reviews. I’ve had a love and hate relationship with you over the years. I love the good reviews and I hate the bad. I’ve always been the kind of person that needs a lot of outside acknowledgment that what I’m doing is okay and acceptable. Comes down to self-esteem I guess. I ain’t got it in spades. Never have.
When I first entered the writing world with Bitten & Smitten, it was fairly perfect timing. I didn’t get rejected with that manuscript in my search for an agent (well, one, but it came the same day as an offer of representation so it didn’t really sting). The book had an offer within 24 hours of being sent out to publishers. Praise was heaped on me by editors and agent and my early reviews were fangtastic. And then B&S was released into the world at large and I suddenly realized that my voice and characters and story and world wasn’t going to work for everyone 100% across the board. SAY WHAT? You mean, I will not be universally loved and adored like a goddess of wordiness??
Um, no. Not so much. Every negative review felt like a wound. Why? Because I lacked any kind of thick skin, which I hadn’t had a chance to develop yet. Because of my need for outside kudos to make me feel that what I was doing was okay, I assumed that each negative review was a nail in the coffin of my brand new dream career. Oh god, I thought. They’ve found me out. I’m a fraud. I can’t write. I suck. I SUCK!! *cue the hordes of doubt weasels*
Okay, so that was one of my personalities, Little Miss Defeatist. I’m blessed (cursed?) to have a few more. I might have low self esteem, but I happen to have a big ego. I can only compare it to one of those girls on America’s Next Top Model who looks in the mirror and bemoans how ugly she is. Well, if they thought they were THAT damn ugly, why would they enter a competition where looks were the prized asset? Despite my worry that I wasn’t good enough, I had pushed myself to write a book and to take the next step toward publication. So I guess I thought my ideas were pretty good after all.
It’s a teeter totter, even now. I am proud of my books, all of them. Well, except for one, but we won’t talk about that. I put everything I am, everything I have to give, into my books. And then I put them out there for the world because that is how I earn a living. I now know without a SHADOW OF A DOUBT that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. AND THAT’S OKAY. I also know with equal certainty that there are quite a few readers out there who enjoy my tea very, very much thank you!
So…after five plus years of being published and 15 books on the shelf with at least 7 more cooking up nicely, negative reviews don’t bother me at all anymore.
HA! I AM LYING!!! They still bother me. Just because I can take them with a grain of salt and know that someone’s opinion on Goodreads or Amazon who might think I am the antichrist of fiction writers isn’t going to sink my career. If my editor and agent approve of what I’m doing, then that is what I’m aiming for — anything else is icing on the cake. But yeah, they still sting.
Should reviewers watch what they say, be nicer, or consider my feelings when they’re reviewing? Quite honestly, why should they? Just as I have a right to write anything I please (as long as my editor and agent approves) a reader has a right to like it or not like it. And then talk about it. (Unless they’re reviewing a pirated copy, in which case they can $^*#$ **$%@#). Of course, in a perfect world, I’d like all reviews to be prefaced with “this is only my opinion, but…” But that’s not reality. Besides, I’ve actually bought a lot of books based on negative reviews. One person’s pig’s ear is another’s silk purse. Or something like that.
I don’t review books because I feel like it’s not my place to do so — just like I don’t enter contests to win free books anymore on author blogs. But I don’t begrudge others who do. Does that mean everything I read I enjoy and appreciate? Hell no. If I wrote reviews, 9 out of 10 would likely be a big fat DNF for me. I’m a notoriously picky reader and it doesn’t take much for me to consider a book a wallbanger. So if I feel that way — and sometimes I feel that way about VERY VERY POPULAR BOOKS – bleh — then why can’t others feel the same way and express it? I think there’s only one thing worse than people saying bad things about your book — and that’s when they DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. (at least that’s the theory).
Working on my own self-esteem when it comes to my books — I just need to keep reminding myself that the majority of people seem to dig what I’m doing, which is why I’m able to do this full time with four books currently on my writing roster for this year. I think I’m doing something right. I just need to keep doing it and try to enjoy the ride.
MY ADVICE TO NEWLY PUBLISHED AUTHORS
1) DO NOT read your reviews if they really bug you. Get a trusted friend to read them and have them send you the good ones.
2) DO NOT post a link to a bad review on twitter or other social networks with a “omg look at this terrible review!” If you didn’t post that link, hardly anyone would have ever read it. Now everyone is reading it out of morbid curiosity and honestly? A lot of people enjoy other people’s misery. There’s even a word for it: schadenfreude.
3) PLEASE REMEMBER that on Twitter you’re basically taking part in an open chat. Your off the cuff comments about your horrendous cover or your asshat copyeditor are viewable by everyone. Including your horrendous cover artist and your asshat copyeditor. Who might be working on your next book. Just saying. I used to be a graphic designer, and believe me, we hold grudges.
4) DON’T SWEAT BAD REVIEWS. I can say this objectively for everyone except myself (usually). They are not the end of the world. And, honestly? They’re rarely as bad as you think they are. I mean, some are, but some are just pointing out a couple things the reader didn’t love. It doesn’t mean they hate your book and want to watch it and you burn in some sort of Satanic ritual. And besides, at the end of the day even the “professional” reviews are only ONE PERSON’S OPINION. So…chillax.
5) This one takes this post right back to the beginning in regards to commenting on reviews you’ve received on Goodreads, Amazon, a blog, or anywhere else. DO NOT DO THIS. EVER. DO NOT EVER DO THIS. Toss back a shot of vodka, pull up your big girl panties, buy some chocolate, AND DO NOT COMMENT. This is a part of the business you wanted to be in and it will not change. GET USED TO IT. Go to Amazon, pull up a BIG NAME AUTHOR and read their nasty-ass reviews. They get a lot of them. Did it make a difference to their career? NOOOO. In fact, it’s kind of a sign of success. If you want to be a professional author, act professional. Full stop.
Reviews, both negative and positive, are the building blocks of word-of-mouth advertising. It’s all good, people. So try to do what I’m trying to do — enjoy the ride! The view is kind of spectacular!!