There’s been a big kerfuffle (I love that word) on the net lately about authors and reviewers and bad reviews, so I might as well throw my ten cents in the scuffle.
First: I do my best to avoid reading reviews. Of course I love good reviews, but they’re usually mixed in with the bad reviews. And one bad review can ruin a whole week if it’s bad enough (consider, ten people can tell you those jeans look great but let one person say they’re too tight and make you look fat and I guarantee you’ll remember the ‘fat’ comment more vividly).
Since I think my books are well-written, interesting, and fun, I’m not going to be in a great mood if I read something that says they’re trash. And there’s enough to be unhappy about in this world without making it worse. So please, do NOT send me URLS to sites where they’re bashing my books because I don’t want to read them. If you want to counter them, post a good review instead of arguing about the bad ones.
Now, if they are—like a couple of reviewers have in the past—bashing ME about my looks or whatever, fuck ‘em. They’re pathetic. I don’t want to know about that either. Rachel Ray has an entire community of anti-fans who do nothing but bash her—if that’s how they want to spend their life, well, that’s their choice. Pathetic waste of time, IMO, but hey, it’s their time to waste. (And no, I’m not a Rachel Ray fan. Nor am I an anti-fan. She is what she is…and she’s made a success out of her life, so more power to her).
Second, even if the review is balanced and fair—which is a good thing—there’s nothing I can do about the parts they don’t like now. I can’t go back and change the book—it’s already written and on the shelves. And even if I could change my book, I wouldn’t because these are MY worlds and I write the books the way I feel they need to be written. The books will work for some people and not for others—that’s life. But the books HAVE to work for ME.
And not all parts of all books will work for the readers who do like them. That's simply fact. It’s like a great meal where maybe the dessert is a bit oversweet or the soup a little salty—it was still good, but not necessarily five-star. It happens.
So while a balanced, fair review is wonderful—I’m still going to try to avoid reading it.
Third: People have the right to hate my book. They have a right to say they hate my book. And I have the right to think they’re prudes or that they really didn’t read the book or that they’re an idiot or that they just had a bad day or…maybe just maybe…my book isn’t the right book for them. However—and this is key-I’m not going public and informing the reviewer of my thoughts, especially on their blog. That’s SO NOT a good idea when you’re a writer.
Why is this not a good idea?
Because, no matter what, I won’t be able to change their minds by telling them what I think and they can’t make me think I wrote a bad book with their review, so, you know, unless I want to start a major flamefest and make myself look like a thin-skinned jackass, I say we just live and let live. Bad reviews are an occupational hazard. So reviewers can say they hate my book, the people who love my books can say they love them, and I can say “I write my books the way I write them and I’m happy with them.”
Fourth: What it comes down to: how to handle bad reviews when you do come across them? Remember that ALL reviews are subjective. They are one person’s opinion. Nothing more. Good or bad, it comes down to that one person saying what they feel about your book. Don’t let the good reviews give you a swelled head, don’t let the bad reviews break your heart. Be grateful for the readers who love your work and buy it and support you as an author. And when you need to, vent OUT OF PUBLIC EYE to friends who understand.
And then…just remember: take it with a grain of salt, sometimes with a laugh over the ridiculous ones (and there WILL BE ridiculous reviews), focus on your work and be grateful you have readers who love your words.