I think most writers read reviews. There are a few stalwart souls who can resist the temptation of finding out what this or that reader thought, but I think those writers are few and far between. Most of us pour over reviews, trying to decipher meaning from every word. Did she really mean that all my writing was lackluster? When she said that the book was melodramatic, maybe she was only talking about the one part where the baby bird fell out of the tree.
Why is it that when most reviews are overwhelmingly positive, it's the lone negative voice that we recall with vivid clarity? And how should we react when our work is being publicly denigrated?
Some people respond inappropriately, like the recent twitter debacle where a reviewer's phone number was given out by an irate author. Other badly chosen responses might include going to bed for days, or swearing to never write again. Getting one's friends to go to the review site and flame the reviewer might also be considered an inappropriate response. So, how should an author respond to a negative review?
I think there are a few choices. One, remember we all get them. Reading is subjective and not every reader is going to like every book. Our beautiful covers and scintillating back cover copy is designed by marketing to draw in the most readers possible. Some of those will be disappointed by what they find inside the covers. But most will be surprised and delighted.
Two, call a trusted friend or critique partner and whine. My critique partners are one of my greatest assets as a writer. I know I can count on them to be incensed on my behalf, but I also trust them to be the voice of reason when I need it.
Three, fuggedaboutit. It you're obsessively checking Amazon, Good Reads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, etc. for reviews, just don't do it. Or make one day a month your review reading day. Seriously, you should be writing. You don't have time for all this obsessing.
Option number four is the one that got me thinking about this blog post to begin with. You can send that review to The Worst Review Ever. Their tag line is "Feel the Pain, Heal the Pain." Some of the entries are hilarious, but the website reminds us that though it's awful when our creative endeavors are scorned, we're not alone. Everyone gets bad reviews.
Finally, and this should not be the option of last resort, give it up. Pray about it. There's really only One opinion that counts. And I don't think He's writing reviews on Amazon.
Stephanie Newton wrote her first suspense story at age twelve. A teaching degree, a pastor husband, two kids, and six moves later, she's still writing. She lives in Northwest Florida and gains lots of inspiration from the sugar sand, aqua blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico and the many, many unusual things you see when you live on the beach. When's she's not in her chair with her laptop, she can most often be found enjoying the water with her family, or at church, where she makes the coffee and her husband preaches the sermons. For more info on Steph's books, check out her website at www.stephanienewtonbooks.com.