Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Surviving Bad Criticism 101

Finally, after much time and toil, after lots of investment (both money- and nerve-wise), your brainchild got published. Your spirit soars as you expect high acclaim, new work, book tours and all the other perks of a published author.

But what is this? A bad review! Your heart skips a beat. “Poorly written.” “I could have done it better.” “Not as good as her previous ones.” “If you like this sort of thing, you’re far better off with [competing author’s book].” Having invested so much of yourself into your work, you feel hurt and, most probably, angry. So the main question is – how to survive bad criticism? Use the following approaches.


  • Who wrote the criticism? This is the primary question that needs to be asked. It can be anyone – an angry forum member, a professionally book critic or a religious fanatic who didn’t particularly enjoy your epic sword & sorcery extravaganza.
  • Is criticism malicious? Malicious criticism is only a vent for the angry reader at its best; at its worst, it is done intentionally to reduce book sales and to discourage further reading of the book. Only pay attention to honest criticism, harsh as it may be.
  • What are other reviews like? If majority of other reviews are positive, you have nothing to truly worry about. There is hardly a thing in the world that everyone likes (not even chocolate would fit into that), so why should everyone love your book? But if overwhelming majority of readers enjoyed your book, you can ignore bad criticism.
  • Does the bad review contain any merit? You can never underestimate people’s ability to misunderstand something. Did the reader who gave you a bad review understood what you wrote about? If not, simply move on.
  • Can you learn from the bad review? This is an old cliché, but it is a cliché because it works – don’t look at the bad review as a problem, look at it as a learning opportunity. Your characters are too shallow? Learn how to make them deep. Your storyline is confusing? Untangle it a bit next time.
  • Can you be honest about it? There are few things that people appreciate more than people who are honest about their shortcomings. If you think that the bad review was warranted, make a reference to it! “Sure, some people said that my characters need more depth, and that is in the works…” Simply be a good sport about it.
And if all else fails – you can’t build Rome in a day without breaking a few eggs. Even some of the most successful celebrities didn’t have it easy in the beginning, with their work being hit pretty hard by the nasty ray (just to name a few: J. K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney…). Just keep your head up high and keep pushing – you’ll make it.


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