An Author Needs Thick Skin.

I just got home from an ultra-long drive (12+ hours from Vermont this morning) and am physically and emotionally exhausted. I really needed a pick-me-up. But the first thing I was greeted by on Amazon was not 1 but 3 awful book reviews. They were all from the same person, who admitted she hadn’t even read Bittersweet Days, but because it was written by the same author in the same series, it must be just as bad as the other two (mostly unread) books.

That stings.

And since I’m so worn out right now, it’s hitting me even harder than such stuff usually does. Constructive criticism is hard enough to take gracefully, but most writers (or wise people in general) try to learn from it.

But how can you prepare yourself for someone basically saying your work, the thing you’ve spent months/years struggling to bring to life, is worthless?

Thoughts on this matter anyone? Word of wisdom? Spare rhino hides I can borrow to wrap about myself?

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Comments

  1. First of all, you are a good writer. I haven’t finished An Uncivilized Yankee yet, but what I’ve read so far is wonderful.

    I’m not going to say “don’t take this woman’s reviews to heart”. Of course you do. It would be very hard not to. These books are your creation; you’ve poured yourself into them, spent weeks and months and years of your life on them. Of course it hurts to have someone disdain them.

    I’m in no position to give words of wisdom. I’m not a writer, so I’ve never been in your shoes. But maybe I can offer a few thoughts to help with perspective?

    1. There are people whose whole outlook on life is negative. There are people who counter their own feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth by cutting others down. There are people who think that “reviewing” means “eviscerating.” Given that she gave a bad review to a story she hadn’t even read (something no responsible reviewer would ever do), I’m guessing one of those, or something similar, applies. If so, those low ratings and bad reviews say much more about who the reviewer is than about your books.

    2. An Uncivilized Yankee has 29 favorable reviews to 2 negative ones on Amazon. Of those, the overwhelming majority are 5 stars. That means most people who have read the book loved it. (I know you already know that, but sometimes seeing it written down in black and white helps.)

    3. By her own admission, the reviewer who gave you three negative reviews didn’t finish the second book; in fact, she barely started it. As a reader looking for a good book, I would discount that review right off the bat, especially given several favorable, more specific reviews.

    4. I checked the reviewer’s other reviews — all of them. There are several others she didn’t read or hadn’t finished, even one she says she didn’t buy and is asking — in the review! — to have deleted from her account. She has more negative than positive book reviews. I can’t figure out how she awards stars; she wrote an essentially negative review (or at least “meh”) for a book she gave 4 stars to. She also reviews far more non-book items than she does books, which seems odd for someone whose review name includes the words “loves to read.” The aggregate of her reviewing history lowers her credibility as a reliable and thoughtful book reviewer, at least in my eyes.

    What’s that saying . . . Haters gonna hate? Yes, unfortunately, they are. You can’t stop them, but you can inoculate yourself against them, at least a little. Go re-read all those positive reviews, get some big hugs from the people who love you, get some rest, and remember that you’re doing what you love to do. And that most of the people who’ve read your books enjoy them. Those are the things that matter in the long run. {{{virtual hugs}}}

  2. Amen to everything already read. And just so folks know, the reviewer ended up retracting her review and apologizing for being too harsh.

    You’re right; it’s important to take constructive criticism with an open mind and heart (aka gracefully) and learn from it, though it IS hard to hear anything negative about something you are so invested in and so proud of. But you also have to take some reviews with a grain of salt. There is a difference between constructive criticism (which she never offered) and just plain meanness (which is all she wrote). And since she didn’t read more than 100 pages of Yankee, 10 pages of Nowhere, and NONE of BD, she couldn’t say anything of depth about what she’d read. Basically it came down to the fact that she didn’t realize that the books were historical fantasy, and that’s not her style…nor is romance it seems (I looked at her wish list, and that was somewhat revealing about her reading preferences!). Those are the sorts of reviews that you simple dismiss as being unfounded and misplaced. Instead of recognizing that the books weren’t her preferred style, she displaced her frustration with herself for not checking further and not following her normal process of thoroughly trying the books out before she buys and blamed the book for not pleasing her. That’s HER problem, not yours, and certainly not the fault of the books. 🙂

    It seems she’ll be deleting her reviews, and you my friend should delete her input entirely. It’s baseless and rude and has no bearing on the reality of your work but rather her failure to properly choose books she’s going to enjoy. 🙂

    Love you!

    • Amber – the reply you wrote in response to this woman’s review was SPOT ON. I tagged her review as unhelpful and proceeded to write my own (positive) review. Went the next day to show my coworker what this woman had written (along with your awesome rebuttal) and the comments were gone. 🙂 Amber and Vanessa – 1; Negative Nellie – 0.

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