Long-time readers of this blog might remember a wee bit o’ ire I’ve shown in the past for reviews of the one- and two-star variety, like the guy who gave me two stars for my Three Shorts anthology because it was “too violent, too scary”…even though it has bullets on the front cover and is sold in the Crime Fiction section.
A year has passed and I’m happy to report that I’ve attained some perspective on the inevitable experience of receiving a bad review. Through hard work, persistence, and a lot of generous support from readers, both A Reason to Live and Blueblood have over 150 reviews each, with the overwhelming number of the reviews in the “excellent” category (4.6 and 4.3 stars, respectively).
But there were bumps along the road. After every KDP Select free run–and sometimes for no discernible reason at all–I received some lousy reviews that will stick to my works forever. It used to get me down to think of those people, no matter how ill informed, hated my writing.
I’m here to tell those of you despairing for the same reason: hang in there.
As time marches on and the good reviews start to roll in, you’ll start to realize, as I did, that there’s no way to avoid warts and blemishes of opinion on your work of art but, more importantly, they don’t matter nearly as much as the commitment you have to your own work.
A bad review can’t make me stop writing. A one star opinion doesn’t change the project I’m working on or the path I want my current plot to take. A personal attack on my intelligence doesn’t make me less able to construct dialogue or plant a red herring or finish my next novel on just the right note.
Only I can do those things.
Once I realized that, I was–well, not bulletproof, but at least bullet resistant. Scott Nicholson once told me that he never looked at good reviews any more, but that he was “fascinated” by bad ones, and now I think I understand why. At this point, they’re more curiosities in a dusty museum cabinet or something you might find in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. There might be one or two nuggets of constructive criticism, but for the most part, they’re things that–now–I glance at, quirk an eyebrow, then dismiss so I can get back to writing.