In my writing career I have been blessed with many lovely reviews of my books for which I am eternally grateful. But like any author I have also received some absolute shockers. Eg:
“Stupid. Pathetic. Plotless. Stupid. Pathetic. Plotless. Stupid. Did I say pathetic? Oh yeah, and plotless. There’s not much to say about this book…It was that bad. I don’t even have enough respect for the book to review it properly, I’m just warning you to never ever ever ever ever ever ever read it.” (Goodreads Reader’s Review of Don’t Call Me Ishmael)
The fact that the majority of my bad reviews come from close family and friends really just adds to the pain.
So as befits my reputation as a humanitarian, I have put together some suggestions that I’m hoping will assist my fellow writers when dealing with the inevitable, less-than-complimentary reader responses.
I give you: TEN SURE-FIRE WAYS TO COPE WITH A BAD REVIEW.
1. Read the review carefully and pick up on any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors however minor, so that you can use them to undermine the credibility of the reviewer.
Eg for the review above: “Aaaa-ha! There should have been a full stop after ‘properly’ not a comma! This person is obviously illiterate – and probably a devil worshipping serial killer! What would they know about literature.”
2. Convince yourself that the review was really written by some famous author who was just insanely jealous of your brilliance and was trying to sabotage your success.
Eg for above: “Hey, I recognise that turn of phrase. You bastard Markus!!!”
3. Use Babelfish fish to translate the review into another language, preferably one with which you are unfamiliar. This will make it sound much more palatable. For instance, a comment like “This book really sucks big time!” in French becomes “Ce livre suce vraiment le de premier rang!” Really? You think my book is the ‘premier rang’? Awesome!
Unfortunately this tactic isn’t always a hundred percent effective, as the following Babelfish translation of part of my review above shows.
“Stupide. Pathétique. Plotless. Stupide. Pathétique. Plotless. Stupide. Est-ce que j’ai dit pathétique ? Oh ouais, et plotless … ” (I think you’ll agree, the gist of the review is probably still evident to the discerning reader.)
4. Just man-(or woman)-up and take it on the chin! Seek comfort in the good reviews you’ve received from readers in the past who have genuinely enjoyed your writing. Welcome the criticism, however harsh, with good grace, and understand that each reader is different and will come to your work with his or her own unique tastes, values and life experiences. Don’t fear criticism or resent it. Learn to accept it, embrace it and move on. And this above all else, be happy and content with the knowledge that you did your very best and that you put your heart and soul into everything you wrote – even if not everyone else appreciates your efforts. (Sorry, just jokin’. Thought I’d slip a really ridiculous one in for a laugh.)
5. Use it as a tool for improvement. Look for any tips, techniques or constructive criticism in the review and try to apply them to your writing. Perhaps make a list (see blog 24 ) of the important things you must remember for next time.
Eg: 1. Avoid being ‘stupid’ and ‘pathetic’ (apparently this is bad) 2. Include a ‘plot’ 3. Google ‘plot’ 4. Try using repetition for emphasis 5. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever read my own book
6. Rebut the criticism leveled at you calmly and pleasantly with wit, intelligence and logic.
Eg: “Oh yeah? Well you smell!” or perhaps“I’m stupid and pathetic? Well, do you know who I think is stupid and pathetic? Me! No, wait on, YOU! That’s who!”
7. Write a Letter to the Editor quoting large slabs of the review as clear proof that the Government needs to spend more money supporting people with mental health issues.
8. Desperately trawl the web for reviews of other people’s books that are even more scathing and negative than yours and take heart from someone else’s misery.
9. Drink to forget.
10. Write a blog.