How to Cope with Bad Reviews

Not even 20 years of rejections from editors and agents prepared me for what came with the launch of my debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter. I assumed once I’d crossed the threshold to being a traditionally published author, no negative remark could possibly feel as lousy as two decades of cumulative self-doubt. Welcome to the world of snark.

GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free, signed copy of her novel to a random commenter. TRJohnson has won this giveaway. 

mary-lawrence-author-writer The-alchemist's-daughter-book-cover

Column by Mary Lawrenceauthor of 2015 novel THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER
(April 2015, Kensington). Mary studied biology and chemistry, graduating from Indiana
University with a degree in Cytotechnology. She worked in the medical field for over
twenty-five years and now runs a small berry farm in Maine. Her articles have appeared
in The Daily Beast and Portland Monthly. Book 2 in the Bianca Goddard Mystery series,
DEATH OF AN ALCHEMIST, will release in February, 2016. Visit her on Facebook or Twitter

Never before have authors (and other creative types), been subjected to real time, stinging criticism in a public forum numbering in the billions.

As newspapers and magazines scrap their book review sections; blogs, Amazon, and Goodreads pick up the slack. We no longer read reviews written by editors who might offer a balanced critique of a work. Readers gravitate to reviews with caustic headlines and blinking .gifs that catch their eye and appeal to the cynic in all of us. Few of these reviews are well-written and almost all usually focus on some aspect of the writer’s story or writing style, the name an author chose for a character, the author’s eye color … whatever they find objectionable. Gone is the art of a well-written book review. Welcome to the world of snark.

So as a writer, here are some points to remember when you are feeling unjustly lambasted. I’ve collected these from other authors, friends and creative sorts, and have posted them next to my computer.

1. When you read a snarky review, replace everything that person wrote with “Look at me! I am so smart and clever unlike the idiot who wrote this book! Think less of this book and more of me!”

2. The best writers are the ones who get the most criticism.

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3. Controversy is good, it means people have been affected enough to voice an opinion.

4. The majority of snarky reviews are written by frustrated writers, know-it-alls, or just plain miserable people.

5. A publisher didn’t choose you because you couldn’t write.

6. If you stick your head above the crowd, you are bound to be shot at.

7. It is very easy for those who fail to sit in judgment of others who have not.

8. You aren’t writing to make friends.

9. People can’t control what you write and you can’t control what they write in response.

10. Don’t let anyone rob you of the joy you find in writing.

11. “Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”–Terry Pratchett

12. People who write mean-spirited reviews unfortunately are the ones who have the inclination and time to write them.

(Book Payments and Royalties — Your Questions Answered.)

13. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”—Steve Jobs

14.” Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” –J.R.R.Tolkien

15. Get over yourself!

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6 thoughts on “How to Cope with Bad Reviews

  1. Tim Ouellette

    I enjoyed this post, thank you.

    I think it’s imperative writers recognize the importance of reviews of all kinds, whether positive or negative. Number 3 and number 8, I believe, go hand in hand, especially if what one is writing is designed to be controversial or at least touch upon controversial topics.

    One should always write with passion, with the intention of changing, or at least affecting, hearts and minds. If your work is banal you need not worry about bad reviews. If your work causes arguments, divisions, or at the very least discussions and heated debates, you’re probably on the right track.

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