Friday, 26 April 2013

Feedback & Reviews - The After Process

You've worked through all the after process and now your work is out there in the real world, being brought by real people and they want to give you feedback and reviews. I remember when I got my first review that wasn't left my someone who knew me and it was a great feeling - it was a positive 5 star review - and I glowed for the rest of the day. However, part of putting work out into the real world is knowing how to deal with the feedback and reviews. Both negative and positive.

I know it seems to be rather easy, you just wait for someone to review and then deal with what they've said, take it on board and try to improve (if it includes something to improve on) and move on. Right? Wrong. Not all reviews are good, you know that, I don't have to tell you. However, not all of them are filled with ways to improve. Some of them are downright rude, untrue and awful. Part of the after process is knowing how to deal with this. I'm not going to treat you like an idiot - you're obviously not because you've made it this far. However, I am going to tell you some things I have learnt from getting both good and bad reviews and feedback.

First, unless they are telling you there is something actually wrong with the book. Like the format you uploaded (if you self-published) or that you're editor missed something big (for both self-published and others) then there is no need to reply. I know it's tempting when someone is telling you that you're an idiot and don't know the difference between a book and toilet paper. I know it is, but you need to just leave them. I'm sure you've heard of GoodReads? I'm sure you've also heard the stories of writers who go there, read the feedback and go nuts at the people who live less than positive reviews? If you haven't, let me tell you that it does happen. All it achieves is it makes you look very unprofessional. It will also lead to you looking like you can't accept that someone out there doesn't like your work. Considering there are around 6 billion people who may have brought your book and read it, it's not worth ruining your reputation over a few bad reviews.

Second, you'll have gotten a thicker skin from the editing process and if you haven't, it's time to get one. Put your own anxieties and low self esteem aside. Not everyone who reads your book is going to like it. And that's okay. It doesn't mean you should stop writing and never pick up a pen again. Far from it. It's totally NORMAL for people to not like your work. If you can work out from their review the parts they didn't enjoy, you can try to see if you can improve on your next works. I mean, if they said that you used too little description, or you only had the word "said" to describe when someone was talking. You can use that and help it to improve your next book. It's always a learning process and if you are able to take what they're saying and learn from it, then it's a great thing.

Third, you are going to get bad feedback. Everyone does, but you're also going to get mediocre feedback and good feedback. The urge to reply to anyone, no matter what they say is one to be crushed. It does not look good. Mention it on your blog or website, highlight it for a post. Sure, but do not engage on Amazon or whatever place they've chosen to leave their review. See point one for the reasons behind this advice.

Fourth, don't be hurt if you don't get feedback the second it hits the shelves, or even the month after it's released. One of my books, which has been out for just over a year *just* got it's first review. I'd had feedback from my editor and such, but this was someone who had read my book and decided that they liked it so much they would leave me a nice review. That's great. Also, don't panic if the only feedback you get is from friends. As long as they give an honest review it won't reflect badly on you. The fact is, if you're a reader, you probably read a few dozen books a year. How many of them do you go and write reviews for? (Unless you run a review blog or something similar) The answer is probably not many. The ones you do leave reviews for are (at least in my case) the ones that you really didn't like. Or the ones you loved. Occasionally I'll review if no one else has, but other than that, it doesn't happen often. No reviews do not mean your book sucks, it might mean that it hasn't sold as well as you'd hoped (but I'll talk about that another time) or it could mean that people liked it, but just didn't think to review.

Finally, reviews and feedback are great tools to learn from. If you are feeling brave (and thick skinned) you could send a copy (either physical paperback or an e-book) to someone who does reviews for a living. However, be prepared for what they may say. If you have gone down the self-publishing route, you could come up against some of the negativity I mentioned in the publishing piece (found here.) You need to be sure that they will review on it's merits and not just because you happened to be self-published. There are a load of book blogs around and as long as you make sure that they review the genre you write, then go ahead. Ask if they would be willing to do a review. You may be asked to offer them something, but you may not.

Now, I need to get on with some research for book 11, my printer is feeling tired after printing all I had it do :)

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