Friday, April 5, 2013

Dealing with Bad Reviews

by Margaret Dilloway

Today, I read J.A. Konrath's tongue-in-cheek blog about how to deal with bad reviews. Which got me to thinking how I deal with reading my own bad reviews.

It used to be a lot more difficult, when I was newer and my skin was as thin and pink as a naked molerat's. I'd read all the Amazon and Goodreads posts and fret.

But I never responded, no matter how much I wanted to. It's counterproductive-- it makes people feel defensive and it makes you, the author, look too sensitive and egomaniacal. If I get a bad review on a blog, sometimes I'll thank them for reading it anyway, because I am happy that the blogger at least looked at it.

These days, I hardly ever read my reviews. If I see a five or four star, and thus know it's completely brilliant critique, I read it. It's just so easy for everybody in the world these days to have a big old fat opinion about everything.

It's like when I watch the news. Every station in the world does this Twitter thing now. They discuss a story, and then the anchor says, "Let's see what people are saying on TWITTER!" and then they broadcast a bunch of Tweets with whatever their hashtag is. As if a bunch of random people have valid, newsworthy opinions about complicated subjects that they can express in 140 characters or less.

I guess allowing everybody to voice their opinions is very egalitarian. But what if they're not basing their opinions on a reasonable critique, but something like, "I wish Dilloway wrote about outerspace instead and left Japan out of it. Or had more recipes. I only like sci-fi and cookbooks. One star"?  It's even worse when people who didn't bother reading the book give you reviews. Those should be deleted. If you did not read the book, at least lie about having read it.

Still, I don't say anything. You will never win. People like to argue. It's not just on the Internet. People argue with me during bookclub discussions all the time. They challenge me over imaginary characters-- characters that I wrote.  And readers say shocking things to my face all the time-- things you would think they'd only be comfortable with saying on an anonymous Internet forum.

Which brings me to this revelation I've recently had. Once you write a book and put it out into the world, it is no longer yours. I feel this way when I speak at book clubs-- like I'm engaging in a literature class discussion about the book, like I'm no more knowledgeable about the book than anyone else in the world.

So these days, I just take reviews less personally. It's an individual reader experience. I can't force someone else to like anything.

And please, if you read my book and wished it was a different book, then feel free to go ahead and write the book in your head. But don't judge the actual book against the imaginary one.


Marjorie Hart said...

In music we say, "Musicians who cannot perform, critique

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