Criticism Is Inevitable (Small Press Publishing)

The reviews on books can be frustrating at times. You put so much money, effort, and energy into creating a great reading experience and then anyone can come along and say “this sucked.” In the world of Amazon and book blogs and the Internet in general, every single person has an opinion and they’re ready to share it. As is their right. You shared your perspective by writing the book and now it is their turn to share theirs.

blogpostcritism

Let’s take Love In Touch as an example.

  • I went over the manuscript and suggested changes, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired an editor to go over the manuscript, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired a proofreader to go over the manuscript and those changes were made.
  • I went over it again.

At this point I’m pretty confident that we’re in great shape and the typos and grammar mistakes have been caught and corrected.

Then after getting a bunch of glowing reviews, one reviewer on Amazon blasts us, saying that the book is “riddled with errors” and is “unreadable” and “the publisher should be ashamed.”

And it being an Amazon review, there’s not really any opportunity to respond to this criticism.

I am unable to find the errors she is talking about and no other reviewers say this. I leave a comment on the review to ask for examples but she doesn’t respond.

So what can you do about criticism?

Nothing.

A bad review might sometimes clue you in to something you could be doing better with your books, but I’ve found that that’s rare. Usually it is one person’s opinion and it says more about them that it does about you or your book (or your author’s book).

And every person is allowed to feel however they want to about your book. It’s out there in the world making its own friends and enemies. It’s not in your control anymore. If you don’t want anyone to say bad things about it, don’t publish it.

Because tastes vary and there’s definitely going to be people who don’t like your book. There’s nothing you can do about that. Focus on the people who did like it!

The most frustrating part is that that bad review, that opinion, is now connected to your book and other potential readers are seeing it. It’s dragging down your overall rating.

But still there’s not much you can do about it.

It always, always, always looks bad if you respond to a review. No matter how politely you try to approach it, you’ll always look like the big bad guy trying to silence the underdog reviewer (and more than just look it, that will pretty much be exactly what you are). You’re likely to come across as insecure and desperate which is also not a good look.

The best thing to do is to completely ignore it.

Assuming the review is just hateful and an attack on you rather than the book, treat it like your annoying little brother who will get bored and wander away if he can’t bait you. Not to mention if you don’t grace the person with a response, then they’re left looking shrill and alone.

If the review is focused on the book, then it’s not a bad review. It is doing what it’s supposed to do. No matter how much you might disagree with it, negative reviews have an important purpose and it has nothing to do with you.

Trust the readers.

Trust them to read the review and know whether or not it applies to their enjoyment of the book. If it’s just a personal attack, new potential readers will just roll their eyes and buy the book anyway.

If it brings up things in the book that the reviewer didn’t like, then maybe the potential new reader knows they dislike the same things and then they don’t buy it which saves you from a second bad review!

When I’m trying to decide if I’ll buy a book, I start by reading the lowest reviews. I’ll see if the things that bothered those reviewers are things that would bother me. Often they are not and then I feel confident in trusting the higher rating reviews.

I admit that the accusation of typos is a particularly difficult one to deal with. Numerous typos in books is something that I find difficult to deal with so if I see a review claiming a book has them, I might avoid that book (although I usually read the sample chapter, the “look inside” to see for myself).

That’s why for the Love In Touch situation, I attempted to get in touch with the reviewer. What she is claiming is simply not true.

If you’re a reader and a book buyer (which if you’re here, I would assume you are!) please don’t take reviews at face value. Every review is written by a person with his or her own biases and assumptions. There are cases where reviewers will claim there are typos in a book in order to sell the author on their own editing services! Always check out the sample yourself before you believe a reviewer who claims there are typos.

If you’re an author, I highly suggest never reading your reviews. Tough perhaps, but you’ll be saner for it and better able to focus on creating your next masterpiece.

What should you do instead?

I suggest having an email address for your writing that you share on social media. The emails from readers will give you a much clearer picture of your work.

When someone privately emails you that means…

  1. They are highly motivated and not someone who is just going to dash off the first things that come to their mind. They had to put some effort in to find your contact info.
  2. Because it is private, you know that they want to help you and commune with you, not show off their literary criticism skills to the world

There’s nothing more special than getting an email or a letter from a fan telling you how much they loved your work. And when someone reaches out to criticize through email, it is much more often stated in constructive ways.

Respect and value the book bloggers even when they don’t like your book. They are serving readers and not you. Just step away and let that process do what it’s meant to do. And go write another book. Strive to make it better than your  last. But know that you’ll never write the perfect book that every person on the planet will adore.

Check out the reviews for classic books. It’ll make you feel in good company.

2 comments on “Criticism Is Inevitable (Small Press Publishing)

  1. lizn0829 says:

    I’ve encountered mean reviewers on previous works for desperate editors that tell me they know better than the editor that I hired. In blogging, there are two lines I draw from reviewers. One-no character assignations on me and two no profanity from reviewers.

    I look as it just doesn’t fit their tastes and all readers are subjective. I don’t respond to a rude comments in my blogs because I don’t want the traffic to go to their blog.

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