The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. -Norman Vincent Peale
As authors, it is a given that we run the risk of readers not liking our work. Yet, we have two ways to handle it when it happens and how we choose to handle it determines A) how serious we are about the craft and B) what kind of character we have away from the pages.
On my newsfeed a week ago, I read where an author took issue with a book club after receiving a poor review. This person called the reviewers out of their names, cursing them out and accusing them of favoritism. This person acted out so bad that people were still talking about the incident days later. Other authors, including myself, chimed in with our thoughts and opinions and the general consensus was: ‘This guy had only one job and his job was to take the hit and use it to make himself a better writer”
I hope I’m not coming off self righteous and didactic when I write this because I understand what it is like to work tirelessly on a story only to have it bashed. A moment that stuck out for me was when I entered a contest and the judges weren’t impressed. Instead of getting my ass on my shoulders and cursing out the judges and acting a fool to put some balm on my ego, I continued to write and practiced showing the reader what was going on instead of telling. I was determined to get better and put in the work to do so.
I haven’t been writing creatively for a long time, but I immediately learned two things: One, any author worth his or her salt, consistently works on the craft. Two, your skin in this business has to be soft as steel. You can’t let the negative opinion of readers and fellow authors deter you. If anything, use it as fuel to get better.
Yeah, I know that sometimes we as artists-be it authors, singers, musicians, actors or actresses, etc get sensitive about our work, but that gives us no excuse to come at our audiences. For the author, especially black authors, bashing book clubs and arguing with readers is a sure way to commit career suicide.
Lashing out doesn’t only effect the offending author, it also effect others. Why? When authors lash out at the readers, it makes a few apprehensive about posting reviews. The majority of us rely on these reviews-good or bad because how else are we supposed to give the reader what they want without them telling us via a fair review? We will mess around and not only have a few reviews here and there, but we won’t have readers at all if we continue to carry on as some of us have.
I’m not saying that you can’t feel disappointed about a review or even feel angry, I’m saying that you just have to have tough skin to navigate through this industry if you want staying power in it. There are so many constructive ways to deal with a bad review. Again, you can take that review and learn and grow from it during your next project. You could even use that same bad review to move some units and turn a loss into a gain that way.
No mater what you chose to do with that less than favorable review, remember that whatever we create and release to the public is up for criticism and there’s no getting around it. You can take the criticism, as well the praise, and continue to improve or you can waste your keystrokes and breath trying to fight a battle you know you cant win when you’re beefing with book clubs and readers and end up being labeled as a “cancer” in the game. Choose wisely!