Monday, 30 December 2013

Dealing With Bad Reviews

It was bound to happen at some point. Getting on for four years of publishing stories, novels, blogs, poetry, articles, newsletters... Pretty much anything and everything that can be published (and getting paid for it too, which is always a nice bonus), a bad review was sure to come along eventually. In all honesty, I think I'm lucky that it took this long, and that it's only happened on one published work (ironically, the one that is selling best in paperback form... Well, there you go!). I came across the review by accident when I was searching for an Amazon link, and, I'll admit, it did take me a few moments to realise what I was reading.

It's not that I'm a complete egotist, it's just that I wasn't prepared for it.

My initial reaction was to comment on the review, to point out exactly where the reviewer had gone wrong, to correct spelling and grammar, to basically, very passive-aggressively, get a little of my own back. In essence, I wanted to review their review.

I didn't do it. Oh, in my head I commented a thousand times, ripping the reviewer apart for tearing into a project that I - and a small group of friends - had put together as a little bit of fun between us, but in reality I ignored it completely. Was it hard? Yes, it bloody well was. My book, something the group and I had slaved over and enjoyed working on, had been mauled, and I wanted revenge.

I guess it's a natural human reaction.

When backed into a corner, when hurt (literally or figuratively), the first response is to fight back. It's evident all over nature. But, just as in the wilds of Africa or the Amazon rainforest or the Jeremy Kyle show, or any other place you care to name, it is far too easy for the whole situation to escalate until you find yourself in a snarling, brawling, biting, name calling never-ending loop of pain and misery.

So my advice to you, whether it's a one star review on Amazon, or a bad report, or petty squabbling between so-called friends, is to ignore it. Take a deep breath. Hold your head up high. Walk away. Because the review is one of three things:

1. It's an attempt at trolling. Basically, it's a deliberate and mean spirited way for the reviewer to have some 'fun' at the writer's (or worker's etc) expense. And that's just not worth getting into - as they say, don't feed the trolls. Check out the reviewer's other reviews; are they all one star? Is he or she mindlessly cruel in general, or was it just you? This will give you an idea as to whether the review is worth anything or not.

2. It's a review left by someone who had a grudge against you. It has been known for other authors to rubbish their 'competition' by leaving one star reviews. It's petty and close minded, but they wouldn't do it if their work was any good, and if they didn't feel threatened by yours. It's almost - almost, but not quite... - a compliment. These kinds of people just don't have it in them to understand that they would be better off joining in and helping their fellow writer. It makes for a much happier existence, and much better book sales!

3. The review is correct. Hard as it may be to swallow, sometimes people don't like what you create. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it leaves you with an empty feeling. Yes, it is a truly horrible thing. But no one is perfect, and everyone is different. Those seemingly trite phrases are absolutely accurate in this situation. You may not have got it right, in which case a reviewer is perfectly justified in saying so. Even if you have dozens of five star reviews, that doesn't mean that everyone is going to adore your work. Just let it go; have you loved everything you've ever read?

Whichever one of the three the poor review your work has been given falls under, the best course of action is to ignore it. Time will move on, you'll write more, you'll publish more, you'll receive more reviews and one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, that one star won't mean anything anymore.

The key, is to just keep swimming...

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