In the land of writing, learning to accept criticism from our peers and editors is something we expect from the get go. We know criticism is for the greater good, that at the end of the road we ultimately become better writers. They are akin to kindly guardians guiding us gently through that good night, only wanting the best for us and our precious book babies. But what about book reviews? Do they serve a purpose, or are they little more than a proverbial thorn in our side, destined solely to either make or break us?
Unlike our editors, agents and critique partners, book reviews are usually written by total strangers. There’s the difference! They will never have to sit across from us at lunch whilst we cry into our soup (or ice-cream if we’ve really lost it), nor do they particularly care if our book is a spectacular flop. They write the review either because they have to, for work etc, or because they felt moved to do so.
Sometimes reviews make us feel bad...
The first proper review I ever received for the non-Wattpad version of Dating the Undead was a one star essay of everything they thought I’d done wrong (apart from the sex scenes. Those were good apparently. Go me). I felt absolutely broken. I could have handled it if it was my second review or my fifth or my tenth, but to work so hard to have that as my first real review on my first published book cut me to the core. I went through the various stages—shock, denial, anger, before finally accepting it is what it is. After all it was their opinion, what could I do?
Of course, if I hadn’t been such a needy McNeederson of validation, I would never have seen the review in the first place. If I’d waited, I’d have seen the nice ones that came in soon after. The ones that made me smile and feel proud. But that’s the point isn’t it? Writing is exactly like life. We care too much about what other people think of us and our work, when really we should worry more about what we think of ourselves.
Over the past few months I’ve read lots of advice on how to cope with reviews, ranging from simply, don’t read them, to my personal favourite; ‘it’s subjective. Some people even hate Harry Potter.’ GASP! But what I finally learned is that every review has its place, every review comes from a human being who has taken the time to give our work mental and emotional space, and whether it’s one or five star, that’s actually sort of special. Getting reviews may feel like eating onions at times, but in the cutthroat world of writing, those onions are someone else’s waterlilies. Somewhere out there is a writer who would sell their grandmother to be in the position of getting them.
In a way, having a one star review come first was a blessing in disguise. I’ve been to the dark side and I will not venture back. As wise Yoda once said, ‘Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.’
Yoda. Who knew a thing or two about a thing or two.
So next time you read a bad review, don’t fret. Be proud that you’re a writer who warrants them in the first place. I don’t know about you, but my dream was never about getting a great Goodreads rating anyway.
Dating the Undead releases May 2nd! Visit vdateservice.com to read the first chapter and check out the vampires on offer!