Before I published Gift of the Phoenix I knew it was inevitable that I’d get bad reviews, because any book that’s read by more than just friends and family will get at least a couple of bad reviews. No book is universally loved. There are even times when I’ll turn a prospective reader away from my own book.
Before publishing my novel, my only hope was that I’d have plenty of good reviews before my first one-star review, and that the good reviews would far outweigh the bad. I’ve been blessed because that’s what has happened.
Even though I knew to expect bad reviews at some point, I didn’t know how I would react to them. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t bad mouth or argue with the reviewer. I’ve heard there are a few authors who do this, but it’s not a good idea. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and people don’t have to like my book. If I posted a review about a book I didn’t like, and the author started arguing with me about it, I’d be irritated and a little creeped out.
So even though I knew I wouldn’t give any public response to bad reviews, I wondered how I would feel about them. I knew some authors get pretty bummed whereas others let it slide off their backs. I wasn’t sure which would be true for me.
Now I know.
And I have to admit, I’m surprised.
Like any self-respecting author, I can get a little neurotic about things. But in spite of a few bad reviews of my book, those reviews don’t bother me. I don’t have a temporary break down or reach for the chocolate. (Well, I don’t reach for the chocolate for that reason.) I just shrug my shoulders and think, well, no book is for everybody.
I’m not sure why I’m so calm about it. I think there are a couple of reasons.
First, the book has received some really excellent reviews and has a high overall average. Most people who read it like it, and as an author you can’t ask for more than that. If I had a low average or lots of bad reviews, I think that would be a genuine indicator that the book needed more work.
Second, I’m a reader as much as I’m a writer and I know that reader preferences don’t necessarily have anything to do with how well-written a book is. Years ago our book club read Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved that book. Loved it! And out of our entire group, I was the only one. Most everyone liked it. Some liked it a lot. But no one else loved it. Don’t ask me why, but I remember being shocked. I loved it so much, I figured everyone else would love it too.
When I walk into a book store, I gravitate toward certain sections of the store. I gravitate toward certain covers. Certain authors. That doesn’t mean all the other books suck. I’m just not as interested. I’ve also read wildly popular books that I couldn’t stand. Some I couldn’t even finish. Their popularity is a mystery to me. But I realize I’m just one opinion of many and we’re all different.
I’ve had plenty of opportunities to watch people react to my book after seeing it for the first time. I’ve had people hold my book to their chest, they’re so excited to read it. And I’ve had other people do no more than give it a passing glance.
I don’t take it personally. I’m not writing for the people who don’t like my genre, my story, or my style. I’m writing for those people who do. I’m writing for the people who contact me asking when the next book will be out.
I think as writers, especially these days, it’s easy to get lost in all the noise of advice about how to become the next bestseller. Well, with over 4,000 new books published daily, only a tiny fraction of authors will hit the bestseller list. But plenty of authors are still able to find their readership, and that’s what we want.
That’s why a small number of bad reviews really is okay.
If you’re able to build a fan base of loyal readers who can’t wait for your next book, then you’re doing just fine.
Write for yourself and write for them. Just keep writing.