I'm reposting this post from June 29, 2011 in light of the recent explosions in the book review blogsphere over negative reviews and how authors respond to them. I remember this event very clearly because I was just eerily calm about it all. That's when I knew I had learned my lesson and developed my thick skin.
As the July 5, 2011 drop date approaches for THE FIRST DAYS, more and more review sites are posting their insights on the first book in the AS THE WORLD DIES ZOMBIE TRILOGY.
Like any writer, I'm hoping for some good, solid positive buzz. I felt my own personal review season got off to a great start with the Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly. I am not going to lie. I wear that sucker as a badge of honor. I'll probably have it engraved on my tombstone. When I saw that review, I was speechless. It was like the publishing gods smiled down at me and acknowledged all my blood, sweat and tears on the road to publication. Hell, I'm grinning as I'm writing this.
But, of course, for all the good reviews I get, there are always the negative ones that are going to pop up. When I first started on this career path, I read every review and believed them. A good review made me feel like the world's greatest writer. A negative review confirmed I was a worthless hack.
It was hard to process the conflicting reviews barreling down on me: I love the characters in this book! I hate the characters in this book! The characters were so real! The characters were cliche stereotypes! The plot was amazing! There was no plot! I cried I was so emotionally moved! I threw this book across the room 'cause it was crap! This is the best writer ever! This writer sucks!
My moods were easily manipulated by the subjective viewpoints of reviewers online to the point where I had to swear off reading the reviews. It took me a long time to get a healthy viewpoint on reviews.
Writers are constantly slashed by the sword of the subjective. One agent may love your writing while another hates it. A publishing house may declare your book complete drivel, while another plunks down a ton of money because they love it so much. One review site will pin five stars to your review, while another gives you zero.
Trust me, when you're starting out in this business, that sword of the subjective sucks and sucks the big, ripe one. It hurts like hell and sometimes that pain is enough to make people quite trying to accomplish their dreams. But if you keep going and learn to shield yourself against that terrible sword, it does get easier to deal with.
Tonight, my friend (and fellow writer) Kody Boye told me about a particularly negative review THE FIRST DAYS just received.
"Don't read it," he said ominously.
"What did they say?" I asked.
He told me one or two points.
"Huh?" I answered. "Did they read the book?"
"I guess. Don't worry. Someone was defending you in the comments."
"Well, at least they're discussing the book!" I declared, claiming victory.
A part of me wanted to be upset, but I fought that away, reminding myself of the simple truth I came to understand a few years ago.
Some people will love my books, some will hate my books, and usually for the exact same reasons.
The brutal truth of the matter is that everyone has an opinion. I'm not saying that some reviewers aren't absolute dicks in their reviews. Some are. I have seen a few reviews by very well-respected critics bashing well-known authors works in a way that appeared really personal and downright nasty. But as a writer, I have to believe that when any reviewer bashes the author or the book in a way that comes across as mean for the sake of mean, readers will recognize it.
In closing, I thought I'd share this little gem. It's an Amazon review on THE LIVING DEAD BOY AND THE ZOMBIE HUNTERS, a mid-grade horror novel I wrote (that adults can enjoy as well) for the younger zombie fans. It knocked down my rating pretty badly, but I can't believe anyone reading it will take it seriously. I mean...would you?
And is that a compliment to PRETTY WHEN SHE DIES? Or not? Hrmmm.....
Tomorrow I'm switching gears and going to talk about recent changes in my writing career.
As always, thanks for reading my blog and feel free to leave a comment.