Thursday, January 1, 2015

The bad review perspective

It’s true. It feels nice to get a good review. It just does!  And there’s a sting that comes with getting those reviews that are not stamped with that shining star. A seemingly bad review seems to hit quicker than an obviously good one. The good ones, we like to relish. We like to sit with them a while and take in all the great stuff they said about our hard work, as a reflection of ourselves. Those, we can get cozy with.

Then there are the ones we get that we sit and stare at for a while. Am I alone here? I think not.  In our immediate shock, we might be thinking that the reader is confused or we might be confused ourselves as to why they don’t love our favorite characters or can’t understand chapter 4. The reviewer might say they just didn’t get it or that the story didn’t end right.  Meanwhile, we are thinking, what the heck?  Did they even really read it? (Maybe they read it wrong and should read it again)

Not that we like it but hey, putting your book out there will get some comments you may not want to hear or that hit you by (unpleasant) surprise. We all know this.

For me, during the launch of Aurora Conspiracy’s first book in the trilogy (I co-authored with Ginger Gelsheimer), we were exposed to our first official reviews. Some were really great and we were feeling pretty good, and some were feeling not so awesome. Experiencing our very first hit did cause us to sit back for a moment, quietly taking in the shock of the feedback.

But then we decided to take a step back...what was this all about anyway? I can tell you in all honesty, that was one of the best decisions we made. And no, I don’t mean we gave ourselves the positive pep talk that it was all okay. I mean, we really took a look at what was being said. We decided at that point to consider that review, and all our reviews, good or bad. We had decided to look at them to learn and see what the reader was saying, what the review could mean and what might actually be beneficial based on what had been said.

In our experience, we actually gained insight into some things that made sense! Things we could consider and otherwise might not have come to realize that may be worthy of change. On the other side, we also gained confidence (and reinforcement) in some of our decisions we felt strongly about, whether a particular reader agreed or didn’t. That can end up feeling good!

Throughout the process, I've been able to learn that:

  • A negative review is not a personal hit to you, it is only the personal views and opinions of one reader.
  • What we may consider a bad review does spark interest and questions that can get people talking. (exposure)
  • We can learn from a lot of the feedback, good or bad. One hit might actually give us the chance to enhance the story we are trying to tell.
  • Being open to what was said, and willing to look at it, is far better than having a knee jerk reaction and going for an unnecessary rewrite.
  • And finally, ego needs to hit the road.

Looking at the glass half full is not a new concept of course but acceptance can be a bit of a challenge at times. And I can’t say that I believe every single negative is really a hidden positive but I can say that changing my view on what reviews can do for me has really helped me to rethink the idea. After all, I want my book to communicate my story and hopefully I get better along the way.

Some of us are more seasoned in letting a review roll off our back but if you are coming in green, a bad review could leave you feeling quite low. Just know that none of us are loving the negatives all of the time but an open mind might just turn that review around a bit so stick with it!

Of course we are always still happy to enjoy that feeling of fulfilment when we get the good reviews. Those certainly reinforce our motivations! and allow us to bask in some glory...if just for a moment.


  1. But what if the review is laced with non objective rants that do nothing but condemn your work? True, you take your ego out of it, but I needed it for the onslaught I received. But I dug where you were coming from.

    1. Oh yes, these are out there for sure G.P.A.! What are we supposed to do with these blunt attacks? After all, we have chosen our words carefully. We have spent hours and hours getting it right. These bad seeds can make us wonder if the reviewer really read the book at all. Either way, what do we do to keep moving forward and not get stopped in our tracks?

      I think that we can know that being too deserving with a book is a fine line and that all we can do is put our words out there. Then, like the individual stories they are, we need to expect the individual opinions that go with them. Hey, we are adults and know this. (so kudos to us, right?)

      Sometimes though they are just wrong to the story and that gets to us. It can seem unbelievable to us that our book can be that misunderstood. Also, some are simply attacks. Those look and feel bad, plain and simple. Some of the people out there have their own agendas that don’t involve a true and honest read and review, and oh do they stand out!

      I say, feel it, take the hit, be angry or upset or even hurt, if you will. Go through the exercise and even write back to it if that makes you feel better. What would you want to say if you really could? (I’m sure we would all be good on that one!) But keep it to yourself and then take that step back. Defense of your writing, yourself and your character is a good thing, and I believe that (I’m extremely stubborn, by the way :) ) But really, what good would it do? There are so many readers out there, let them give you that but don't let them take your momentum. Someone else may want to read your stuff just from that review and may have another opinion altogether!

      Does that help with your bad review right now, today? Not exactly. But can it give you a boost to process the inevitable? Just maybe.

      After all, we are writers. We care about what we are putting down on paper. Let it rip! We believe it, it’s ours...we own it and will stand by it!