You know it’s a sad day when I’m emailed about a vlogger taking to the airwaves to condemn reviewers with this comment, “negative reviewers are haters.” Then in a patronizing voice say, “it’s not you, it’s them.”
Honest negative reviews don’t come from haters! I personally don’t review a book I’ve not liked. I don’t because I can really tear someone apart (years of experience defending a special needs daughter is a bias society). Nothing is worse than a mama bear with an education and a creative knack for the written word. And just for the record, if I don’t review a book I didn’t like, did you know I get authors emailing me endlessly, instead of just accepting my position… so it goes both ways…
Being an author is one of the hardest things to do. Being independently published or traditionally published, writing books take time, energy, sleepless nights and traveling a lonely road that not many understand until the work is completed. Despite what many traditionally published authors say, independently published authors are just as talented and work just as hard, maybe even harder since they don’t have a publicist, agent or huge publishing house to back them, promote them or help to sell books. These independents deserve respect.
There are many reasons why one path is chosen over the other and just as many stories for their choices, but I don’t think one should be shot down over the other or thought less of because you achieved something different. Rising above, doesn’t mean thinking you’re better. If the writing quality is good, the premise creative and the editing is done well, then more power to all authors. Don’t praise authors in one hand and then bash those who are necessary to their success in the other.
Reviewers. These are people who take time out of their busy lives, some are also authors, parents, have day jobs, volunteer, raise special needs kids, take care of elderly parents and coach little league, and they choose to read someone else’s book and write a review of what they’ve read. Many have their own sites and use this benefit to help an author by featuring them on their site free of charge. Others use social media to write their opinions and share and link the crap out of what they’ve written. They do this, because they love to write, love to read, and want to help authors/fellow writers succeed. Despite what many high and mighty authors think, it’s not to rip someone’s work apart. I absolutely love the written word. I read like a maniac. I am blatantly honest and if I don’t like it, I won’t succumb to public peer pressure, even if it is sugar coated–it’s still bullying, so knock it off. People are noticing including me.
One of the best pieces of advice I got from a known author, Stephen R. Donaldson, was “write what you know, know what you write.” Hello! This is brilliant! And why I read. I want to know, I love knowledge. It’s one of the best things we can obtain from the internet, in libraries, schools and from authors. I read up to five book ARCS/manuscripts a day sometimes with my business/blog, I reflect on what I’ve reviewed and I also review for publishers and yes, I link the crap out of what I write. I use this passion and speed, to help others, by reviewing books. No, I don’t read every day. I’m an author. I’m writing for newspapers, magazines, doing up proposals… reports… have a business to run. I have a freelance writing career and I have classes I teach, family to love, a special needs child to look after and elderly parents I care for… blah, blah, blah.
Taking the time to read a 300 or so paged book, should be recognized for what it is–an honor that someone would do this for you. The ultimate sacrifice one could make for a no-name author and famous author alike, so show a bit of appreciation rather than condemnation for their wanting to help you out. If reaching out to the reviewer doesn’t help, then ignore them. It works. I do it all the time. Think yourself valuable and worthy of better treatment, but don’t say one thing and then do exactly the opposite. Show some class… you’re writing a book! Not everyone has a hidden agenda. Geeez! What a world!
Then, when a reviewer takes the time to formulate their words and put those words to print, this act should also be appreciated regardless if it’s positive or negative. Ya, ya, there are those who should never review a book, they have neither the background or the ability to formulate a review with tact. So what, most times, those reviews are ignored anyway or seen for what they are–an opinion. Either way, they’re helping your writing career. Recognize it for what it is, don’t make up what you want it to be just to satisfy your ego. Practice what you preach, believe in yourself.
I am the most fortunate of reviewers around. Okay, maybe not really. But I think I am. I have connected with and spoken to the MOST amazing and talented individuals I’ve been blessed to find. I’ve had the blessing of carrying on conversations with geniuses, introverts, extroverts, humorists, linguists, fanatics, creative geniuses, slackers, high achievers and incredibly talented authors. There are amazing people out there and I want to know them, so I help them, discuss their plans for the future, listen to their take on things I have little knowledge of, or sometimes, even care about, but it’s interesting by the time we’re finished. I’ve learned so much over the years in doing this. I’ve opened my mind and seen the words for what they are, not what I could read in to them if I was insecure. Could THIS be the problem?
