I heard you gasp. But I also saw you nodding your heads. We all know this, right?
We’ve all had it happen – that moment when a scathing review shows up. Famous mainstream authors like Tom Clancy and James Patterson get one-star reviews. Stephen King’s novel, The Stand has almost 5,000 reviews and yes, some of those are one-star ratings. That is proof that not everyone is going to like your book.
We spend days, weeks, months and sometimes years toiling over a story. Then with great enthusiasm we send it out into the world. I often compare it to giving birth. That baby is the most precious and wonderful thing to its mother. That baby is beautiful.
So, what do you think happens when someone comes along and says to that mother, “You have an ugly baby?” First off, the mother is going to feel protective, then secondly she is maybe going to feel a little hurt.
It’s the same way with our books. Our first reaction to criticism of our books is to defend and protect it. The second normal reaction is to feel hurt and maybe even a little beat down.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and while to most of us, it would seem mean or maybe even cruel to tell a mother her baby is ugly, it can represent that one person’s truth. And shouldn’t everyone stand in their truth? Maybe the baby is indeed ugly, and after all, don’t we promote freedom of speech?
Where is protocol for these situations? Or is there any?
A review with a low mark doesn’t bother me. I’ve given plenty of them. But when someone goes beyond leaving a review and chooses to trash our work publicly it changes the dynamics. And it is entirely up to us, as the creator of that work, how we respond. That is when it turns into the ugly baby scenario.
One thing I know for certain, is that you never engage in a debate about your work. You would be bringing yourself down to their level, opening yourself up to further criticism and making a mountain out of a mole hill.
In my opinion, the best option for any author in that situation is to take the high road. Look closely at the criticism. Maybe you can learn something from it. Maybe what you learn is that person simply doesn’t understand your story or doesn’t like your style of writing. Or maybe you learn that person, even though they don’t know you, don’t like you, or is jealous of you, and it has nothing to do with your writing. Or maybe they have a legitimate criticism about your writing but choose to express it in a harsh way. Whatever the answer is, the best solution for every author is to learn whatever lesson can be had and move on, always striving to be better and staying professional.
Remember when you put your work out to the world, you’re putting yourself out along with it, so developing a bit of thick skin might be helpful.
Don’t hold on to criticism. Don’t let it stop you from creating. Don’t let it destroy your confidence or your creativity.
We live in a society where many seem to believe that everyone who doesn’t think exactly like them is either ignorant and uninformed or plain stupid. The new normal is to discredit anyone who doesn’t see things your way. Please, never let yourself fall into that category. Everyone doesn’t read through the same eyes. Everyone doesn’t understand the same way you do. And everyone doesn’t have the same moral compass that you do. And none of that makes them wrong and you right or vice-versa.
Don’t stress over things you cannot change. Focus your precious energy on the things you CAN change!
Have you experienced the “you’ve got an ugly baby syndrome?” What did you do? Let’s learn from each other. This is a safe and open forum. Let’s talk!