Take a seat my darlings, we’re going to have a bit of a talk.
They say there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. If you’re an author, you can add getting negative reviews to that list.
I’m afraid that I’m not going to pussy-foot around here. Negative reviews are a part of the publishing process. You are going to get some, at some point. How you choose to deal with them is important.
I’ve had negative reviews, and my reactions ranged from shrugging them off, to agreeing with them, to doing a happy dance. I’m not going to tell you that they don’t hurt like a sonofabitch. They do, especially in the beginning when it’s your first or second book. You need to put on your big author pants and deal with it though. For your sanity, and for the sake of your business, because publishing is a business.
I’m afraid that criticism, whether from your beta readers, your editor, or readers, is a natural part of this entire journey. You need to learn how to deal with that as early as possible. Some people choose not to read their reviews, fantastic, if it works for them, awesome! Personally I do read mine because I like seeing the trends there. Do I have a common thread where people complain that Bob’s too much of a beta male? Did they consistently love the action scenes? I can, and do try to learn from those reviews. They’re feedback. They’re insight into the readers’ experience of my books.
How you choose to deal with them is down to you.
Some of them you can shrug off. There will always be those who have nothing to offer you, for example someone complaining that my use of British English is stupid and the book’s full of typos. That has nothing of value to me.
Some of them are valuable, as I said, if you see a number of people with the same (or similar) complaint or compliment, learn from it.
Oh and don’t be super sad when you get your first negative review. Celebrate! That means that you got out of your little social circle! It means that you’re getting somewhere, you’re reaching shiny new people. Ok so they weren’t overly impressed with your book, but there are other people. Other new shiny people who also read your book! That’s a big step. Do a little dance.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy. You poured your heart and soul into that book. You bled onto those pages (hopefully not literally) and offered yourself up for public consumption. That’s hard! That’s terrifying!
That’s why you need to learn to step back and see that those reviews are comments on your book not you. Learn what you can, scream at your cat, eat your ice-cream, then move on. Do better next time. Learn from the criticism. Embrace the compliments. The world’s a big, scary, harsh place. Put on a smile and write the next book.
Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone in this. Oh and whatever you do, do not acknowledge or respond to a negative review publicly. Never. Ever. Do that. If you need to rant to your BFF in private, great. Do that. Do not, ever, talk about it in public though.
I have faith in you. I know you can do this.