Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I'd been meaning to do an "unsolicited advice" post on the subject of how to cope with bad reviews, but hadn't got to it in the aftermath of Eastercon. And then a week or so ago an enormous blogstorm erupted over one author taking bad reviews far too seriously, giving an example of authors behaving very badly indeed. It's a *very* touchy subject at the moment, so I'm simply going to pull up a comment that I posted at Dear Author back in January, in a completely different discussion.
On the topic of less-than-rave reviews, I don’t like getting them any more than the next author does. But one of the useful bits of advice I’ve had out of hanging around more experienced writers is this:And I said something along the same lines a year ago in a comment on an EREC thread. I can't even remember now what outbreak of angst we were referring to, because authors regularly get in a public snit about less than glowing reviews.
There is no book written that is going to appeal to everyone who reads it, because people have different tastes. So if your book reaches a wide audience, sooner or later it’s going to get a bad review, no matter how good a book it is. If it reaches a really wide audience, it’s going to get the sort of review that strips paint from walls. The thing to worry about is when you *don’t* get any bad reviews — because it means that not many people have read the book.
The duelling reviews on Dear Author and other sites occasionally demonstrate the truth of that. What one reviewer adores, another loathes, and sometimes for exactly the same reason. Bad reviews are part of the job description. You don’t have to learn to like them, but you do have to learn to live with them. And an honest review of the book isn’t an attack on the author, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book. A thumbs-down review may help sell the book to someone with different tastes, if the reviewer sets out clearly why the book didn’t work for her.
Bad reviews hurt. But they're part of the job. And yes, I put my money, or at least my review copies, where my mouth is. I don't send out many review copies, because my publisher handles the routine review copies, including all the ones sent to the fluff review sites. But the few that *I* send out go to reviewers who are willing to say that they didn't like a book and why they didn't like it. Reviewers like Mrs Giggles, or Jan (the manga reviewer) at Dear Author. I know what sort of reviews I take seriously when I'm looking at reviews with my reader hat on, and that's the sort of review I want for one of my books, even if it means taking the risk that they'll shred it.