Novelists dare a danger few could stomach. They put themselves out there with no protection in the middle of a field with sharp rocks. And sometimes a person will pick up one of those rocks and throw it. And it hurts.
We are dependent upon good word-of-mouth to create a buzz for our books. But the same thing that can help us can hurt us: bad word-of-mouth. And yet, we as writers are out of control about what people say and write about our work.
One of the sharp rocks that can do the most damage is a poor book review. And more than to our hoped for ground swell, it can do great harm to our fragile psyche as an author. And recovery from such can be arduous.
It’s Not Just One Person’s Opinion
Maybe the worst advice you can give someone who has been given a poor review of his novel is “Don’t worry about it because it’s just one person’s opinion.” Authors know how false this is. A person who reviews books is not like some nobody from nowhere who scribbles a two sentence review on Amazon or Goodreads. As writers we love these, but they do not carry the heft of someone who puts themselves out there as a Book Reviewer.
The Book Critic comes to conclusions, but it’s more than just an opinion worth no more or less than anyone else’s. Book Reviewers apply a certain criteria for judging a book. They do more than apply a surface reading. And even though their review may be subjective, it is much heavier than just one person’s opinion.
Author’s need to keep this in mind. Anyone Creative Writer who dismisses a poor review just because it’s one person’s opinion will accomplish no more than sweeping the problem under the rug. Writers cannot afford to have their heads in the sand when it comes to their writings and what readers think, especially Book Critics. Dismissing them and their review fails to address what needs to be addressed.
One Becomes Many
Book Critics are credible, like it or not. One review from a Book Critic can have as much impact as a dozen reviews on Amazon from casual book readers. The review of a Book Critic can never be dismissed as one person’s opinion because their one opinion will like become the opinions of several of not many.
The best thing we can do is write and keep on writing and always do the best we can and continually improve. We need to give our readers the best product we can string up, but we also need to do our best knowing Book Critics may get their hands on it, as well.
Criticism & Literary Preferences
There are several genres and many styles of writing and a multitude of preferences. Sometimes a Book Critic may read a very well written novel, but it’s simply not in their wheelhouse. Nothing can be done about that because, well, to put it politely, there’s no accounting for taste.
I write Literary Fiction. If there is a Book Reviewer who does not read Literary Fiction, there’s a very good chance they may not give anything of mine a good review. For example, my Literary fiction would never include any shiny vampires, teenaged wizards, or hunky and brooding werewolves. And if I were a Book Critic, I would probably not give a good review to anything written with these, even though they are all quite popular now.
Keep in mind that all of the greats have been panned at one time or another. The Great Gatsby was dismissed by many in its day. Led Zeppelin never had a critically acclaimed album and only one top ten single hit. Even Shakespeare had those who hated his plays. Maybe the Book Reviewer who gave a poor review to your book just doesn’t get you or your writing. If someone pans your novel in a Book Review, it just may be that what you write is not their personal preference for reading.
I’ll have more to say on this in my next post. This is hardly all that could be said on the matter of dealing with negative book reviews. I hope this is a start.