Bad Reviews

In my imagination, my skin is two feet thick.
And water-proof.
Scathing criticisms and rotten tomatoes just roll off leaving no inner wounds or impossible-to-remove stains.
This is what I tell myself.
I also tell myself that it is better to be reviewed (whether positively or negatively) than not at all. Because if your work is not reviewed it’s because it had no impact whatsoever.
It was ‘meh’.
Meh is bad.
A book should make a reader feel/think something. Even if that ‘something’ is ‘what a piece of trash’.
Anyway, this is what I have told myself and what my agent and editor have also told me.
But the reality of it is.
A bad review will probably act on me as salt acts on a slug.
I will shrivel up and die and turn into a blackened piece of old shoe leather.
I know myself.
For all my tough, punk girl exterior, I am a wuss poof.
I kept all my rejection letters. But it was only after finally being published that I could read them with any equanimity.
The second time round I asked my agent not to tell me any details of any rejections I received. “Only the good news.” So he did. And the good news was wonderful and unadulterated by prior heartbreak.
And ditto for this the third time around. Though I am still waiting for the good news.
Apparently my skin is thicker but not armor-plate yet.
I know that many authors never read their reviews. With the proliferation of rating systems on public sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc…) you can give a 2-star review with a click of the button and without any explanation. Maybe you didn’t like the cover? Maybe your package arrived damaged in the mail? A lot of people don’t read the reviews, they just look at the ratings and order(or not) accordingly. So they might decide not to buy a book based on a low rating which may be undeserved. Who knows? Conversely a book may rate highly because my I mean, someone’s mother, aunties, sisters, brothers, dad and first cousins once-removed all gave it 5 stars.
Those star systems are not so carefully considered. They are purely emotional reaction. There may be other forces at work. (Mean, jealous book goblins, mayhaps). But I bet more people make their decisions based on them than they do on a NY Times Book Review. Or by leisurely browsing in a bookstore or library.
Who has time for that?
I’d hate to miss out on some great review, where the reviewer totally got the book and adored it. But I think, just to be safe, I’ll take the advice of other writers and give the whole thing a miss. If necessary my agent and/or editor can paraphrase the good bits for me.
How do you handle poor reviews? Are you ninja or worm-like about them?

4 thoughts on “Bad Reviews

  1. I completely agree about the star system on Amazon–most people give it a quick glance “Hmm, four and a half stars…must be great.” buyer hits ‘add to cart’ button.

    But, along with this, very few people, living outside of NY area, actually read ‘professional’ book reviews. And I mean few in comparison to the book buying population as a whole. The stars are so popular, and relied upon, because they are like word of mouth, or at least a second cousin of word of mouth.

    Should I be blessed with publication (just went out on submission) I would like to think I would be able to ignore bad reviews and would try to concentrate on generating a word of mouth buzz. Of course, it goes without saying that I would have had to have written something buzz worthy in the first place.

    But, like you, I’m not sure my skin is really as thick as I imagine it to be. They are ‘professional’ reviewers after all 🙂

  2. I think that all of us think we can handle it until the cold hard truth hits and then …whimper…splat.
    Better to take the advice of countless career novelists and best-sellers who ignore it all.
    I do think that even the best review will fail to satisfy completely. Knowing myself as I do, I would glom onto the less than raving part and torture myself with it.
    I do get that the star system is easy and useful. I use it myself when deciding. And am often curious to read the 1 star reviews for books which are almost universally popular or well critiqued.
    Good luck with your submission process, Becky! And thanks for commenting.

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