Don’t Take Reviews Personally

What if I told you that you don’t need a thick skin to handle book reviews? Nope, you don’t, not with a proper attitude adjustment. Allow me…

Don’t Take Reviews Personally

I joined a writing group before I became a writer. Hanging around the periphery, I watched and learned, feeling like a poser who had snuck in. I didn’t have a story to write, just a mishmash of ideas generated by pop songs. Who knows why I hung in there, but I did. I didn’t actually start writing until a guest speaker stated, “You don’t have to have a story in order to begin writing.”

“Well, hey!” I thought, “I don’t have a story!” And so my writing journey began. At first I was simply stringing together some of the ideas bouncing around in my head. Eventually I created a (great) manuscript. Then I was faced with the really big question:

Now what?

It was time to share my precious baby with somebody who wasn’t related to me.

Following the examples of my writing group members, I entered two contests that provided feedback, each from opposite sides of the country. Many months later, the results arrived from one of the contests. One east coast judge loved how strong my heroine was. (Yay!) Another east coast judge from that very same contest completely disliked my heroine because she was weak. (Umm. What?)

Later that week I received the results from the west coast contest. Happily, the first judge loved my hero and his geeky quirkiness. (Yay!) The other judge from that same contest disliked my hero because he was a shallow person.(Seriously?)

Epiphany! Ding! Ding! Ding!

I suddenly understood. The judges’ criticism is based on their opinions, likes, and dislikes, not on me. People whose taste is similar to mine are going to love what I write. Folks whose taste differs from mine are not going to get it…

And that’s okay. It’s Not Personal.

I completely understand because I am the same way. For example, I do not read horror. Never have. Never will. So no matter how well a horror story is crafted, I will not appreciate it. Horror authors should not take my aversion personally – it is not a reflection on the quality of their work. It’s a reflection of my personal preferences.

J.D. Salinger's book was rejected.I feel so fortunate that I received the results from those two contests during the same week. What if I had read them several months apart? I may not have been enlightened…and you would not be reading this.

The Emotional Rollercoaster

My epiphany has served me well when it comes to book reviews. I have heard several times that authors should not bother reading their book reviews because they take you on a emotional roller coaster ride. Me, I read every single one. (What can I say? I’m a new author. And I don’t mind roller coasters.)

At first I was excited by all the praise… that is, until I was told that having only good reviews looks suspicious, like your family and friends are writing them. What? C’mon, who has that many family members (who still talk to you)?

But now I don’t care. I finally got at one-star review! What did it say?

“I don’t usually read this genre.”

That was it; that was the entire review. Did I take it personally? Nope. I realized it was a classic example of me and the reviewer having different taste in books. Instead, I was relieved. Now my book reviews would look legitimate not only to the doubters, but to the entire universe. I danced around the house chanting, “I got a one-star review! I got a one-star review!”

Being different is not personal. It’s just different.

The lesson here is not about growing a thicker skin to protect yourself from negative reviews. Rather, it’s to reorient your understanding. Let me say it again: Don’t Take Reviews Personally. If your book is well-crafted, snappy and intriguing, then your job is to get it into the hands of the people who like your style. Don’t worry about the folks who don’t. There’s a whole bunch of readers out there waiting for a book just like yours.

Don’t let them down.

Dr. Seuss Book Rejection. Don’t Take Reviews PersonallyIf you would like to support your favorite authors, leave a review (or leave lots of reviews in different locations). Some suggestions: GoRead.com or GoodReads or on your favorite social media venue. Can you name another good place to leave a review?

(Parts of this post originally appeared in Whispering Stories but I find it impossible to read something I wrote without editing it.)
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