Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reviews: Get Thee Thick Skin

There is no promotional tool more terrifying to me than the Blog Tour. Knowing that a group of blog reviews are going to post your reviews en masse, is a double Tums event. You provide the link and let the chips fall where they may. You don’t have any control over who jumps on the Tour bus or over what you’re walking into: the good, the bad and sometimes, the really ugly. And you’ve just sent everyone to them with your blessing.

Reviews are always a crap shoot. Realistically you know everyone isn’t going to like your book. Okay. You don’t like every book you read, either. But to see a negative opinion there in print is like an arrow to your writer’s heart. One two-star cancels out twelve four- or five-stars in the fragile ego universe. It’s all you see. It’s all you think about. One person out of thirteen hates me.

Okay, they don’t hate YOU. It’s not personal. It’s not a mugging, although I guess there is some similarity to walking down a dark alley trustingly only to be clubbed to the ground and have your credibility stolen. You can’t keep it from happening even if you stick to safe routes where everything is well lit and welcoming. But you can take charge of your reactions and your recovery. You can pick yourself up and brush yourself off or you can lay there in misery and moan about it.

In a perfect world, reviews would reflect the genuine content and quality of your work. They would be objective and kind. In the real world, reviews are subjective and sometimes genuinely mean-spirited. Our writing isn’t meant to be viewed objectively. It’s meant to touch upon emotions and stir up reactions. Hot buttons are different for every reader and opinions vary wildly. Sometimes you wonder if they were reading the same book!

Your hero: “Whiny, downtrodden, co-dependent” or “strong, intriguing, multidimensional epitome of an alpha character”

Your heroine: “dynamic, fiercely loyal, complex, honorable” or “crazy, unscrupulous, despicable”

Your plot: “Unfocused, inconsistent, strains credulity” or “action-packed page turner, intense, beautifully written, complex and engaging”

Advice on the subject varies:

1) Don’t read them. How can you not look at the scene of an accident even if you know you might be horrified?

2) Call the reviewer petty, stupid, mean, jealous wannabe writers, or learn from them.

3) Argue with them in a public forum. This one is a No No NO!!! It never works out in your favor! Not ever!

4) Have your agent or critique group only send you the good ones. Rose colored glasses are sometimes our friend.

The fact is, you can’t ignore the fact that bad reviews are out there. You have to deal with them as a part of doing business with a very opinionated public. But you don’t have to feature the unpleasant ones on your website.

To make myself feel better about those occasion one or two stars, I go to the Amazon reviews of my favorite NYT bestselling authors and look at what they’ve received. All glowing? Not even close. Even more fun is the book Rotten Reviews & Rejections. Even the best of the best aren’t universally loved.

I think I’ll stick with my editors advice: one starred review from Publishers Weekly outshines all the other stars in the galaxy.

And then maybe I’ll peek through my fingers to see what other reviewers have to say.


  1. Hi, Nancy. Good points on reviews. A thick skin is a must. And chocolate -- a lot of chocolate -- after reading the more scathing ones. :-)

  2. Can't please 'em all. Just do your best and hope for the rest!

  3. Excellent post, Nancy, and oh so true.

  4. I'll try again to post here. google doesn't like me again today.
    Great blog, Nancy. Should be required reading for every writer, novice or experienced.

  5. Great post, Nancy! I'm going to remember these tips when I get a bad review someday when I'm published :)

  6. Great post. Too true. It is equally true of submission rejections. We have received some rather scathing replies when we do our best to let their ego down gently...Doc E

  7. Well said, Nancy. Best to remember each review is one person's opinion. But, I also like the idea to take it with chocolate!