I find in this lifetime there are lessons lurking around every corner—and I learn most of them by being a parent and a writer.
A while ago, I picked my son up from an after school event and asked my usual question of how did things go, and waited while he said his normal standard, “Ok.” I am used to gaining no information from my son and have learned to pick my battles. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Mommy, you won’t believe it. This little boy pushed me.”
I stopped and got my mama bear expression on my face. The type that says I will go after anyone or anything that hurts my son. “What? Why? Who was it? What happened? Tell me everything!”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. We had to pick teams, and he pushed me and said he didn’t want me on my team. Said he didn’t like me.”
I gasped with horror. “Why would someone say that? Did you do anything? Tell me everything!”
He sighed with exaggerated patience. “I didn’t do anything, I don’t even really know him.”
I chattered on, but my son waved my dramatics aside. And then said something that struck me hard with his ability to imitate an old soul. “Don’t worry about it, Mommy. He just doesn’t like me. No big deal.”
No. Big. Deal.
I was awestruck. I was the type of person who needed everyone to like me. When someone didn’t like me, the fact haunted me for days, while I struggled to do whatever possible to make them like me. Yet, here my six year old calmly acknowledged a simple fact in life.
Not everyone is going to like you.
Light bulb moment.
Once the simple fact is admitted, measured, and accepted, there is a whole lot of freedom to be gained. It just took me a while to learn it.
So, now let’s talk reviews.
If everyone can’t like us personally, of course everyone can’t like our books. And how boring that would be! (OK, I am totally lying here, because if everyone loved my book I’d be one happy person). But that’s just not logical. We all have unique tastes, preferences, and views on life.
As a writer, our job is to please readers, and we hope reviews reflect that satisfaction so we can go to our next book. But as we grow in our career, I think it’s vitally important to accept certain facts in this career.
We are going to get crappy reviews.
Actually, if you are doing your job correctly, you will want crappy reviews. Because that means your book is being read by a wide audience, and not just a tiny circle of romance authors who support each other. It’s a scary world out there, and if we meet new readers, not all of them are going to like us. But if we play the law of averages, we will gain a healthy percentage of wins and new readers.
There are all types of reviews writers suffer through. Our fellow community of authors. Professional review sites. And readers. Plenty of land mines to tiptoe through. Some will explode. Others won’t. But we need to open ourselves up to the experience or we will never grow.
Each writer has different outlooks on reviews. Some read them, and some don’t. Some are obsessed with Goodreads like watching a train wreck. Some read every one of them, and others just concentrate on the good.
I like to read them in small doses. I carefully scroll and read some good, read some bad, then make myself stop. Sometimes I learn from a review, and other times I shudder in horror at the sheer fierceness of emotion –usually dislike. OUCH.
So, as I wrap up, let me share some things I’ve learned about reviews.
1. Bad reviews are going to hurt. And that’s ok. I mean, come on, strangers are basically telling us they hate our newborn baby and that’ s not easy to take. But you also have to learn to accept the pain, and shake it off. If we don’t get bruised along the way, the wins won’t feel as sweet. Fact of life. So when I’m shuddering over a vicious review, I take what I can to learn from the experience, give myself 24 hours to feel really badly, and the next day it’s over. I usually reach out to only my close friends to help me through and after my 24 hours have passed, I don’t go back and read it or obsess. Of course, within those 24 hours I may read and dissect it over a million times.
2. I save good reviews. I receive fan mail, and many of them tell me how my book made them happy. I save all my good fan letters or links to really positive reviews and that is my go to happy place, just like Happy Gilmore. If I need a boost, I read one of them. It makes me realize I gave someone the gift of entertainment, and I did my job. This will help balance me out if I am having a rough day.
3. Don’t take it personally. Honestly, I know writing a book is personal but reviewers and readers don’t think like that. They are judging the WORK. To them, it is a separate entity, and many would probably be shocked how personally we take our reviews. Again, much easier said than done but practice. It’s a job, a career, and it’s not supposed to all roses and wine. I now try to put some humor into the really awful ones – it’s so much easier to laugh than it is to cry! And please God, if there is one thing not to do it’s contact the reader or reviewers and defend or explain. LET. IT. GO.
4. Don’t obsess. Constantly stalking reviews just isn’t healthy. You should read some to get an idea of what’s working and what’s not, but we need to concentrate on writing our next book. Having other people’s voices in our heads other than our characters is just plain dangerous.
5. Make note of the reviewers/readers who love your book. I try to keep a list, leave them a comment thanking them, and make note for my next book. This is a great group to target because they already admitted they like your voice. They will probably want to buy your next book. Your newsletter list is gold and an untapped source. Instead of running after the masses, you have a core group of followers so treat them well.
That’s it. I’m sure there’s more, but five is enough to think about.
Oh, and to wrap it up, weeks later I was asking my son how things were and he told me he was now friends with the boy who had pushed him. I stared speechless and in shock. “How did that happen?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Guess he likes me now.”
Once we get to know someone, maybe we will change his or her opinion. Maybe not. Either way, life is full of possibilities, isn’t it?
Drop me a comment and share your review experiences.