Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to handle a bad review: What, me worry?

Okay, so this topic is nothing new among writers. I mean, if you want to be an author, you're going to have develop a thick skin, suck it up and drive on, etc. I know there have been countless blog posts written that offer the same trite advice. I figured I would go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and tell you how I deal with readers who don't like what I write.

For those that know me, I'm probably perceived as incredibly laid back and don't ruffle easily. I strive not to dwell on the negative and choose to let shit roll off my back. Life is just easier that way.

I suppose this carefree attitude came from my years spent working as a firefighter/EMT. I saw a lot of tragic nonsense, a lot of death. That kind of stuff will definitely change you when you see it day in, day out. You've got to distance yourself from it emotionally or it'll ruin you. Now that I work a nine-to-five job in an office, there's nothing that really bothers me emotionally (aside from the stupidity I witness). There's nothing really life-or-death there.

Writing, for me, is the same as the office environment. There's nothing to worry over. Okay, you're probably waiting for me to get on with how this ties in to coping with bad reviews. Well, I self-published a short story, Hush, Hush, My Love, as a way to test the self-publishing waters. It was an experiment to learn the ropes and determine if this was an avenue I wanted to pursue. I chose this story because it was the first I had published professionally. In addition, I thought it was one of the best short stories I'd ever written. Many of my friends who'd read it agreed. To this day, it's still one of my favorites!

I tried publishing the story for free. I didn't want people to pay for something so short (it's only about 1,200 words long, barely more than flash fiction!) I released it out to the various distributors I typically use: B&N, Amazon, and Smashwords. On Smashwords, it received several 4-star reviews. I was extremely happy. Later, readers from B&N weighed in. The first was from some reader who obviously hated it. It received its first 1-star review with: "This is a short story right out of a sick man's nightmares." I was upset when I first read that comment. It was like having someone punch your child in the head after sending them out into the world. How could they berate something I created?

Easy. That's how. It's like the old saying, "You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time". I don't know who actually said that, but it's so very true. Despite my classifying it as a horror short story, I guess the person who left that (as well as the others who weighed in with one-stars and no comments) mistook it for a romance or erotica story by the cover. I won't speak disparagingly of any of those readers because I don't know them. For all I know, some of them might be geniuses. I just chalk it up to the fact that I couldn't please them. It happens. Perhaps, they'll enjoy one of my other stories.

James, a colleague of mine, said that the negative responses only showed that my books were doing what art is supposed to do: striking a chord with people. After all, isn't art supposed to illicit an emotional response? I couldn't agree more with my friend. I believe he's absolutely right.

The bottom line is that you can't please everyone. And, it hasn't stopped me from writing stories that I want to write. I don't write for the masses. Sure, I want as many people as possible to enjoy my work, but that doesn't mean everyone will like it. As long as there are some people out there who find it entertaining, then I guess I'm doing all right. So, my advice is this: Write what interests you and what you enjoy. Somewhere out there are like-minded individuals who will be glad you didn't let a bad review stop you from pursuing your goals.

Thanks for stopping by!

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