Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Ah, book reviews. They can send an author’s heart soaring or sink it like a stone into a deep abyss of despair. Because a writer is often intimately connected to their works, reviews can have a substantial impact on the creative process.
I have warned new authors to be mindful of the effects reviews have on them, particularly negative ones:
All authors get negative reviews. Reading is subjective. There will always be at least one reader who doesn’t like something about a book, and some will express it in reviews. A lot of new authors are simply not ready for people to express any level of dislike.
I was not ready; although I have an extensive literary criticism background and review books, having people tear into mine, no matter how few of them it was, was hard. I found it getting into my head and even questioned my abilities as a writer overall; was there something I should be doing?
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I decided to steer clear of most reviews when I recently released my newest novel, Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit. I don’t want any interruptions in my writing, something that happened after I got a few negative reviews for my first novel. I will share them.
They hit me hard. I ran all kinds of responses in my mind. I stopped writing, and I began to doubt if I wanted to venture any further as an author and face any harsh criticisms. I had a hard time appreciating that the above reviews were the minority and most readers loved Simon, Regina, her code-switching, and his masculinity. It took a lot of emotional support from other authors, writers and editors for me to get back to the keyboard and finish the next manuscript.
I decided that I didn’t want to jeopardize the precious zeal to click away and let out characters to readers who got me and my work. So, this time around, I am staying away from the negative reviews or any review that will present a stumbling block to my creativity. I know some may say to read negative reviews, but I disagree. If they take one on an emotional rollercoaster ride, then any productive criticism is lost and the potential damage to the ego necessary for a writer to create outweighs any good they may offer. It is far better to build a support system of people (including other authors and editors) who will give it to you straight so you can progress.
Stepping away from negative reviews is not cowardly, it is an author bravely loving themselves and their work.