Yes, I ask hard questions for my interviews, questions often said to be “thought-provoking,” “issue stomping” and “direct.” I get this from writing for newspapers. Most times, if I ask too hard a question, the mature individuals I deal with, ask me to ask a different one. They never run away crying, or feeling threatened and hey, neither do I–imagine that! Why? Because these individuals believe in their work, just like I do. They want the support and care about where the questions are coming from. My readers love these interviews because they get to see into the author’s head, look at how a story was realized and made real with fully developed characters, and their passion for what they’re saying is clearly and pointedly seen through my interviews. At least, this is what I strive for. Why the blog? Because this is a new avenue for me and I want to perfect it. Yes, I’m a perfectionist. I’m also a recovering workaholic. I’m supposed to be retired lol.
Sometimes, I like my interviews so much, I sell them to papers/magazines when/where I can or feel like it. Right now, I write wherever/whenever I can. It’s called passion for the craft. The authors that help me do this blog, are incredible and also love to write! The concepts for books that they come up with are astounding because I know… Being an author, seeing your work come alive and valued by complete strangers… That is what it’s about. If you carry this same passion, there’s no need to sweat the ‘bad’ reviews.
Passion outweighs them. First books are the hardest. I call them the assimilation piece. They are what we write first, we go through the motions, do what we think authors should be doing, produce something and stick it between covers and call it a book. They are always not exactly the best first work out there. WAIT! This isn’t entirely true… I’ve recently met an author, read her work, reviewed it and interviewed her as a result of reading her book. It’s her first… and Holy Crap! It’s fantabulous! Read all about it!
I know how hard it is to be an author. I understand how difficult it is to have someone challenge their hard work, and I’ve seen major class acts by these amazing people in dealing with those challenges. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity I’ve had to interview them, or review their books. I hope by the time we’re done, we’ve become friends, if not, then perhaps we’ve achieved a mutual respect. It’s all good to me.
Having followers who love everything you do all the time, well, that’s just weird, and most certainly they are not looking out for you. People need diversity in their lives to succeed, authors are no different. We need to be challenged because sometimes, we get full of ourselves and drop the ball. Being critiqued isn’t bad, it’s not asking you to think less of your work. Some of my greatest work came from challenges made by readers who just didn’t agree with my raw manuscripts. So what? Readers buy books, so pay attention! Can everyone tactfully express their thoughts to save your wittle feelings? Hell no! But if you listen and take their thoughts into consideration, you will grow, learn something new. To think you are beyond learning from the peons of the universe… well let’s see how that works out for you and good luck. Just remember, getting one book published puts a whole new type of stress on you for a second and a third. And all those people you shamed, or tried to shame… may come in handy later on.
“Never burn a bridge; you may need to cross it one day.” My dad was such a wise man.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, I’ve learned from all the authors and fellow reviewers I’ve associated with over the years. They are amazing people. I’ve learned from their work, from their behaviors, their generosity and patience. The international best seller I luckily get to interview is giving me so much. His/her time: they are under the gun to put out two or more books a year to keep up their international best seller status, sacrificing family time, personal time, sleep… They are driven and passionate about their work, and their schedules… yet, they had time to answer my questions. How much better can they be about it? I am truly honored to know these people.
The debut author is so busy developing a place for themselves in the publishing world; they are working hard at maintaining their author platform, meeting events’ scheduling, struggling to work on that ‘next’ book to show that they’re not just a flash in the pan. They sacrifice time with family, play the guilt game. Perhaps, they give 110% of themselves and sacrifice so much more of their time and sleep to worrying… I did once….
And then, there’s that independent author… the one who has to do it all: build an author platform, write, edit, write, edit, edit, edit… maintain their visibility, market, promote, socially connect, run giveaways, book their own book signings and such, do up their own bling and swag get a cover done, launch sites, do up press releases… blah, blah, blah… They deserve a medal!
How can I not appreciate the time they’ve given me, the reviewer… Yes, I need them. And guess what? They need me. I’m the one that helps sales, draws interest to their work, helps to keep them visible to the public. My timing for interviews is most important. Sometimes, I interview just before their book comes out to encourage interest and build anticipation. Sometimes, I interview them just as their book launches, to help with exposure and sales. And sometimes, I interview them after their book’s been out for a bit, to revisit, re-boost sales, and re-acquaint their work to an audience, hook them up with readers and develop new interest. My background in business has come in useful over the years.
So, what about the negative review? What about it? Did you know that even negative reviews draw attention to a book? It makes readers wonder why this particular book got that review… curiosity! They want to read the book themselves to see if they agree with the reviewer, so they purchase the book–BANG!
We are a very opinionated and curious race, we humans. Remember that when a reviewer takes up your book. Many reviewers approach books with the thought that they hopefully will enjoy it. No one wants to read a ‘bad’ book, nor, do they go looking for one. There are occasions, however, when the book they thought would be good, either by reading the well-written blurb, or because of all the media talk, turns out to be horrible, horribly written and nothing like expected.
