My Advice on Handling Reviews

October 20, 2014 at 7:57 AMKatie McGarry

 

So…I normally don’t get involved with things that I see online. I’ll read about it, educate myself, but a lot of times keep my opinion to myself because well…I’ve got a ton of other stuff I need to be doing: writing books, managing my business (because that’s what being an author is, running a small business) raising three very active children and doing my best to be a wife, family member, and friend.

But this weekend, I read about an author who got upset because someone gave her a negative review. I’ll be honest, I don’t claim to understand all of the facts of this case, but in the end the situation spiraled to the point that the author stalked this reviewer.

Stalked.

Went to her home, knocked on the door, stalked.

This is not okay.

This is not even close to okay.

This is highly disturbing.

In case anyone is wondering, it’s not okay for you to come to my house unless you are invited. I have children. I have children who I won’t name in public because I’m very protective of their privacy. I have children who I won’t show pictures of because I’m protective of their privacy. I have children whose school teachers and friends don’t even know that I’m a published author because I want my children to always have their privacy.

Privacy.

I love my readers. Love you. I love you so much that if you came into town and wanted to have coffee, I’d meet up with you. In fact, I’m doing it with a group of people who are coming down this Friday. Send me an e-mail, we’ll set up a date…

But I’m meeting them at a coffee shop away from my home because it’s okay for me, as a writer, as a human being, to have privacy.

Just like it is okay for reviewers to have privacy.

Now here is my advice to authors and soon-to-be-published authors (and I’m giving a shout out to my peeps here who are writing and dream of being a published author—I have faith in you, you can make your dreams come true!):

Warning—I’m going to cuss so if you don’t like cussing, stop reading.

Stay the fuck away from reviews. They are not for you.

Yes, the book is our baby. We love it. We care for it. It often feels like the words on the page have been written in our blood, but the moment you publish the book—it is no longer your book anymore. It belongs to the person who is reading it. They are free to have their opinion. They are free to like it or not like it. They are free to never read it and use it to stuff bras. They are free to tear out the pages and make anonymous notes out of it.

They are free to write a review. They are free to write a positive review and they are free to write a negative review.

Here is something you have to learn to deal with: not everyone will like your book.

*gasp*

Now that you are past that initial shock, I’ll say it again. Not everyone will like your book.

I love cheese. Love it. I could drench nearly everything I eat in cheese and be a very happy person. My husband hates cheese. Hates it. As in, he’ll have a gag reflex with it. Even though he has this very bad poor taste in food choices, I still love him. I love him enough that I married him and we’ve been together for over eighteen years. I love him so much that we have three children together. I love him so much that I write love stories to tell the world how much I believe in love.

But he hates cheese. Mind boggling I know, but it’s okay for him to like different things from me.

People are going to have different tastes in books. (Thank you to Beth Revis for writing a blog post at the beginning of my career that helped teach me this.)

My advice for whatever it is worth: don’t seek out reviews.

You can try to tell me that you are seeking out reviews because you need to see how your career is going. Maybe you really are doing it for this reason so I’m going to let you in on a secret—reviews are not going to make or break your career.

There are so many things that go into making or breaking your career and a few bad or great reviews isn’t going to be the magic fairy dust that makes you a best seller or causes you to never sell a book again. Go to Amazon, go to Goodreads. Check out reviews for some of your favorite books. I guarantee there will be one and/or two star reviews there.

You think every best seller has a perfect five star rating? You would be mistaken.

Let’s go ahead and get this out: don’t live your life wondering if people like you or your writing. That’s when you start living your life by committee and that’s when you become bland and boring. This is not just for writers. This is a life lesson.

God made you special. He made you and then broke the mold. Be different. Be daring. Ignore the haters, embrace the people who love you, and realize you are never going to make everyone happy. It’s impossible to make everyone happy and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to do this.

Here’s the truth—I don’t know everything. I don’t claim to. But I have been in this business for a few years and I have published a couple of books.

Some authors don’t read any of their reviews. That’s cool and I totally respect them for that.

Do I read reviews? I don’t seek them out, but I do read the ones people send me or tweet at me and I’ll thank them for reading the book. Even if it’s a crappy review. Why? Hey, out of the millions of books out there—they freaking read my book. My book. They could have chosen anything else and they chose mine. That’s a win in my opinion. Learn how to take the win. Life’s too damn short to be worrying all the damn time.

Some people are going to like you. Some aren’t. Some people are going to like your books. Some aren’t. Somebody is going to say something great about you: take the win. Somebody is going to say something awful about you: ignore it.

Above all, do not engage.

Did you hear me? Do not engage.

