Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Reviews
by Deborah Raney
One of the hard things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate bad reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers on amazon.com. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, religion, ethnicity, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.
I’ll never forget my first scathing reader review (for Beneath a Southern Sky...and it’s still up on amazon.com if you want to weep along with me! LOL!) That review almost paralyzed me for a few days. It truly did. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like me as a person either!
When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably has never met me. I don’t think he/she really meant their words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than four years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking—and I’m not usually an excitable person. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.
But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an amazon.com review I had written months earlier for a book that really made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my reviewer made—I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man! But like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.
My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real people just like me.
DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her nineteenth novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her newest books, the Clayburn Novels, are from Howard/Simon & Schuster. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small- town life in Kansas.
Visit Deb online at: www.deborahraney.com