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When your work is too stupid to live

January 1, 2013

Imagine if someone left you a one-line review that said “TSTL heroine + angsty kidnapper = amateur mess.” and followed that up with a review grade of D.

For the uninitiated like me, TSTL means too stupid to live. In other words, the review was scathing. It wasn’t enough to say “I really didn’t like this book. The reviewer, someone named Kelly, felt the need to pontificate on the horror of reading this book.

The book is written by a woman named Karen Syed. It’s called Thief of Hearts. I don’t know this woman–she’s a Facebook friend I’ve never met. I haven’t read the book. And I don’t know the feeling of having someone review my work thusly–yet.

But if you get published, or self-publish, or blog publish, eventually, someone’s really going to hate what you write. It’s part of the job description. When people pay money for your product and it disappoints them, some of them will vent their frustration on you. I’ve done it myself and you probably have, too.

There’s an author whose books I used to look forward to. When this person’s work came out, I happily laid my money down in return for an excellent experience. Then one of this author’s books was so bad, I made a vow at that time never to read another of this person’s work. I’m just not as pithy or public about making my thoughts known.

If you’re the author, though, what do you do when someone savages your work?

If you’re human, you probably get angry. But what do you do after that?

First, to get better, you have to acknowledge that there might be some truth in the angry review. Maybe there are aspects of your work that can improve. This assessment might require a little outside help from an editor, a writing partner, or a friend who trusts you enough to be completely honest.

Or, you could ignore the review. After all, not everyone loves everything. You could serve me the best crab dinner ever created in the history of time and I would still dislike it. I don’t like crab. Taste is subjective. If there’s no value in what someone says, write it off.

Brad Meltzer did that in a way that makes me want to buy his books.

How do you deal with aggressively negative feedback?

  1. January 1, 2013 10:12 am

    Love it! That’s making lemonade from lemons.

  2. Jack Owen permalink
    January 1, 2013 10:57 am

    During half a century working with words, recalling the old nursery rhyme: ” Sticks and Stones may break my Bones – but Words will never hurt me.” worked for me.
    When BOTH sides of a controversial news story claimed bias, I took it as a compliment.
    President Harry S. Truman, however, was made of sterner stuff, where his daughter became the target of a critic:

    Gotta luv the guy ;^D

  3. Chris Hamilton permalink
    January 1, 2013 3:53 pm

    Given what Margaret did later in life, I’m sure that wasn’t her last bad review.

  4. January 2, 2013 12:03 pm

    I’ve been to war against trolls, but it’s really not worth the hassle. Now, I invite readers to my website where sample chapters can be viewed, allowing readers to decide for themselves.

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