It finally happened. I got a stinging review of my book. Sure, I’d already gotten reviews in which readers mentioned something they didn’t like about the story, but overall, I seemed to win them over by the end.
I’d tried to tell myself that it was inevitable. I reassured myself that not everyone was going to like my book and that was okay. But then when someone actually voiced their negative opinion publically, I couldn’t help but sit back and say, “Ouch.”
I had to re-read the blog review a couple of times just to make sure I hadn’t gotten it wrong. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the words, “I did not like it at all” go away. For a little while I felt like someone was standing upon my heart, pressing down with all of their weight, deflating the life from it.
As I went about the rest of the afternoon doing my mom-duties, I’m mulled over the review and tried to make sense of it. Here are a few of the things I jotted down:
Remember the positives.
Yes, sometimes negative words weigh more than positive. We’ve all been in situations where one tiny comment cut us and left a painful wound. It didn’t matter that others complimented us. We remembered the one negative instead.
It’s hard to replace the inborn-scale that weighs the negative more heavily. But at some point, we need to work on evening out our scales, letting the positives have more weight.
Why should I let one person’s negative words deflate me, when so many others have taken the time to uplift and encourage me? And besides, shouldn’t we take pride in our uniqueness, grow in self-confidence, and see the positives in ourselves first?
We can’t be ALL things to ALL people.
As a people-pleaser, I don’t want to disappoint anyone. And of course, as a writer, I definitely don’t want to disappoint readers—especially fans of inspirational historical fiction, my genre readers. But I’m learning that even within genres, readers have different likes and dislikes. Some may crave a slower book with a lot of setting details, and others would rather have a fast-paced plot without any fluff. Some want a sweet romance and others want deeper relationship issues.
I won’t be able to please all lovers of historical fiction. My style/voice is just that—mine. I can’t change it in order to accommodate everyone. That would be an impossible task. Instead, I have to remain true to my voice and let it win over who it will.
Watch what we say publicly.
Reviews are a powerful tool in swaying someone to purchase a book or not. As writers who are also readers, we would do well to keep in mind the principle of doing unto others what we want them to do unto us. If we wouldn’t want other writers to bash our books publically, then we should refrain from doing it. My personal philosophy is that if I can’t find something positive to say, then I won’t say anything at all.
I realize there are some who think the public deserves to know both sides of the issue. After all, if people only write good reviews, how will buyers get the full picture of what the book is like? If we’ve taken into account the subjectivity involved in reviews (see this post: How To Handle Subjective & Contradictory Feedback), and we still feel the need to share our opinions, we can do so in a tactful and kind way.
Remember that opinions are just that—opinions.
After I thought about the negative review for a while, I realized that this particular person was probably viewing my book through her very conservative world view. She classified the novel as “steamy enough that any modest girl would feel uncomfortable reading it.” But then there are readers who’ve classified it as a “sweet” romance, saying, “It was refreshing to read a fully satisfying romance without anything that made me squirm in my seat.”
Who’s right? And who’s wrong? Maybe both are right—right about what works for them. After all, everyone approaches a novel with different expectations, beliefs, world views, etc. All of that will influence a reading experience. But I can’t let it influence me or the way I write.
Know when to defend ourselves and when to walk away.
At one point during the post, the reviewer said, “[the book] does not represent truth.” I could only shake my head with bewilderment. What in the world did that mean? As far as I was concerned, I’d worked my hardest to stay true to the setting, time period, characters, etc. I’d also worked to present a theme of prevailing through hardships—a theme that could be applicable to every person past and present.
I was tempted to write a comment and defend the “truths” in my book. But I refrained. Was it really worth stirring up possible strife to defend myself? What did I have to win by it? “Pick your battles,” I tell my children when they’re squabbling with one another over insignificant issues. We have to know what’s worth fighting over, and what to let slip past us.
What’s your opinion? Do you think we should restrain from posting negative reviews and opt for silence instead? Or do you think it’s important for both the positive and negative opinions to be voiced?