Have you ever thought that the reason they send you a bad message is because they are looking for you to give them attention? You want to piss them off? Ignore them. Do not engage. Besides making you a crazy person and making you bitter and angry all the time, what benefit do you get from engaging with people who don’t like you or your books?

Do you think you are going to plead your case and then they will change their minds?

Yeah, no, I’d say odds are that’s not going to happen.

Now let me throw in a public service announcement: Are you feeling threatened by someone online? Then you contact the freaking police. Involve your publisher and/or law enforcement. You don’t take care of this yourself and you sure as hell don’t stalk this person and go to their house.

Are you feeling mentally depleted by someone online? Are you feeling bullied by them? Block them, contact the social media site and inform them, and then you talk to someone. A friend, a family member, a counselor.

Do not allow someone else to have power over you.

Here’s the thing: publishing is a tough business.

I’ll say it again, publishing is a tough business. I have possibly cried more since publishing a book than during some of the roughest parts of my life (and for those of you who have read my books, you can imagine how rough some of those times were). Writing and publishing a book is like ripping out your heart and asking people to take care of it.

So why do I do it?

Because this is what God put me on this planet to do. It is who I am wired to be. And while there are people who don’t like my books, there are people who do like them.

Why do I continue to write if it is a tough business?

Because more than once I have held in my arms a crying teenager who told me that my books spoke to them. That they are teens who are facing very real adult problems and that they had no hope and they felt very, very alone. They told me my books gave them hope and that they no longer felt alone.

Books are powerful. Books—they are knowledge, they are hope. When you find yourself in that dark place as a writer remember the following—there will be someone out there who will read your book and like it. Your book—it can change someone’s life. Focus on that. Take the win. Never let anyone else define who you are as a writer, a human being, and a child of the universe.

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Comments (9) -

Excellent point, Katie!

Indonesia Amanda Sheila says:

I'm nodding a lot while reading this post, because I perfectly get you, Miss Katie. As a reviewer (I don't have book blog, so I'm not a blogger), it's ridiculously normal to have certain taste of books, I have certain taste of books I read. Sometimes my mood commands me to read YA, other time NA then in a blink of an eye I'd have craving for erotica. It's normal and it's every readers rights to read WHATEVER they want to read. Just like every authors rights to write whatever they want. And for readers, so does their opinions or in this case their reviews. This 'creepy author' is definitely out of the line. His/her behavior is inappropriate, and if the 'reviewer' was me, I'd definitely won't ever read his/her books again. That's just scary.

For a long time I'm praying, I'm wishing, I could live in US so I could come to those book events or easily win giveaways or easily buy paperbacks because the prize of paperbacks here are so dang expensive. But somehow after reading that shocking news and this post, I'm kinda glad I live so so so so far from US. Just a little bit though. I still wanna live there someday. ;)

Well said. I couldn't agree with you more!!

You said it perfectly. It's a scary thing that's happened, for authors and bloggers alike. But I am glad to see so many of both supporting each other and pledging to respect each other's boundaries.

Much love and respect to you!

Erin @ The Book Nut

United States tradermare says:

Katie -- This post pretty much captures why I like you as an author and the professional manner you always show online. After listening to a lot of chatter this weekend on this issue, I think you've summed it up quite well. There's a lot of power in what you posted here. Thank you....

United States Anne Mercier says:

Holy smokes!  Really?  Stalked?  Good God. I'd have quite a few people to stalk if that were the case for me. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and tastes... I would never expect everyone to like the same thing... where would the diversity be if that happened?  Eh. Makes me want to say to the author, "Suck it up, buttercup. It likely won't be the last."  It is the life of an author.

Very well said. I totally agree. If the table was turned, I would be just as disgusted with a blogger who would have done this. It's the fact that it was done, period, that gets to me. I feel both parties had some wrong doing. But for it to be put out there as it was was out of line and outrageous. I do hope the parties involved get the help they need because I really do think they need help. It's never ok to stalk someone, no matter what they do. You make absolutely great points and I will now be sharing your post on my page Smile

United States Sarah / appifanie says:

The DO NOT ENGAGE bit is important for everyone. I actually know some one who tracks most of my online activity over the past 8 years or so. WHAT? I know. But I tried to engage, and that was just a waste of energy. You can't argue people into understanding. Just carry on.

United States Sherry Howard says:

Enjoyed reading this, Katie. I honestly hadn't even considered how difficult that could be for an author. But your author self and your mom self are two different people, really. The POTUS probably gets little honor for his office from his own girls. You are so right that we can't be driven in any area of our lives by "reviews" --only by what we are called to do.

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