Every writer who goes into the publishing business, whether through the traditional route, or self-publishing, will receive a negative review at some point in their life. Sometimes it can be straight away, where others will wait years for that moment. It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, someone will always dislike your work. It’s a style thing, personal preference, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
In some ways, I think it’s better to get it over with. To have that negative review right out of the gate. That way you know what’s coming. You know how to handle it right off the bat, instead of getting into your stride and being blindsided when you least expect it.
There is also the element of expectation, and how we build the bad things up in our mind. The longer you wait for that bad review, the more you it will hurt when it finally hits. The surprise, having not received one before, will make that sting all the worse. Like when you’re a kid and you scrape your knee. It doesn’t hurt that much, but we’re so surprised that it makes us cry.
Well, last night, after an evening at my local writing group, I came home to have the odd feeling that the figures for Dead and Buryd on my Goodreads account weren’t what I remembered. So, I checked it out. Sure enough, I had a new rating (I’d known that 13 was a 12 the last time I looked.) I even had a new little review.
A bad one.
I’m not going to scream and cry about how the review is wrong, or why I feel crap about it. Yes, there are elements in the review that make me mutter ‘but… but… but I said that!’ under my breath, but the point is, it doesn’t matter. The justification of why they didn’t like the book doesn’t matter. The fact is, they didn’t like it, and there is nothing I can do about it.
So yes, I had my little pity party while watching an episode of Castle and I sulked a little bit. I lay awake for an hour, wondering how I only made it 19 days after release before my first negative review. But what am I actually going to do about it? Nothing.
There is evidence of people giving bad reviews before even reading the book, good reviews too. There are also people who attack the author instead of focusing on why they didn’t like the book. On the other hand, there are authors who attack bad reviews, who gather their fans and create an onslaught of online abuse to people who dare to publicly say “This wasn’t for me.” Sometimes it’s because they received the book for free, so people don’t think they have the right to say bad things. To me, it doesn’t matter how they got it. They spent time reading it, so they have the right to give their opinion.
There are crimes and victims on both sides, and in my opinion, the only way to stay innocent is to stay out of it.
Then you have people who ‘like’ the good reviews and ignore the bad. This is slightly better, it’s connecting with fans after all, but it can be seen as dismissive when bad reviews are ignored. Even Goodreads have warned that authors who consistently ‘like’ their reviews and respond to them can be seen as spamming.
Therefore, I made a decision when I first published Dead and Buryd. I made the choice not to respond to a single review. I would not click ‘like’ on Goodreads and I would not comment on Amazon.
I made this decision because the bad reviews are just as valid as the good. I also chose this path because I want to remain professional. I don’t want to give readers a reason to attack me instead of my writing. Maybe it will happen anyway, but if it does, I have the peace of mind to say ‘I am innocent in this.’ I have the evidence to show that I have not condoned or dismissed anyone’s opinion on my work, and I accept them all equally.
Yes, the bad reviews sting, but I don’t want to turn an innocent sting into a gaping wound that will damage me for years to come.
So, please, if you’ve read Dead and Buryd, whatever you think of it, write a review. Write about the parts you loved and the things you hated. Whether it is brutal criticism or singing praise, know that I will appreciate every word. I will simply do so quietly and without response. On the other hand, if you would specifically like a response, you can always contact me.