Monday 1 May 2023

Handling A Bad Review - The After Process


I remember the first time I ever got a bad review. It was way back at the start of my career, and it devastated me. Part of me wanted to reach out to the reader in question and explain a few things, but one thing I was told repeatedly when I was first starting out was that you never ever engage with reviewers. The reviews aren't there to make you feel good, they're there for other readers. It is not a space to get into as an author, but as a reader.

That said, I understand the urge. I understand the nerves and anxiety and the dropping in the pit of your stomach that someone out there didn't like your work. It was something they didn't enjoy to the point of wanting to warn other readers not to buy it. In my case, it was a stylistic choice that the reader didn't like. They felt that I'd overused some things, but at the same time, editors and the like agreed that it was the way of telling the story.

I know that a lot of the time, authors are warned not to read their reviews, and personally I think it's something that only you as the author, knowing yourself best, can decide. If you're someone who's going to ignore the above advice and engage with the reader, or publicly shame them, or rant about it on Twitter, then yeah I don't think you can read your reviews. It's better, if you actually want to know what readers are saying, to let someone you trust pick and choose the ones for you to read.

Those things I just mentioned about engaging and ranting publicly? Those are warning signs that you can't handle what a reader might say. It's one thing to rant privately to friends, hell I've done it. But posting said review on your social media makes you look very bad if it's followed with a rant about how the reader is wrong. Over my time as an author, I've seen people handle it very badly, and it always, always blows up in their faces.

Reviews are very much for the readers. They're not something that authors have to read, and while I understand wanting to - I always read my reviews - you don't have to. If you want to throw a pity party with close friends, that's completely valid and okay. Just don't throw said party on social media for all the world to see. It leaves a bad taste in people's mouths, and it does get noticed by other readers in that space, and you do not want that.

So how is the best way to handle it? If you're someone who wants to read reviews and is aware that not everyone will love and adore your work, then the best way is to simple take what's been said, and privately reflect on it. That first bad review I mentioned? I talked about it with my best friend, we dissected what had been said, and then I moved on. Do reviews still make me anxious? Occasionally, especially when they're a low star, but I still read them because I personally know I can handle that, and if I can't, I have friends I can go to who will help me work through what's been said.

I know some authors don't think there's any point in reading the criticism, because, after all, not much you can do about that book now. Truth is, for me, it's not about that particular book, because it's published and there will be no changes to it. Instead it's about spotting mistakes that I might have made in the execution of that book, and making sure that they don't end up following me through future works. For me it's about taking those words of critique and learning to grow as a writer with them.

Now yes, I know that some bad reviews aren't going to help with that. Some bad reviews are people either not giving critique but just hating the book, and for those I just remember that you can't please everyone, and they were obviously not the target audience for that book, and that's okay. It's something that does help me in working out how to market and the like.

So when the first bad review comes, be ready to absorb the blow. Feel what you feel, but don't reach out to the reader, don't post about it publicly and rant and rave. Just take it for what it is, and move on with your day. I know it hurts, I know it's hard, but there is nothing you can do about it.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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