You’ve spent three years writing your novel, polished it to within an inch of its life and are incredibly proud of your baby. You’re ready to publish. You press the button to self-publish (or it’s publication day for those who have gone the traditional way) and then wait.
The reviews (if you’re lucky/ unlucky) come rolling in.
Some are five stars. Others are one star.
Pass me the vodka.
My writing sucks!
I’m never writing again.
I’m going to unpublish it.
I wasn’t made to be a writer.
I’m too shit at this!
Does it sound familiar?
Everyone gets bad reviews. I repeat EVERYONE. Even Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and all the literary geniuses that have ever had the balls to put their work out there.
Have you looked at Goodreads recently? It can be brutal (as I’ve found to my expense! ha ha ha – pass me the vodka too!).
If the bad reviews get under your skin, my advice to you is, don’t read them. Straight up, stop. It’s not worth it. Don’t let it stop you from doing the thing you love.
See, the problem is, reading and writing are very subjective things. Everyone likes different things and you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. They are not your people.
Go and find your people.
If you can stomach reading the bad reviews, sometimes you can use them as a learning tool. Is there something which every bad review picks up on? Do you agree with them? Can you change it? Do you want to change it?
But, be warned, using reviews as a learning tool doesn’t always work and can backfire on you spectacularly.
Here’s a sample of a review I received for Everlong (a paranormal romance I self-published a few years ago);
Whenever I read a Young Adult book I always ask myself “am I enjoying this book” and “would my teenage daughter enjoy this book?”.
The answer to both questions is “Not really.” Normally if I have gotten that far into a book and it has not grabbed my attention yet then I put the book away and never finish reading it. The only reason I didn’t is because I made myself resolution to finish reading 52 books this year and review them. However, I won”t review most books until I have finished them because sometimes the ending is better than the beginning. This book is a clear example of why I do that. This book gets off to a rough slow start but ends with a flourish. The end was good enough that I MIGHT just read the next book in the series to find out what happens next to Evie and Josh. Maybe the next book is a 4 star book or better.
This isn’t a particularly bad review. But, I asked myself, is there anything I can learn from this?
Not on its own, but several other reviews did mention that the start of Everlong dragged a little. As a few people mentioned this, it probably follows that the start is a little slow, doesn’t it?
So I changed it.
I restructured the novel to make it more interesting. I changed the title and the book cover. The new book, called Bones, has one review on Goodreads. It’s a 2 star.
Everlong, the original version has nine text reviews, and five of those are four or five stars.
Another reviewer, who gave Everlong five stars, wrote:
When Josh saves Evie from dying everything changes for them both. Mostly because Josh is the Angel of Death. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story was very original and wonderfully written. I LOVED the forbidden chemistry between Evie and Josh. I really wanted them to be together. Of course, with Josh’s “profession” being together isn’t going to be easy. Josh is a very loving and sexy character! I loved how much he wanted Evie. I absolutely cannot wait for book #2! I highly recommend this book!!
See what I mean?
You can’t please everyone.
So, don’t even try!!!
And leave the reviews alone, even the good ones, because, in the end, it will do your head in!
The best thing you can do if you want to know what works and what doesn’t work in your writing is to get a team of BETA readers to read it BEFORE you publish. Or join a workshop for writers. If there isn’t one near where you live, well, why not start one up yourself?
BUT, leave the reviews alone.
Unless you’re like me and are a bit of weirdo! 🙂