On July 28th, 2014, I wrote about negative book reviews. My simple advice to my newly published author friends: use any constructive criticism and ignore the insults from their bad reviews, the hurtful words, which inflicted such emotional pain. One of them abandoned her penname and switched genres.
But almost two years later I’m back on the same topic.
Why rehash something already covered?
Because it’s important. Because it’s not only about bad book reviews, although this post will focus on them.
No, the issue is not negative reviews; it is how some reviewers write them without caring how it’ll affect the author. It’s about how people treat other people. How we interact with each other. And how reviewers hide behind their screens and feel justified to attack a person or their work.
Authors need reviews; they’re crucial for their publishing careers.
However some reviewers sling insult upon insult as though authors are not human beings, as if they don’t have any feelings. And it is immensely, utterly wrong.
Yes, WRONG! (My editor would kill me for the shouty caps, but I want to shout.) It isn’t showing respect for one another. Don’t you agree?
Many authors read every single review.
They really love the positive ones: where the reader identifies with a character, where the reader cries over a scene, where the book touches them. When readers say that the book changed them, then it’s a home run.
They dislike the negative reviews, however they understand that not everyone will like their books, but the harmful ones, well, they rip a new author apart. It can even dissuade an author from continuing to write. They may never write another word again, even if they may have better books already forming in their heads. Writers will only become great authors by writing. Just pick up the first book of an author you like and see how much they’ve grown, how you love their newest work more than their first.
The lack of sensitivity can wound the soul of any person, but more so for the vulnerable writers who share pieces of themselves in every book they write.
It’s not that a reviewer doesn’t have every right to state that they didn’t like the book and why, but they do not have the right to throw insulting words like they’re confetti at a ticker tape parade.
Because words, my friends, are powerful. They can lift a person up or push them down to the bottom of a dark, slushy pit, which is impossible to climb out of without the help of friends.
Words can build or destroy a person’s self-esteem; they can inspire or dishearten a person.
And authors spend enough time self-doubting themselves, wondering if others will enjoy that one book after slaving thousands of hours, they don’t need any help. Yes, authors spend so many hours plotting, writing, thinking, editing, re-editing, one book. And they probably spend an equal number of hours worrying about whether anyone will like it, they don’t need to read horrible words in a review. They’ve already beaten themselves up enough.
These books become their babies and when someone bashes one or them, well it creates deep rips in the authors’ hearts. When a reviewer lashes out against a book, the author’s pain is like the one a parent feels when their child is bullied.
It’d be fantastic if book reviewers remembered to focus on the book, because behind books are authors, who just exposed a part of themselves to the world. Everyone is vulnerable to negative words, especially new authors without a fan base encouraging them to continue.
A negative review won’t harm the author, if the reviewer states that the book wasn’t for them or they couldn’t connect with the main character or even that they didn’t like any of the characters. It might saddened authors that someone didn’t like their baby, but it’s much better than calling a book dumb, stating that it’s the worst book ever written, that the characters are idiots, stupid, or that the author should never write another book.
Do reviewers realize how their words affect authors?
Most likely not.
But since honest reviews are necessary for a book’s success, reviewers can use kinder, gentler words when expressing why they disliked the book. And perhaps reviewers should mention one redeeming feature, even if it’s that they loved the cover the author chose; it may just help an author not to fall apart or worse quit.
And if you’re sending a text or an email, please stop and think if your words will be hurtful or uplifting. Show your love to others by using intentional words to inspire greatness, to motivate them, even when pointing out negative issues.
Let’s love one another… always!