Thursday 21 August 2014

A Reviewer Calls You ‘A Talentless Fuck’

Signs of a problem: your book’s rating suddenly plummets; your review count increases; your latest review stinks.

The symptoms: devastation; humiliation; anger; suicidal thoughts; homicidal thoughts; extreme hopelessness.

Bad reviews happen to even the best of writers and your first one will hurt like nothing has ever hurt before. Will you ever get over it? Probably not. However, with time, training and extreme self-discipline you will reach a stage where you can leave a polite note of thanks and laugh about it with your friends.

The first rule of handling a bad review – do not argue with the reviewer. Even if the reviewer said that your erotic romance between two mountain goats was the most contrived piece of crap he’s ever read, you must appear respectful of the reviewer’s point of view.

No matter what your peers say in public, no author, in the history of the world, has ever been grateful to read, ‘I wanted to stab my own eyes out just to be sure I would never read another description of goat hanky-panky’. However, we must appear appreciative of all feedback, no matter how much it hurt or how unhelpful it was. It is not becoming of an author to express a response to a negative review honestly.

However, the veneer of appreciation is only necessary in the company of readers and potential readers. We can say what we like to our friends – vent, vent, vent! This brings me to the concept of the review buddy.

A review buddy is another writer with whom you can share your bad reviews and honest opinions about readers. Every time you want to tell a reviewer exactly what you think of his or her inane opinions, you desist and call or write to your review buddy ridiculing the reviewer (‘Did you see how she missed a comma?’). Your buddy then writes back ‘Come on dahling! You know what reviewers are like – bad eggs, the lot of them. You’re so talented.’ In return, you do the same for your buddy. The more review buddies you have, the easier it is to ease the pain of negative reviews.

Note: never cross a review buddy; he or she could destroy your career in a screenshot. Always make sure there is a mutual exchange of angry rants that you can use as insurance.

You will quickly find that all writers get bad reviews and no matter how mature an author may seem in public, he or she actually wants to track down every single negative reviewer and leave big, smelly poos in their beds.

As you progress towards becoming a totally splendid hotshot author, your total review count will increase and the significance of each individual review will, in turn, decrease. Eventually you will be able to look at a bad review and say to yourself, “So OpinionSpouter69 didn’t like Goat Back Mounting; fifty-seven people did!”

Additional Blog-Exclusive Advice

By Lucas Bale

Your debut book is a genuinely terrifying prospect. No matter how much you treat it like a business proposition – hiring an editor, filtering it through beta readers, arranging the design of a professional cover, spending hours on your jacket spiel (I hate the term ‘blurb’) – the psychological safety net beneath you, your emotional insurance against the dark abyss of failure, seems woven from some diaphanous silk which couldn't possibly hold you if the readers who choose to buy it, then hate it. You’ve slaved over it and allowed it to occupy your every thought for months, if not years; edited while other saner members of your family slept; and now, here it is, staring back at you with its own Amazon listing. Taunting you. People can buy it now. And they can hate it.

Some will.

Get used to it. No matter how good your book is, no matter how compelling the characters and how tightly written the plot, someone will leave you a shitty review. Human beings have bad days and say things they don’t mean to vent – the feelings, or career, of some self-published author they don't even know will not be uppermost in their minds. They might, six months ago, have even loved your book, but trouble at work or at home may have skewed their perception, or they just wanted something different. And trolls prowl the internet too – curmudgeonly people with nothing better to do than to criticise and verbally flay the efforts of others in lieu of their own meagre accomplishments and to hide their own failings.

Never engage a negative reviewer. Be professional. Some authors say, if the reviewer is factually incorrect, you can correct them. Don't. Just leave it, go get a glass of wine and sit in the sun. Act like an author. People are entitled to their opinions – it’s called freedom of speech and too many of our ancestors died protecting it.

Or, they may have a point. There might be something fundamentally wrong with your book you might want to take a look at. But remember this: those reviews will not go away with your second book either. Or your tenth or your fiftieth. Every writer gets bad reviews because writers, and readers, are human. Variety is the spice of life and not everyone will pick up what you've written, no matter how good it is, and like it. The trick is to remember that the good reviews are people you have reached – people who have loved your book. That is special.

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