Writers In The Storm is especially pleased to welcome our guest blogger, Kristina McMorris. She comes to us from the Pacific Northwest where refuses to carry an umbrella.
Recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards, she’s hosted weekly TV shows since the age of nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program.
Her debut novel, the highly acclaimed, Letters from Home (Kensington books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), was inspired by her grandparents’ wartime courtship. It was declared a must-read by Woman’s Day Magazine and was a Reader’s Digest Select Editions feature as well as a Doubleday Literary Guild selection. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (March 2012) has already received glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.
By Kristina McMorris
Unfortunately, for authors—as much as we deeply wish our own books were magically immune to such pride-shredding atrocities—there’s no escaping bad reviews. It’s just part of the gig.
Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t always easy to gracefully handle a stranger’s public declaration that our “baby,” whom we’ve lovingly nurtured through teething and first steps and colicky nights, is flat-out ugly. Worse yet, that our sweet child is so ghastly a creation it should be scorned and forever ostracized.
I admit, I’m confused by this concept. Not that bad reviews exist; the literary world would be a boring one if every reader shared the same opinion. (Case in point, there are enough fans of the movie “Saw” to warrant millions of production dollars and a series of SEVEN films.) Rather, what I’m referring to are the vicious, you deserve to die for writing such a steaming pile of doggy-doo kind. Fortunately, I haven’t been the victim of such a review to date, but I’m not naive enough to believe one isn’t headed my way in the future.
I can’t help but wonder what prompts such anger, and not merely toward the work, but the author as well—particularly when the topic isn’t a controversial one. Indeed the internet, in both good and bad aspects, has provided a microphone to the masses, encouraging “anonymous” commenters to often express words they’d likely never say in person. With the promotional trend of free ebooks today, the chances of readers sampling a book that defies their tastes have never been greater.
And yet, the overwhelming advice distributed among writers remains: Do. Not. Respond.
Gripe to your family and friends, even create a voodoo doll akin to a sock monkey if you must. Then, after you’ve had a chance to cool off, visit a site like Goodreads or Amazon, look up your three all-time favorite novels, and read at least two one-star reviews of each. The nastier, the better—because hey, how could any person in their right mind despise such a work of brilliance?!
To further heal your wounds, reread wise words of advice like…
“If you get a bad review, it’s because someone outside your target audience has found your book and gave it a shot. It’s no reflection on them as a reader, and no reflection on you as a writer. If, as an author, you don’t understand this, your writing will suffer, because you’ll be writing not to get bad reviews instead of writing to reward your target audience.” – John Locke
Then there’s my personal favorite…
“I get out my work and have a show for myself before I have it publicly. I make up my own mind about it—how good or bad or indifferent it is. After that the critics can write what they please. I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.” – Georgia O’Keefe
And finally, once you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to brush away those self-doubts, sit your tush back down at that computer, and, for the readers who eagerly await your next book, forge ahead and write.
Have any readers here at WITS had bad reviews? How did you handle them?