More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back away from the Send Key (Dealing with negative reviews)

Book Reviews.

There's the perfect recipe for a love hate situation if I've ever seen one.

Once authors have cracked the publishing egg, we long for them in the same breath that we dread them. Show me any story, and I'll show you good reviews, so-so ones, and yes, sometimes even bad ones. And the bad ones sting. There's no way around that.

But for the sake of your career, don't shoot the messenger. Set your emotions aside and exercise the common sense to lick your wounds in private--and never in a public forum.

Truth is, reviewers know other reviewers. They also forge relationships with the editors we submit our work to. After all, a good reviewer makes her reputation on being the first to review an upcoming novel. In order to do that, she needs to be on the editor's lists for advance review copies (ARCs). Reviewers and editors talk. A lot. Don't believe me? Keep your eyes open at the next big book conference you attend.

I received a so-so review on Wicked Temptation last week from a respected review site. On the same day, I recieved the coveted five star rating on the same story. Even reviewers have opinions. And if you pay close attention to the reviews, you might just find a way to improve your cradft.

And yes, reviewer opinions vary as wildly as their opinions on their mother's meat loaf.

I saw an author react badly to a poor review over the weekend. It completely changed my opinion of her as a human being. Will I buy her work in the future? No. Why support bad behavior? Contracts are hard to come by. I like to think they are issued to authors who conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.

No matter how talented an author is, some people aren't going to like her work. Some are going to hate it. But everyone who reads an author's public negative reaction to a bad review is going to remember her name--and not in a good way. Sure, your buddies will crowd around you, and tell you how wonderful you and your work are.

But those who don't know you, or your work? They won't.

Read my lips (keyboard?). They. Won't.

If you want your work reviewed in the future, don't shoot the messenger. Resist the urge to lash out at fellow authors you know are colleagues of your reviewer. It's a small publishing world out there. As a result, many writer blogs have authors AND reviewers on board. I know mine does. No, I don't control what our resident reviewer posts. Nor would I ever attempt to.

If you an author who is new to the review process, remind yourself before reading any review that the publishing world is smaller than most newcomers would believe. But also realize that the reviewer you piss off today may just be the one who makes enough buzz about your next book to push it onto the best seller list tomorrow. She may also be tight with the editor you just submitted your next project to.

Now there's a scary thought. And I'm pretty sure that all of us can agree that hearing our names attached to words like temperamental, vindictive and difficult is something we all want to avoid. So count to ten before spouting off in a public forum.

It may just save your career!


Writer and Cat said...

ITA. I like to deal with bad reviews by never managing to find any of my reviews. At least I assume that's what's going on, not that I'm not GETTING any *snirk*. And it's probably not a good idea to lash out about a review a friend gets, either. Just sayin' :).

Finny said...

hear, hear.

Savannah Stuart said...

Very good advice! I don't know the exact situation you're talking about but I've seen authors react badly too many times. The funny thing is, I never would have heard about them or their bad review if not for their poor public reaction. Bad reviews happen. I've gotten them and it's just part of the process. If I cared what everyone thought I'd have to quit writing, lol. Great post :)

Jennifer L Hart said...

BRAVA! Encore!! Now, repeat after me, it's not personal, it's BUSINESS. Does it hurt when our art is slammed. Abso-frigging-lutely but should we hemorrhage all over the internet how we were victimized? Misunderstood? Conspired against?

Think Hemingway would care I’d rather stick my foot in a fresh cow pie than read one of his great works of literature? Well, no because he’s dead but that’s beside the point.

Get over yourself, in 100 years who will care?

Knocked this one outta the park, Liane ;-)

SarannaDeWylde said...

This topic seems to be on everyone's mind lately. *g*

This was a thoughtful post and great advice to any writer, experienced or not.

I've had a few ugly reviews myself, but I asked the reviewer specifically what she thought I could improve and thanked her for reading and the review. There are so many books to choose from and they didn't have to pick yours up. So, you did something right. :)

And I am in total agreement, not everyone will like everything you write. My husband doesn't read my work because he doesn't care for the genre. Does that mean he doesn't support me? No, far from it. He works two jobs so I can stay home and write. A lot of the time, it's just a matter of taste.

Anonymous said...

I am aware of the author you're talking about and I read the review and her blog post about it.

She didn't attack the reviewer or her opinion in the blog post, she called in to question the timing and connection to her competitor.

If one of her co-bloggers had done the same to one of you during the Dorchester contest what would your reaction be?

You can sit back and say you'd rise above, but I bet the shock would have driven you to blog about it too - just like you did here today.

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