NOW WHAT? I don’t sweat the small stuff.
Perhaps, the reviewer thought the background of the author had to make for a great book. Maybe as a teacher, well hell, they should know how to put together a sentence right? Wrong. Even a knowledgeable doctor can be a lousy Physician. They may know everything about medicine but their bedside manners are terrible. A food critic may know everything about food, but they would be no good at running a restaurant. A painter of acrylics doesn’t necessarily know everything about watercolors… a fashion designer may not know how to make a good textile… I could go on…
So, what if the reviewer writes how the structure of the book is just not there, the plot is disastrous, the characters poorly written or their development missing. The POV is scattered, the flow jerky and the ending is obvious after chapter two out of fourteen chapters? The disappointment felt about such a book is hard to describe. If I get such a book, I walk around for days wondering how I’m going to handle this. It’s not an easy thing because I know about all the work that goes into writing a book. But it doesn’t end there because after the disappointment, comes the panic…
If the reviewer got the book ARC in exchange for an honest review from a publisher, well, now they’re in a pinch. They have to say something or face the chance of not getting anymore ARCS from that publisher. Trust me, not all books published via traditional publishers are good. Sometimes, they’re worse than independently published books. If they got it from an author, who is a friend… yikes! Avoid that one at all costs.
Some leave bad reviews. Some contact the publisher or author directly and explain why they’re not leaving a review. Some remain silent and ponder what they should do. And some, try to salvage the situation with an interview of questions that give the author a chance to explain certain aspects of their writing that the reviewer/reader may have missed. It’s the least they could do? I suppose… I’ve learned that may not be the best route to take either.
This is the moment when the reviewer cringes while placing the book down on their desk, because now they face a new dilemma–the review. Myself, I choose not to leave a bad review. I often contact the author and go through the book with them or ask if they’d like to know why I won’t review their book. Most times, this is received warily, occasionally, I get a thank you and they go about making changes. Other times, I get a response that tells me to leave the book alone. Often I get the authors emailing me. What did you think? Did you like my book? Are you leaving a review. No, to any of these questions can open a can of worms.
Then, and probably the worse, you get a first-time author taking to vlogging about “How to Deal With Haters,” which brings us back to the title of this blog post.
According to what they say, reviewers who don’t like their work and are brave enough to actually write this in a review must, “have issues, are bitter because they don’t have what the new author has–an agent, a publisher… They are the ones with a problem,” according to these particular authors. “They (the negative reviewers) are jealous, mean and nasty people…” Who’s the mean and nasty person here?
Let me tell you about reviews. They are opinions. Simple as that. What one person doesn’t like, another will absolutely love. It’s part of human nature–being different, difficult, and with a mind of their own. My mother used to tell us kids, “It’s better to be an engine than a caboose. A leader rather than a follower. Have your own thoughts, your own mind, don’t borrow someone else’s because you fear being different.” I used to roll my eyes at these sayings, until now. Now, I get it.
I have been writing far longer, than say, this one particular author who claims all bad reviewers are jealous and bitter because they, the reviewer, haven’t gotten what they (the author) has. I have several publications to my name and to my pen names. I’ve gone both ways, traditionally published and independently published, I’ve had newspaper columns, written for magazines over the years, and I’ve written for both adults and children in many genres, taught, lectured, given speeches in schools about literacy, and done workshops all on the subjects of books, writing and being an author, and I’ve loved every moment. I am not jealous of anyone else’s life and would hope that no one is ever jealous of mine. I also highly doubt that those negative reviewers are jealous of anyone.
Okay, maybe one or two. We all do what we do to make ourselves happy. Writing is not easy. It’s not for everyone. Those who do it, do it for deep and innovative reasons. Reviewing someone’s writing efforts is even more difficult and also, not for everyone. But someone has to do it? I choose me. 🙂
And let me tell you all, my first published book was a YA paranormal…. it … was … bad.
Well, okay, not totally bad, I did sell over 2,500 copies, but man, it sure could have been better. Authors are self-critical to a fault. C’est la vie! You learn and grow. I took responsibility for my work and kept at it until it was better. I certainly didn’t blame anyone else for its shortcomings. My work was juvenile sounding back then, because I hadn’t gained the experience I have now.
You need to develop a thick skin in this business or, you’re in the wrong business. There will always be that one reviewer that doesn’t like your work, that one author who thinks you’ve written everything wrong, or that one fan that thinks your shit doesn’t smell. We all have them. Let me reassure you all, my shit smells. 🙂 So does yours.