There comes a time in every author’s life when he or she will receive the inevitable: the terrible, horrible, so-bad review that you want to jump inside of your computer and rip it off the web so no one who ever knows you, much less anyone who has never met you, will read you and judge you by it.
Welcome to the life of a public figure. It’s almost a hazing ritual, it’s so common.
I remember receiving my first truly terrible, TERRIBLE review, even almost three years later. My debut book was coming out that week, I was admittedly a bundle of frayed nerves, upset intestines and barely-coherent brain waves. But – until that point – all of my reviews had been positive, and frankly, let’s be honest, I thought my book was pretty damn good. So there I was, on a lazy Sunday morning, surfing the web, when my google alert came on. “Ooh, I’m in the Washington Post!,” I thought. I scrambled to check it out.
Blood rushed to my cheeks, time stood still, I probably screamed.
Not only did this reviewer not like my book, she EVISCERATED it. Just gutted it inside and out. It was so bad that my agent called me to see if I knew said reviewer and had personally wronged her at some point in our lives. (I’m serious. And I didn’t and I hadn’t.) Once my pulse returned to semi-normal, I tried to put it out of my mind. I deleted my google alert email, vowed never to pull up the review in my browser again, and may or may not have also wished a few terrible things on the reviewer, all the while contemplating a voodoo doll or something similar.
A week later, I was almost laughing about it, and a few weeks later, I definitely was. And now, I’ve even gone so far as to tweet about it (when the hilarious Josh Malina -@joshmalina -called for people to post their worst reviews) because, well…with time, comes perspective. And this is what I’ve learned:
Not everyone is going to love your book. Hell, not everyone is even going to like your book. Some people are going to think it’s a big pile of dung.
There is nothing you can do about this. You can’t convince them otherwise, you can’t tell them not to say this publicly. You can’t, even, get them to delete their Amazon review. You HAVE to realize that just as you’ve read books in the past and thought, “eh,” someone, somewhere out there is going to think the same of yours. This is part of the game of putting yourself out there. I think this gets easier with every book you publish. With your first one, you think, “I AM A GOLDEN GOD,” and with your second one (and so on), you realize that you’re a good writer who some people love…and who some people do not. That’s just life, that’s just the nature of our business. If reviews truly bother you, try to limit reading them. To be honest, I only check out Goodreads a couple of times a year because people seem to enjoy writing truly horrific reviews there, so…why bother? I mean, again, what am I going to do about it?
The answer is nothing. I wrote my books as well as I could have written them. The end. That’s all. I remind myself of this whenever someone posts a lovely 1-star review on Amazon (I’m talking to you, lady, who couldn’t take my “fowl” language), or whenever someone is having a bad day and feels like taking it out on my book. The goal of an author can’t be to be universally loved – it just has to be to write books that you love. The rest, as they say, is gravy.
(And now, I expect a lot of high praise and positive flattery – raves and applause are welcome – in the comments section!) Hee.