A "NOVEL" APPROACH TO ONE-STAR REVIEWS!
Julie here, and since the Seeker theme for 2016 and for Speedbo is “Face Your Fears,” I decided to talk about (although “ramble” might be a better word) one of the biggest fears I have had as an author—the fear of receiving negative reviews, particularly the one-star variety.
Let’s face it. For the author, a one-star review is like an F on a term paper, strike three for a batter, or a pink slip instead of a paycheck. A rating that basically says as far as that reviewer is concerned, you and your writing are nothing more than a big, fat failure.
Or in the words of Elizabeth Taylor, “I fell off my pink cloud with a thud.”
Failure. It’s a fear every person wrestles with and yet, without failure, there is no success. According to C.S. Lewis, “failures are finger posts on the road to achievement,” and I wholeheartedly agree, especially for writers. Because each rejection, each one-star review, each contest entered where the scores are low have the potential to teach us, humble us, mold us into the people (and writers) that God wants us to be. Why? I think Mr. Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, says it best:
“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.”
Can I hear a big fat AMEN??
Want proof? How ‘bout a little quiz to prove Mr. Ueshiba’s point? Below are eight true scenarios about eight famous people. Can you guess who they are? Answers will be listed below the quiz by number, so give it a shot. Because I don’t know about you, but these so-called “failures” sure inspired me!
1.) After being cut from his high school basketball team, he went home, locked himself in his room and cried.
2.) He wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old, and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”
3.) Was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.”
4.) Fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas
5.) At 30 years old, he was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.
6.) A teacher told him he was “too stupid to learn anything” and that he should go into a field where he “might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.”
7.) Was rejected by Decca Recording Studios who said, “We don’t like their sound … they have no future in show business.”
8.) His fiancé died, he failed in business, had a nervous breakdown, and was defeated in eight elections.
1.) Michael Jordan
2.) Albert Einstein
3.) Oprah Winfrey
4.) Walt Disney
5.) Steve Jobs
6.) Thomas Edison
7.) The Beatles
8.) Abraham Lincoln
As two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup winner, Mia Hamm, so wisely stated, “Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
Which brings me right back to those pesky one-star reviews. How do we react to them? Well, if you’re Julie Lessman, you cry, you rant, and then you OD on chocolate. OR you can check out the following blogs:
Don’t get me wrong—I am 100% for constructive criticism, which is why I think entering contests is one of the most important things an aspiring author can do. Frankly the constructive criticism I received from contest judges and paid critiques was the #1 thing that helped me to hone my craft as a writer, so BRING IT ON!
And, yes, I’ve even had a few low-star reviews that were truly “seasoned with grace,” explaining in a kind, nonjudgmental, and truly Christian manner as to why they rated the book so low, which believe it or not, I greatly appreciated.
But it’s when the “constructive” criticism becomes “destructive” criticism that I have a problem. Especially in the Christian market where “love” is proclaimed in the Bible as the greatest thing of all. Because I guarantee you that when I received reviews that called my book “smut,” “scum reading” and maligned my marriage, my husband, and my faith, and Mary Connealy received reviews that called her work “pornographic” and “x-rated,” neither of us were quite feeling “the love.”
Did it hurt? You bet.
Did we cry? Not sure about Mary, but I sure did.
Did it damage our confidence? Speaking for myself? Yes, for a while.
Until something pretty crazy began to happen.
You see, I began to view my 1-star reviews as a ministry of sorts, applying Luke 6:28— bless those who curse you, pray for those who hurt you—to every single nasty or 1-star review I received.
Now, I’m not exactly sure when it all happened, but somewhere between the first nasty one-star review and the 94th, I suddenly saw myself as hand-picked by God to pray for these reviewers because my words had obviously triggered something painful in them. According to blogger/author Anne R. Allen in her blog What Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe Online, “cruel, angry reviews say more about the reviewer than they do about your book.”
Which means as writers and authors, we don’t just trigger revelation and blessing in our readers’ lives, we also detonate time bombs of pain, sometimes slashing into deep, dark places that may not have seen the light of day until our book exposed that festering nerve. And we all know that when people hurt, they have a tendency to hurt back. Sometimes with nasty reviews.
We are Christian writers and authors. Which means we not only have a ministry to bless our readers whose lives we touch on behalf of God, but also those readers whose lives we disrupt for whatever reason. Consequently, I now see one-star reviews as a golden opportunity and privilege to pray for that reviewer, allowing God to turn all my nasty rejection into blessing on the head of someone He loves so much, he’s Masterminded a way that our hurt can not only bless that person, but us as well.
And sometimes—not always, mind you, but sometimes—if I’m truly blessed, that same reviewer is also praying for me right back, like the reviewer in the review header pic for this blog. And I gotta tell you—-that turns that great big frown on my face into a great big smile. Because I ask you—Who else but God can take something as hurtful as a nasty one-star review and turn it into a win-win for all the people involved?
Nobody else I know. :)
Okay, it’s your turn. If you’re an author who has received a one-star review, how did it affect you and how did you handle it? Or just leave a comment, and you’re in the draw for one of three e-copies of either Isle of Hope or A Glimmer of Hope.
Did you know that my favorite novel I have ever written—A Hope Undaunted—is now available for FREE DOWNLOAD?? Well, it’s true, and this is the book that made Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Books for 2010, so check it out HERE!
Award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. She has garnered 17 RWA and other awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her novel, Surprised by Love, appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s list of Top Ten Novels of 2014 and her most recent novel, Isle of Hope, was voted as one of Family Fiction magazine's Top 15 Best Books of 2015. Her indie book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. You can contact Julie on Facebook, Twitter, or www.julielessman.com, where you can read excerpts of her favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of her books.
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