Today author Laura Templeton (SOMETHING YELLOW, SUMMER OF THE OAK MOON) stops by to talk about negative reviews and what authors should do.
Read on for her piece- it’s straight-up and to the point!
Negative Reviews and What Should Authors Do by Laura Templeton
As writers, we’re told “no” a lot. We receive, along with those heart-warming, make-you-want-to-stay-up-all-night-writing reviews, our fair share of one and two star reviews. My first book, Something Yellow, currently has 192 Amazon reviews. Among those are five 2-star reviews and two 1-star reviews, including one with the subject “Would give it no stars if possible.” Ouch.
Writing is such a personal thing. When you finish a story and publish it or send it along to agents or editors, you feel like you’re relinquishing a body part. After all, you quite literally gave up part of your life—that part where you could have been running a marathon, playing with your kids, cooking, bathing the dog, sleeping … whatever. A book represents a huge chunk of time and a large helping of good old sweat equity. So perhaps that’s why some authors think it’s okay to respond negatively to bad reviews and rejection. But here are three reasons I think that’s a bad idea.
- Authors are businesspeople.
As authors, we are our own, one-person company, responsible for branding ourselves and presenting our best product to the world at large. Our behavior should reflect our professionalism.
Let’s think about Starbucks for a minute, as that’s a brand that comes to mind. Let’s say you go into Starbucks for the first time and order a salted caramel latte. You hate it (if only…right?) You also dislike the store and the barista—the whole experience is bad. You go home and immediately hit Facebook and Twitter, telling all your friends how bad your visit to Starbucks was. So far, so good. Now, imagine this: Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, drops in on your Facebook page and tells you what an undiscerning palate you have, how ignorant you are, and that the details surrounding your birth are questionable. How likely is that to happen? Not very. Why not? Because Mr. Schultz understands that he speaks for his brand and defensive, negative comments will reflect badly on that brand. The same goes for authors, aspiring ones and multi-published ones. The best option is to let that bad review or rejection letter go unanswered—we will look more professional, and be taken more seriously, in the process.
- Authors should focus on their fans. Howard Schultz knows that not everyone is going to love what his company offers. But as long as he produces a top-quality experience that more people love than hate, the franchise will be a hit. He knows that his job is to ignore the naysayers and keep his dedicated followers happy—Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappuccino anyone?
Likewise, authors are best served when we keep our focus on our fans. What did I do when those bad reviews rolled in? Nothing. Oh, sure, I winced. A sharp pang struck me somewhere in the vicinity of my heart. But ultimately, I shrugged off my disappointment and didn’t worry too much about it. Why? Because not everyone is going to love my book. Not everyone—not every agent, not every editor, not every reader—is going to love your book either. Our job is to find the readers who do—the ones who go out of their way to contact us, queue up for our new book, and tell everyone they know about us. When we focus on our fans, we keep them happy and coming back for more. And if it’s an editor or agent we’re talking about, then you definitely want one who is as passionate about your work as you are. If they aren’t, then graciously move on to someone who is.
- The Golden Rule applies to readers, reviewers, editors, and agents.
Civility still counts in this world and ultimately earns us more respect than a negative attitude. When I was seeking reviewers for my first book, I emailed a blogger to see if she’d be interested. She declined, saying she was overrun with books right then. I emailed her back a brief note thanking her for taking the time to consider my book. Why did I do this? Because I was genuinely appreciative that she took her time to read my email, check out my book, and respond to me. A month or two later, I stumbled across a post she’d written about how rude some authors were when she had to decline their books. She mentioned me, by name, as an exception and said how much she appreciated my response. I was completely surprised—I didn’t think I’d done anything special. I was also very pleased, as I was actively searching for an agent at the time. I figured that was a great thing for an agent to find if she/he researched me.
We are all busy—you, me, bloggers/reviewers (who often blog as a hobby), agents, and editors. All of these people also have feelings that get hurt, just as ours do, by negative comments. One of the downsides of the remarkable technology that allows us to write and disseminate books more easily than anyone before us is that it can dehumanize our communications. As authors, we should always remember that there is a real, flesh-and-blood person on the other side of that “Would give it one star if possible,” “Sorry, this one’s not for me” (after you spent three months revising it per his/her request), and the ever-helpful “It’s great but I just don’t love it enough to represent you”—a person who will appreciate your professionalism, your civility, and your desire to honor and cater to your real fans.
Laura Templeton lives near Athens, Georgia, with her husband, son, and a menagerie of animals. She spends her days heading operations for a laboratory equipment manufacturer. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys gardening, kayaking, ice skating, and taking long walks on the quiet country roads near her home. Laura is the author of Summer of the Oak Moon released May 5, 2015 and Something Yellow published in 2013.
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T