The 5 Stages of Reacting to Negative Reviews
I remember my first. Oh, do I remember it. I can’t speak for others, but I would tentatively guess that most authors also remember their first – especially nowadays, when all the grisly details are shared with the entire online world. What? Yes, of course I’m talking about negative reviews! What did you think I was talking about, you naughty naughty people?
In all seriousness though, it is a truth universally acknowledged that negative reviews HURT. With book two recently out, I’ve gotten pretty used to them, and can now read one without having to curl away in a corner for days with my ‘worst writer in the world’ hat on. It helps that with traditional publishing it takes at least a year for your book to hit the shelves, so in that time I’ve always moved on to a new story and feel a lot more detached from the poor novel that is now getting an online beating. But even so, there is still a set pattern that I always seem to go through every time I stumble upon a negative review …
Did I just read that? Let me check again to make sure I wasn’t misreading anything. Surely the reviewer didn’t mean to say ‘worst book ever’. I mean, ‘w’ on the keyboard is preeettttyy close to ‘b’, right, so they were probably going for ‘best book ever’ but slipped and ended up making a shocking mistake I am sure they are about to right any second. Let me just refresh the page to make sure. Hmm, still the same. Well they might be having internet problems – it is rather windy out. I’ll give it a few more minutes. Any second now …
RIGHT IT’S BEEN HOURS NOW AND STILL I’M NOT SEEING ANY CHANGES. *STOMP STOMP STOMPITY STOMP*. HOW COULD IT BE THAT THE READER DIDN’T ENJOY THE STORY? THIS BOOK IS THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD! ARGHH, I’M GETTING ANGRY ON BEHALF OF MY CHARACTERS FOR HAVING SUCH MEAN THINGS SAID ABOUT THEM. HOW DARE THIS READER HURT THEIR FEELINGS!
Wait. Maybe if I sent the reader cake as a bribe I could get them to change the review – or at least plump it up one star rating. Or better yet, maybe I can ask my publisher to recall all copies of the book, reprint it with the changes I now need to make, and then pop it back out in the shops so no reader will ever think that the dialogue on page 44 was forced again.
Oh god. *Finds my ‘worst writer in the world’ hat and hides in a corner*. I really am terrible aren’t I? My publisher is probably holding an emergency meeting right now because they’ve seen the review and have realised they made an awful mistake in ever publishing me. This is it. The end of my writing career is here. Goodbye, sweet dreams of bestseller-list stardom and sparkly Carnegie Medal.
Jeeeez, Tasha, pull yourself together! So you got a bad review. It happens. If everyone in the world liked the same things it’d be a pretty darn boring place now, wouldn’t it? Think of all the books you love – and remember how many people don’t feel the same way. All you can do is write books for you. There will be people who like reading the same things as you out there, who will find your novels and enjoy them – and maybe even love them! Look at those good reviews. You’ve made those readers happy – how wonderful is that! This is a story that was once just floaty words and ideas in your head, and now people are reading them. That’s pretty cool. So take a last look at this negative review. Is there anything you can take from it and apply constructively to the next thing you write? Yes? Well, fan-flipping-tastic! No? Well, you just use it push yourself to write bigger and better. You can’t please everyone, but you can keep improving.
Go get ’em, tiger 😉
Natasha is a YA writer represented by Nicola Barr at Greene & Heaton. Since graduating from the University of Cambridge with a Geography degree in 2011, she has been working as a social media consultant and blogger, running top UK fashion blog Girl in the Lenswith her photographer boyfriend, and has effectively swapped sleep for writing. Her debut novel THE ELITES was published by Hot Key Books in September 2013. Her second book THE MEMORY KEEPERS came out this year, and she is busy writing her next novels!