Normally I write about my own experiences or the emotions behind what I am working on but I saw a post yesterday that addresses a topic all artists should be familiar with and prepared for, negative reviews. We all have gotten them or we will. It is basically impossible to please everyone all of the time. For writers like myself we can try but the best advice I ever got was to write for me and if others liked it then great. I should never write to sell just to make myself happy and proud of what I produced.
There was a post on Facebook that I saw where a reviewer had given an indie author a one star review on their book and he went crazy insulting the reviewer and taking everything extremely personally. He flew off the handle insulting the reviewer and insisting she take down her review. He accused her of trying to ruin his life's work while simultaneously telling her that she wasn't intelligent enough to understand the book and that it was written to better society.
He claims that while he was writing his response that he made a few more sales so clearly she didn't know what she was talking about. When she calmly responded offering to expand her review to be more specific and telling him that she had the right to state her opinion it started the storm all over again. Several other people took to their keyboards in order to defend the original reviewer bringing a hailstorm of insults to anyone that dared enter the conversation. He attempted to intimidate anyone that tried to comment even from a neutral position alienating a number of potential readers but claiming that if they were put off it was because they were not of the caliber that deserved to read his work.
Later on in the comments came a very important piece of advice which prompted this blog post as well as a great deal of support for the commenter. We all get negative reviews and are unable to make everyone happy but the cardinal rule is that you should never engage with reviewers positive or negative. People have their own thoughts and the right to share them. We as artists of any style are very personally connected with our work. It is difficult to not want to jump online and defend our creations but it reflects a level of immaturity and unprofessionalism that will make it difficult to be taken seriously later on if you do.
I, like every other author I know, have gotten bad reviews. I have people that do not support my work for one reason or another. I have even had someone bad mouth my charity series because of something that had nothing to do with me at all but they tied the two things together. It hurts and rejection is never easy to stomach. But if you allow yourself some time and distance then it is possible to use the negative comments to bring about more positive reviews in the future. There will be those that are negative for the sake of just being negative. Most though will offer constructive criticism.
If you get a number of reviews that are mostly positive but all mention something like the development of a character or, my personal struggle, unrealistic dialogue, then use that information and learn from it. Go back and take a look at the character. Did you leave things out thinking they could be inferred? Is there just a basic description or perhaps is the character overly developed but only a minor player in the story? My dialogue has always walked the line between news reporter and robotic. It is too proper. Because of that I took a class. I sat in coffeeshops and listened as people talked. I even recorded myself talking out loud doing both sides of a conversation for my book to make it sound more like a real person.
The immediate reaction will most likely be to think 'how dare they say that about me?' but the truth is that it is not meant as a reflection on you. Your work just may not have been their cup of tea. You may have sold the book as a contemporary romance because of the incidental love story but it is actually a young adult suspense book overall and so the person that bought it got a story they were not expecting. There are so many reasons why someone may like or not like our work but we have to have our heads about us and be able to handle the negative when it comes with grace. Something I am still definitely learning but I am getting better.