One of the hardest things for an author to face is someone who doesn’t like their work. I’ve been dealing with this for a long time. I dealt with it in high school, college, and recently with my book releases. When I released Cinders, I attended a book group where half the group hated my book. They had expected a traditional Disney-type fairy tale. One reader admitted she was expecting talking animals and pumpkins. One reader said she didn’t like the story because of the ending and how unlikeable Cinderella is. It was an interesting conversation, but a good one. I learned how to deal with that kind of rejection in person, how to compose myself in a way and adjust my thoughts to a perspective which allows for the possibility that the entire freaking world is not going to love my work and bow down to my big ego and obvious genius. Because, well, I’ll admit, sometimes that’s what we writers think deep down, isn’t it? We are geniuses for what we’ve written! In a lot of ways, it’s true, but in more ways, it’s so not true. Not even close.
One thing I’ve come to realize is that yes, what I’ve written and what is published and out there is genius for me to have written at the time I wrote it and for who I am and what it took to get it out there the way that it is. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s genius for everyone. As we all know, that tiny little word, SUBJECTIVITY, is not tiny. It’s huge. It’s so huge that it shapes our world and every single thought and person in it.
So back to reviews. Guess how I deal with them?
#1 – Respect
Before I move onto #2, I want to make it clear that I respect and appreciate every single reader who takes a chance on my work, and I respect even more those who put up reviews and rate my fiction – no matter what that review or rating says. REVIEWS ARE IMPORTANT AND HIGHLY APPRECIATED!!!!!!!!!! They help a book’s visibility and perception, even if they are negative reviews. That said, I must move on to #2.
#2 – I Stay in My Own Space
Please don’t kill me, but I don’t read reviews anymore outside of a few exceptions. Unless a reader emails or messages me about their review, I do not read them, and even then, I click with caution. I especially don’t go looking for reviews. It’s my very strong opinion that reviews are not for the author. They seriously are just not any of my business. If reviews are written for the author, the reviewer will email the author with their thoughts. Or at least that’s how it should be. Besides, reviews are posted everywhere. I don’t have time to go looking for every review posted, anyway. Not even Google Alerts serves up every review to an inbox. I guess what I’m saying here is that if you want me to read your review, let me know about it by emailing me, because there’s very little chance that I’m going to run across it online.
#3 – Some People Just Don’t Like Uncomfortable Fiction
Cinders is uncomfortable in a lot of ways. So is True Colors, my collection of literary short stories. I knew it wouldn’t grab a lot of people, which is why I didn’t even consider asking my publisher to publish it. I just did it myself. I’ve already received several emails from readers informing me that they don’t care for the book. At all. (I’m adding this later, but some of those emails are from people who signed up to review the book, so that’s why they emailed me). A year ago, this would have hurt me a lot, but now? Well, I just shrug and figure it’s not their cup of tea. Sometimes I think the book needs a warning on the front that says, CAUTION: CONTAINS EXPERIMENTAL AND LITERARY FICTION, AND NONE OF THEM HAVE TRADITIONAL HAPPY ENDINGS. Okay, I’m being silly, but still, I’m always afraid that everyone expects purely entertaining and happy fiction every time they pick up a book. When they get something that is completely different, it’s uncomfortable. College taught me to adore uncomfortable fiction. It makes me think. It makes me see my world and myself differently. It broadens my scope and gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when I really let it sink in. So why doesn’t everybody like uncomfortable fiction? That’s easy! They read for entertainment and happy escape only, and I get that. I so get that because there are times when that’s why I read, too.
#4 – I Do Not Respond to Negativity/I Appreciate the Negativity
I’ve had issues with this in the past, and I’ve slipped a few times, but for the most part, I just don’t respond to negativity. If someone emails me about hating my stuff, or if I’ve run across a terrible review, there is no point to responding with an argument. In fact, there’s no point in getting upset at all. I used to. I’ve spent a lot of time ranting and getting pissed off about people’s opinions. I’ve taken things personally. I’ve thought, “Why can’t people see how mean this is to say such awful things in a way that tears me down?”
First of all, I don’t think 99% of the negative/constructive reviews out there are meant to tear an author down. They are opinions, and oftentimes the reader feels so passionate about the book that an author should be pleased that their work inspired such passion! Nothing is worse than feeling nothing at all for a piece of fiction.
Diverse reviews = diverse fiction.
I, for one, adore diverse, complicated, and/or controversial fiction. Mixed reviews usually mean I’ll like it.
#5 – Art is What it Is
Perhaps this should be #1, because I think one of the most important things I’ve learned about being an author is that what I create is an expression of myself. It’s art. Much of it may not be high-brow and important art, but it’s art nonetheless, and art is not something anyone should put up for negotiation. This is why it’s so difficult to attach a price to a book, which in turn attaches a value to the work that the artist might not feel does it justice. And in actuality, a price tag never does art any sort of justice, even if it’s crap. This is also why reviews can feel so harsh and unfair, and I’ll be the first to admit that even glowing reviews are forgotten in my head. For some reason, all I ever remember are the negative ones I’ve happened to read. The brain has a funny way of doing that. At least my brain does.
My point here is that I have to constantly remind myself that my writing is not up for negotiation from me. I’ve put it out into the world because I want to share it – and at that point, I have no control over that piece of art anymore.
It is what it is.
And because it is what it is, there is nothing I can or want to do differently for that piece of art. It’s out there to be enjoyed, hated, ignored, whatever. And that means it’s time for me to write another book! Writers like to do that!
My question today is do you expect authors to read your reviews? If you’re published, how do you deal with reviews?