I recently published my debut novel, Rooter (a new adult romance). The first reviews to come in were all five stars. I was elated! I thought "Wow, maybe I'm better at this writing thing than I thought." As a writer of fiction, putting your work out there for the masses to read-and judge-is a scary thing. You never know how it will be received. However, one thing is certain: There will be people who love it, those who think it's just okay, and there will be those who hate it.
In my experience, reviews come mostly from those who either love my work or those who hate it.
I have been guilty of the same. When I come across a book I absolutely adore, I'm almost sure to write a review or at least leave a rating. Before becoming a published author, I was also guilty of writing bad reviews or at least giving a low rating to books I thought were awful. Since publishing my novel, I have developed a great respect for the amount of work it takes to write and publish a book therefore I no longer do this. Besides, just because I don't like a particular book doesn't mean it's bad.
Anyhow, I knew bad reviews were on their way and I prepared myself as best I could. I have pretty thick skin to begin with. I can accept when someone says they don't like my characters or they don't like my writing style. I can even take it when they say the story just isn't their cup of tea. But as of last week, the only bad review I'd received was that the reader thought the main character was a bad friend and had a bad attitude. It didn't bother me one bit. That was her take on the character, which was fine by me.
My writing style and stories aren't for everyone. I don't do sweet or cute, at least not in big doses. My characters are hugely flawed, just like everyday people. Some of them probably have more bad qualities than good. And I don't shy away from controversial issues and shocking situations. My debut novel proves as much. (Maybe I should include a disclaimer for those with delicate sensibilities and those who prefer their stories to be nice, sweet, and tied up with a bow.)
Last week, I ran a free promotion on my novel and boy did the reviews start pouring in. And just as I feared, I received my first bad reviews. They weren't just bad. They were scathing. And it hurt. I even found some readers had gone on to readers forums to post about how bad my book is and tried to convince others not to waste their time. OUCH! My pride and confidence were instantly shattered. What had I done to make those people write such awful hurtful things? Were they purposely trying to hurt me? I even debated asking them those questions.
Instead, I logged onto Goodreads to check some reviews of other books in my genre by well known, best-selling authors. To my surprise, I found they had reviews just as bad, if not worse than mine. It gave me some peace of mind. Then I went to the profiles of a couple people who'd written such disparaging reviews on my novel and come to find out, they give nearly every book they read a low rating! I didn't find one good review from them. Maybe my book isn't as bad as they say. Maybe they are just impossible to please.
Still dissatistfied, I went back and re-read my positive reviews and they reminded me there are people out there who love my story. And they probably aren't the only ones. Finally, a little after midnight, I decided to sleep on it. When I woke, while I was still bummed, I had a fresh perspective.
I still had far more good reviews than bad. 4.1 stars out of 5, with a majority of 5 star reviews is worth being proud of! No book, even by the greats, has a 5 out of 5 star rating. Mine won't either. Additionally, bad publicity is publicity, just the same. We writers need reviews to increase our visibility, so while I'm not happy my book made a reader violently angry, I am happy she took the time to write the review. Time is a valuable thing, after all.
As a writer, I must accept bad reviews come with the territory. The best thing I can do is ignore the negative reviews or learn to use them constructively to improve the quality of my future work.