We’ve all been there. Whether you’re an author, blogger, actor, etc. we’ve all had bad reviews/comments at some point. My guest today, L. Filloon, talks about those dreaded bad comments and what to do about it.
What is a new self-publishing, indie-author to do when she receives a bad review for her first ever published work? Does she crawl into bed, pull up the covers, cry her eyes out and have her best friends come over for more than just “a glass” of wine? Or perhaps she can put on her one piece bathing suit (because a bikini body she does not have), drive to the California coast, walk out to the water and try to swim to Hawaii knowing damn well that she can’t swim worth a lick? Seriously, though? Can one really bad “I just don’t get the story” review take a writer from writing fantasy stories to thoughts of death by self drowning?
Listen. Although any type of bad review can sting, it is not the end of the world.
In the beginning, the reviews for The Binding were generally decent, many were even great. However, the first bad review I received knocked me off my feet. And, the person who gave me the review didn’t even post it! Instead, she sent me an email to tell me what she thought was wrong with the book. She was brutally honest and stated that unless I rewrote an entire section at the beginning of the story she would not continue reading the rest of the book. She also noted that she only read 20% of it. Now, mind you, this came after receiving five and four star reviews. Of course, I responded back and we emailed each other until I finally had to step away. She stated that she wouldn’t post it publicly because it wasn’t in her nature to put anyone down in a public way. For that, I was truly grateful. By the way, we still keep in touch.
It took my publicist, my husband, my daughter, three good friends, and my sister (whose version of a pep talk consist of everything but the pep) to keep me from throwing myself onto the proverbial sword and call it a year. There have been others since then; brutal, harsher than necessary and stinging reviews. My initial reaction was to find some way to contact that reviewer and write a long, drawn out, wearisome explanation defending my work, and try to make them understand why I chose to write it the way I wrote it. Then my warrior spirit emerges and I want to find a way to declare war, “meet me in the playground area, or better yet, at a dark alley” so that I may use my very imaginable ninja skills on them. Alas, in the end, you can either accept it or you can start looking for that rope with a ready made noose.
After one particularly harsh review, I wrote to Ms. Darcie Chan. Ms. Chan is a self-published author who within a few months sold over 250,000+ copies of her first novel. I asked her how she handled bad reviews and what kind of insight she could give me. She stated, “There is no book out there – even the most bestselling book of all time – that is universally loved.” She also advised me to “put on a crash helmet, get your skin thickened up, and resume writing…You will always have some negative ones (reviews), and the more people read your book, the more negative reviews will come in.”
Not to say that all reviews will be bad (unless the book is that bad), but the more your work is viewed, expect to have your fair share of bad reviews. I get it. Not all books are for everyone and not everyone will like all books that are published. On that same note, not all bad reviews are bad. Some I’ve received were very constructive. They were insightful, thoughtful and I like that I could see the story from an objective reader’s point of view. The trick, however, is to not let their voices overtake your own when you start writing again. You have to remember why you chose to write in the first place and how it made you feel. Most importantly, you have to remember to let your voice come through the din of darkness and be heard. Yes, I said darkness. Darkness because when you let the negative words in, you shut out the creative words that can bring life to a wonderful new world.
I realize now that by putting my writing out there, I am opened to criticism. The good and the bad. This was evident to me when I saw harsh reviews for Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Seriously? I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps receiving bad reviews is a rite of passage for a self-published author (or, maybe, for all authors).
I remember my days in fourth grade when I was constantly bullied and taunted in school. My teacher, Ms. Spaniard, pulled me aside one day and said, “Take it on the chin and let it roll off your back.” I literally took her words to heart. Up until the sixth grade whenever I was confronted, I stood my ground, put out my chin and waited for the punch to come so I could get on with my day. Of course, the punch never came and from that point forward I was known as the crazy Samoan girl. Needless to say I survived middle school with my chin intact. Moral of the story is, “Take the hit and move on.” Life is too short and you only have so much time to get all your writing done.
I realize that my focus on the bad reviews was draining my energy, keeping me off balanced and unfocused. So, I will give them the respect they deserve (or don’t), as everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I made a decision to concentrate on the good reviews by those who really enjoyed the story and have made it clear they want more. They are a large part of my reason to move forward and continue writing. They have been very supportive and their enthusiasm and excitement fuels new energy in me to write. To complete the journey of Lily and Tharin, of Julia and Tolan and, of course, Cessa as they make their way to meet their destiny. They have inspired and encouraged me, and for that, I owe them this much.
“So, chin up. Sit down and write the goals of 1) making yourself happy, 2) making a majority of readers happy, and 3) taking criticism from nasty reviews and using it to your advantage.” Thanks, Darcie.
As for my chin? Huh…Dudley Do Right has nothing on me.
About The Binding
Two nights after her eighteenth birthday, Lily is attacked while out jogging, but is saved by Tharin Lunar, a Sidhe prince. When she discovers that her attacker is her own brother, Lucas, who disappeared four years ago, Lily refuses to believe that her brother would truly hurt her and becomes determined to find Lucas and bring him home. Lily finds that Lucas’ disappearance is somehow tied to Tharin; so when he informs her that she is his betrothed and must return with him to Velesi, fulfill a treaty between their families and unite the two strongest clans through their marriage, Lily agrees. However, she is not going to Velesi for a wedding, but to bring home her only family, Lucas.
On their journey to the borders of Velesi, the realm of the Thirteen Clans, they are pursued by a Sidhe assassin group call the Ange, meet with an ogre crime lord that ends badly, deal with a sleazy troll motel manager, and when they discover that there is a bounty on their heads, they must keep one step ahead of every assassin, bounty hunter and low-life criminal from Velesi.
Protecting Lily has become the biggest challenge of Tharin’s life. Lucky for him he has help in the form of his twin brother, Tolan, Lily’s best friend Julia and his three bodyguard cousins.
About the Author
I was born in Samoa, spent my 6 to 11 years in Hawaii (Oahu), grew up and finished school in California, and lived my adult life from the age of 30 in Las Vegas, and here is where I have been since. I have been writing since before I even knew what writing meant. The Binding is my first novel.