Welcome to part 2 of book review discussion! Part 1 explained what part readers play by leaving reviews (read here). Now, I want to focus on how to take those reviews as an author! And mock a few people who could have benefited from my words of awesome.
What is the most important advice I have for writers?
NEVER EVER RESPOND TO A BAD REVIEW!
Repeat after me.
Don’t even reference it on your social media, nothing.
Because it never turns out well.
In fact, I stopped reading my reviews completely (for now, anyway. There’s a bet seeing how long I can go!) I have trusted friends and editors who I bribe to do it for me. Let’s face it, it’s really hard (giggles. hard.)
So why should I never respond to a bad review?
Because you don’t want to make a mockery of your career.
1) Not everyone has the same taste in books. Some of the most loved books of all time are also the most hated. (Twilight. Need I say more? You either love this book or you hate it.) I’ve gotten one star reviews, I’ve gotten five star reviews. My sense of humor is not for everyone. But I refuse to devalue what I did by trying to justify it to someone who didn’t appreciate it to begin with.
2) Would you do put a video of you crying on YouTube if your co-worker didn’t like an email/letter/analysis you wrote? No. So why screw with your writing career the same way? There are far too many “Leave Britney Alone!” videos out there of authors upset over bad reviews. I’m not even going to link you to them because they’re too heart wrenching.
Do not force others to give you external validation. It’s not good for your health.
3) Your own peace of mind! Truly, if you get devastatingly upset by bad reviews, you may want to seek professional help (check out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy here.) Therapists are magnificent. Make sure you find one who you connect with and they will help you build your tough skin.
Whatever, Heather. Who’s gonna know?
One of my favorite websites: Authors. Behaving. Badly.
This website is the epitome of what NOT to do.
Spoiler alert! I’m going to talk about the first author on the list, Jacqueline Howett. I have never read this author and therefore have no comment on the quality of her work. However, I do have a very
negative strong opinion about how she conducted herself in a public forum.
There are 308 comments on the thread. THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHT! They’re mostly of the author arguing the reviewer’s ineptitude followed by comments about people who are embarrassed/never going to read the author. Quite frankly, I’m not rushing out to buy the book no matter how good it is.
Those 308 comments are now etched forever in the seedy underbelly of the Interweb. The author tried to delete several of her own comments, but the responses make the picture pretty clear. This thread has been shared, blogged about, talked about in writer groups, and is still actively hanging around online. Every time someone googles that author, she’ll come up under “Authors Behaving Badly.”
Cautionary tale, my friends. Cautionary tale.
Remember how I mentioned in the last installment that I used to get paid to search people on social media when they applied for jobs? I was really good. Don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want your future boss to read because I guarantee you I’m not the only one who looks.
But what if the reader doesn’t know what they’re talking about?! I should respond, right?
Listen, readers don’t know everything. Authors don’t know everything. I mean, who does?
Here’s an example that was very hard to not respond to:
One of my dearest author friends, MK Schiller, is Indian and wrote an absolutely beautiful Romeo & Juliet type story called Variables of Love with an Indian heroine. As all great authors do, MK researched her culture extensively and even had proofreaders currently living in India confirm her details. (Side note: No matter how familiar you are with something, from cultures to cities to diseases, you should always get a second and third opinion after doing your own research. But I digress…)
She received the following Goodreads review (shortened for blog purposes):
I was very eager to read this book since it has an indian heroine. but i was very disappointed.The author i felt didnt do a lot of research into indian culture i felt. it was small details but it still she should have looked into it while writing. for example the heroine is a punjabi supposedly and punjabis in my knowledge loves non veg food. but in the book she and her family are hard core vegetarians and it was said they became so because of the indian culture which is not true. also the heroine was said to ba a hindu but punjabis follow sikhism which is a completely different religion. it was small small things like these but it still made it hard to enjoy the book…
The reader’s life experience is clearly different than MK’s, so what is true for MK is not true for the reader.
The point? Just because your life experience is different, it does NOT invalidate someone else’s experience.
My opinion on how she should have worded the review:
“I’m unfamiliar with MK’s background, but my life experience lends itself more toward this-this-and-this, which is different than what was represented in the book.”
I’m going to level with you. This review still irks me. I really want to respond! (KEEP ME STRONG INTERNET! KEEP ME STRONG!) I’ve literally responded and deleted the comment twice. Why? Because I remember this blog post.
You take all my fun away. What can I do instead?
- Call your bestie!
- Cry your eyes out over Ben & Jerry’s.
- Watch your favorite movie.
- And my all time favorite: Read the bad reviews of your favorite authors! It will put everything in perspective. It truly works. Even Jane Austen gets terrible reviews.
- Know that this feeling will pass. It will make you feel like absolutely crap, no doubt about it. But acknowledge it happened, accept that it happened, and Shake it Off!
So now the million dollar question: Is it ever okay to respond to a bad review?
Definitely consult with your agent/publicist/lawyer first. Also, report any personal attacks immediately! You’re going too need to respond, not react. Read and reread your answer. Read it to your family, your critique group, your agent/publicist/lawyer.
The best example I have of a classy response to an accusation – albeit not a review – was from the amazing, wonderful, can-I-please-be-your-best-friend John Green. (I swear I’m not creepy…)
You can read about it here. Paraphrasing here – a woman accused him of being a pedophile for writing books that appeal to teenage girls.
“Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children…When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.”
Well done, John Green. Well done.
So, enough of my lecture for the day. I hope you read this and remember – Reviews can be used for good! Spread that love, ignore the hate. Make sure to ask me any questions in the comments that I didn’t answer.
Keep in mind, all this is just my own opinion from my own experience. Take it with a grain of salt! (And maybe a lime…)
Fun fact alert! July 23, 2015 is known for:
Sounds like a fun combination, AmIRight?!
Want to be a part of a future blog post or Wine Time interview? I’m looking for pictures of author’s writing caves by August 6 for a fun contest. Also looking for author/editor/industry interviews for my monthly Wine Time post! Email me at heathernovak.author at gmail dot com if you’re interested.
Wishing You Laughter & Good Books,
Bold. Bewitching. Breathtaking.
Author of Hunting Witch Hazel featured in Falling Hard (A New Adult Anthology).