When we publish our books, we put our work out there for public scrutiny. Anyone can read our books and put their opinions out on the internet and even if we’ve written a decent book, they might not always be positive.
I’ve been listening to The Creative Penn podcast hosted by Joanna Penn and she gives some sage advice. Particularly, that you can’t please everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the era’s greatest masterpiece, there is always going to be someone who dislikes it for one reason or another. It sucks but it’s the reality of publishing.
As Anxious Authors, the one or two star reviews we get on our books can cut a little deeper. Let’s be honest, a lot of the time these reviews can give us a lot of good feedback about what we need to improve, but there are times when these low reviews just seem a little unhelpful.
Even if low reviews are inevitable, there’s a lot we can do to deal with them and ensure they don’t batter our anxious egos that much. Here are my tips to deal with negative reviews as an anxious author:
1. Don’t read it until you’ve let it sink in.
Low reviews are never going to be pleasant but as an author with anxiety, knowing that I’ve got a one star review can put my on edge a bit. Sometimes you’ll hear the advice that you shouldn’t read the reviews at all and maybe when you’re getting 100+ reviews per book, that’s sound advice. But when you’re just starting out and you’re not sure how your style and skill fits into the market, reviews are a great source of feedback.
If you learn you’ve got a low review and it hits hard, give it some time, a few days or maybe a week to read it. A little time can give you a chance to collect your thoughts and remember that this person’s opinion doesn’t matter as much as it feels like it does. Feedback is important but so is making sure that you keep your spirits up.
2. Don’t respond to them.
Anxious Authors aren’t traditionally instigators. Our anxiety tends to keep us from causing any trouble. Yet, sometimes you feel as though these low reviews are a bit of an injustice and you’d like to right some wrongs by telling these reviewers exactly what they got wrong when reading your book. It’s a natural instinct, we want to protect our creations.
But for goodness sake, don’t respond to low reviews. It doesn’t matter if they are trolls, bullies or that neighbour that egged your house once, don’t do it. Let me show you a worst case scenario at this link, where an author, unhappy with a review went on a four month tirade arguing every critical point in the review. He became infamous, the arguments between him and other authors and readers published in articles around the world.
If you thought one star reviews could agitate your anxiety, imagine what getting your online fights printed in the papers will do.
3. Turn them into something funny.
Humour is the best medicine and this is true for anxiety as well, in my experience. I learned this by accident when my husband made fun of one of my one star reviews that he took particular issue with. To keep a long story short, I was accused of writing porn on account of the hand holding and single kiss between my lesbian protagonists.
To start with, this did dishearten me and it worried me that I wouldn’t be able to write gay characters without prejudice from some reviewers. But my husband managed to turn this review into an ongoing joke and every so often now, we have a good, long laugh about it.
If you can see the funny side of your low reviews (because some of them came be both hilarious and outrageous), do it. Turn them into a joke and laugh at them rather than agonise over them. It doesn’t just help us deal with our anxiety over current low reviews but low reviews that are yet to come.
4. Take helpful advice on board.
Low reviews aren’t always bad news. They don’t look great on Goodreads and Amazon but they can give us just the feedback we need.
If low reviews talk about typos, grammatical errors and/or formatting issues, go and check your manuscript. If a reviewer mentions a plot hole, find it. We spend so much time on our manuscripts that things do slip through the cracks. It’s much better that we are made aware of these issues so we can fix them.
I’ve been very lucky that reviewers tend to reach out to me directly to point out any errors in my books rather than publish them publicly. But if it happens, it’s at least an opportunity for us to fix our mistakes.
This is another case of turning a negative into a positive and as Anxious Authors, we need to get into the habit of doing this. Not necessarily to maintain a constantly positive mindset (which is the teensiest bit impossible) but to ensure that we torture ourselves as little as possible. Anxiety isn’t going to be kind to us, so we have to be.
Thanks for reading!