Bad Reviews and the First Time Author

“It is better to do your own duty badly than to perfectly do another’s.”

The Bhagavad Gita

Bad reviews are the tough part of being published. Not that there aren’t other things that are difficult once your first book comes into the world, but reviews from people who hate your work can be devastating, especially for first time authors. Please know that everybody, and I mean everybody, gets them.

No matter how hard we work to write a good story, to hone our craft, to develop our characters and our story arcs, even the most careful, meticulous work will not please everyone. Even when most of the people who read our work understand and enjoy it, even when most are moved as well as entertained, there will always be people who do not speak our language, who are not a part of our tribe, who simply will not like our books. Sometimes the voice of the author bothers a reader, or the author’s style. Sometimes a reader does not like the protagonist. As hard as it is to read those reviews, those people are entitled to their opinions and to their voices, just as we are. Hard to accept when they hate what we do, but accepting the reality of bad reviews and differing opinions is a necessary part of being a professional author.

Those are the people who read a book and genuinely, honestly, and openly do not like it.

Then there are the destroyers.

There are some people in the world who live to tear things down. They don’t seem to have much interest in what they attack, or whom. They do it for sport, because they like the taste of blood, because they can. I don’t pay much attention to these people anymore.  It’s easier for me now simply not to read these reviews, but when I began this work, they were very tough to take.

In this world of opposites, destroyers have their place. But remember always that you also have yours. Every writer, every artist, must face those who would tear down their work simply because it is there. Creators have always gone on creating in the midst of destruction. I think that will be the true harbinger of the end of the world: when creative people lay down their pens, and allow themselves to be silenced.

Do not be silenced. Keep writing. The world needs your stories. No one else can speak with your voice. No one can tell your stories but you.

15 Responses to “Bad Reviews and the First Time Author

  • Beautiful, articulate post, Christy!

    I’ve recently experienced a couple of destroyers myself but in the end just had to laugh about it. Life is too short. Instead I choose to seek out those who understand and appreciate what I am trying to do with my books- and THOSE people are a true delight!

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Thank you, Emery. It is hard to hear criticism of our novels, but not everybody likes what we like. So I guess we live and let live, avoid destroyers, and keep on writing 🙂

  • I have a good way of softening the blow. I read the review aloud in the most over-the-top whine I can muster. It really comes out sounding so silly it makes me laugh.

    The harder part is deciding what to take seriously for the next book and what to shrug off.

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Laurel, you crack me up. That’s funny…to read it out loud. I agree too that within the bad reviews that are legitimate reviews by people who have read the book, sometimes they find flaws that I need to take into account to make the next book better.

  • I’ll repeat part of what I just said elsewhere. Never in my professional life did I get 100% accolades, no matter how good the work product. I think that true for plumber or doctor or author. So learn from what your critic says, if possible, and move on.

  • I’ve had my share of bad reviews. Most had actual criticism that made sense, and once I thought about it, I was able to reject the comment or accept it. Like writers, every reader brings a different perspective to the table, and each will react to your work from that standpoint–negatively or positively. Only one review held no value for me…”The author shows such a lack of talent, I’m amazed she’s ever won any awards.” (After winning a RITA). Hmmm…kinda sad.

  • Well said, Christy. I have no problem with bad reviews when they are genuine, but I do with the “destroyers.” When these people follow an author from book to book sending in the same negative comments (that in some cases show they didn’t even read the book) it becomes a problem for everyone. How is a reader to know this is a fake review? It’s happening in every industry now, thanks to the internet. A restauranteur recently came forward to confess he’d been sending in fake negative reviews on his competitors. He found the part that worked best was when he said they ran a filthy kitchen. Many of his competitors closed up shop. New businesses, like first-time authors, are particularly vulnerable to these trolls. Eventually there will be laws passed about this kind of internet activity but meanwhile, aside from documenting their activities, I believe making the public aware that this is going on in all fields is the best protection against it.

  • Bobbi Jo
    9 years ago

    I really, really love this post. That’s true with anything. Every party needs a pooper. You’re super amazing Christy! 🙂

  • A well thought out and written post! I find this difficult as a book blog reviewer. I want to give my honest opinion on what I read, but it gives me angst to know that an author might read my review and feel crushed if I didn’t like the book. I give an honest review, but try to give a balanced review about a book that I didn’t like.

    I like most books I read, but sometimes for some reason, I find I don’t like a book. Sometimes they are by authors that I have honestly enjoyed other novels. I try to point out what I didn’t like and also point out that I did love their other novels. A lot of times they are books that are hyped up so much, that when I read them and find them to be terrible I am surprised.

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Thank you all for your comments. I love hearing what other people are thinking, and I am honored that you all have responded to my post. I do not mean to criticize our community of bloggers and reviewers. They fall into the first category I mention in my post, the folks who read a book and genuinely dislike it. They are not supposed to like everything, God knows, and in my experience every reviewer who has read my work for a blog has given their honest, open opinion, which I always value even when they dislike my stuff. So thank you so much for chiming in, Laura. You bring up a point that must be touched on.

    Liz and Bobbi Jo, thanks for your input. I just wanted to offer a little encouragement to folks dealing with bad reviews for the first time. We have all been there. Kiki and Sandra, you bring up valid points too…we all get bad reviews. I like the honest ones, but we must remember to guard against the destroyers who would silence us, no matter what point along the path to publishing we’re on.

  • Destroyers is a great way to describe some people and you are right, writers can’t let destroyers get them down. Great post and encouragement for all of us who have had the bad review.

  • Suggestion for those who legitimately don’t like everything about a book – don’t review it. Have the courtesy, as I have done about 6 times in the last ten years to write the author and explain why you don’t think a review is in the best reviews of an author. One or two critical comments is one thing; slash and burn is quite another. The malicious ones are just bottom feeders – ignore them – you can tell immediately the difference between a well thought-out and heartfelt review and sheer nastiness. My favorite attitude? Acknowledge what is true and shuck off the rest! Stay hungry and keep writing true authors!

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Viviane, thank you so much for adding to this dialogue. I love getting bloggers’ perspectives on this discussion. Thank you for your words of encouragement…writers need to keep writing, no matter what. 🙂

  • Scarlett Rains
    9 years ago

    Thank you for helping me regain a healthy perspective after encountering my first ‘destroyer’ this week.

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Scatlett, I’m glad my perspective helped. We all get them…you are not alone.

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