It was going to happen eventually. You send your first book baby out into the big old world and not everyone will coo over it. I knew it was something I had to prepare for, but in the last few months I have been spoilt with lovely reviews and with reviewers who have clearly connected with my style and fallen for my little bunny.
Then the other day it happened. I got my first negative review. Intellectually I knew it was inevitable, but emotionally it’s never easy.
That said, it was far from a really nasty one. If the review was a crocodile it was at least smiling at me (although that made the teeth easier to see). There were some little positives in amongst it, but there were certainly a couple of statements that were bluntly discouraging. When you first read it you’re hyper-aware that it’s out there for the whole world to see. There’s no hiding from it. So here’s my incredibly serious, no at all tongue-in-cheek guide to how I coped with it…
- Give yourself a day: on this day you have permission to feel however you want. Cry, stomp, rant, rage, walk in circles, eat a continent of chocolate, talk to the birds and abandon all plans to do intelligent worthwhile things. I have done all of the above in the past, although this occasion just called for a quiet day and a long walk
- Rally the forces: Re-read your good reviews – your favourite ones that made you feel all shiny and proud. Especially those where the reviewer loved all the things the negative review seemed to dislike. Even more so the ones that directly contradict the bad review (take that, bad review!)
- Argue with your dog: sit your dog down and tell him all about the bad review. Defend every negative point with awesome counter-arguments. Discuss your artistic intent. Wax lyrical about everything the reviewer missed or overlooked. You’ll find your dog a very understanding ear (and know that when he brings you the tennis ball he’s saying he understands your pain)
- Indulge your inner storyteller: look at the reviewer’s name and imagine their backstory and why they might have written such a review. Maybe they’re a disgruntled writer and are jealous of your success. Maybe they have a deeply ingrained fear of rabbits (childhood trauma perhaps?). Maybe they’re the Guinness World Record holder for tallest person and can’t in any way relate to being little. Maybe they just didn’t like the book (hold on – scrap that last one. Too realistic and it won’t make you feel better at all)
- Read other authors’ bad reviews: oh this sounds nasty doesn’t it? But it works a treat. Look up your all time favourite books on Goodreads and read their one star reviews. Puts everything into perspective. If there are people in the world who loathe The Book Thief, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, then I can cope with people not liking my bunny. Everyone is different (and clearly some are weird – who doesn’t like Mo Willems?!)
For more ideas, hop on over to Michael Gerard Bauer’s blog. He’s far braver than I am … he even quoted his bad review.
Anyone have any other ideas to share?