My good friend, Stephen Zimmer, tells me all the time I’m too sensitive and need to grow a thicker skin, but negative reviews always bother me. My rational, analytical side understands that as a writer I can’t expect to please everyone. Some of the greatest books ever written have received terrible reviews through the years. People’s tastes range across an infinite spectrum of likes and dislikes. Rationally, I recognize that worry over a negative review is wasted time and energy.
However, it bothers me on an emotional level. Each book I’ve written is nearly as special to me as my sons. I work extremely hard to develop my skills and craft my stories. Eight years removed from writing book one, I do recognize some of the flaws, especially in the first three to four pages. However, I still believe it’s a good, solid book that sets the table for the larger series. There’s foreshadowing in book one (Hell, in chapter one) that I’m still drawing on in book four. Yes, if I were writing book one today, it would probably be a better book because I’ve improved as an author, but honestly, I wouldn’t make many substantive changes because it’s a good book.
I’m not going to waste my time refuting negative reviews or defending book one point by point. Enough readers have enjoyed it that I don’t feel like the book needs defending. I also recognize that most of the recent negative reviews, like the most recent from Allison’s Book Bag, have not been personal, and I don’t take them as an attack on me. Two of them did feel personal, but I won’t give either of those individuals the attention they crave by responding to their personal embitterment from whatever shortcomings plague their lives. All I’ll say is after eight years, three published books, and a new one on the way, I’m still here and still expanding my audience.
While negative reviews do sting and do bother me, I won’t allow them dissuade me from following my path and my style. I will try to learn from them and improve myself as a writer because I do that even with the positive ones. I’ll also recognize that negative reviews are a sign of reaching more and more people. The wider the net, the more likely the series will land in the hands of people who don’t enjoy my style. That’s just part of it. I’m going to keep polishing book four, keep learning as a novelist, and keep reaching out to more and more readers. And when the next negative review comes along, I’ll swallow the bitter pill, grit my teeth, and remain professional about it.
As we used to say in sales after getting a solid no, “Next!”