It’s a very brave thing we do, getting our work published. Yes, it’s exciting and everything, getting a book or a painting or a piece of music or a photo out there in public. But as soon as you do that, the work is immediately open to criticism. The more widely known your work is, the more open to criticism by total strangers it becomes and some of them don’t take prisoners.
I got a bad review for one of my books the other day. Somebody really didn’t like it. At all. I mentioned the fact on Twitter and commenced a fascinating discussion with a couple of fellow-writers about ‘reviews’ and our responses.
Was I ‘hurt’, one asked. No. A long time ago I might have been but now I saw it almost as a rite of passage that an anonymous reader felt strongly enough about my work to comment. Who am I to cast stones? I love Terry Pratchett and JRR Tolkien; lots hate their work. I’m less than luke warm about ‘The Da Vinci Code’. Do you think Dan Brown cares? I love Harry Potter, haven’t (wouldn’t/couldn’t) read ‘Twilight’. I despise James Joyce’s work. Why should I be immune?
By the end of a long discourse conducted in 140 character bites my fellow writers and I agreed that readers were entitled to an opinion, wondered why people bothered writing vitriol about a free book, found that negative reviews didn’t necessarily mean a drop in readers. Criticism is acceptable provided it does not transfer to the author. ‘I Hate your story’ should not come across as ‘you’re an idiot’. Sometimes, though, it will, because the internet is anonymous and it’s so very easy to cast a verbal rock through a window and hide. Those we simply have to rise above and learn to ignore. These people don’t know us (the person) – only our work.
The world turns, as it does every day, and the day after the bad review I discovered a wonderful, glowing review for a different book. I don’t deny I prefer those and it certainly balanced any bad feelings I might have had. Yin and Yang. Black and White. It’s all a matter of opinion.
For those interested, the bad review was for the short story ‘Supertech’ and you’ll find it on Goodreads. You’ll find good reviews on all my books and no, they are not all from family (my family doesn’t read my work) and friends.
So please share with me, fellow writers; how do you take ‘negative’ reviews?