Monday, July 25, 2011

Reviews: Good, Bad, Hurtful?

I read once that most writers are introverts, shy, and withdrawn. That the creative process is such a personal journey for an author each book penned (good, bad, ugly) is an extension of them. Criticize their work and it's like you cut off an arm, a leg, some core piece of them. Think of your favorite doll as a child or toy truck. Think of how you loved and adored it with all your heart. Remember the fantasies you created for it, the world you escape into when you held it or ran it across the carpet. Then think of a person, a stranger, coming in with an axe or hammer and smashing it to pieces in front of you. Can you feel where I'm coming from?

That's why it comes as no surprise that I still cringe when I get the 'hated it!' review.

I've been published since 2008, but I started writing free stories in 2005. One would think that at this point I would have teflon skin. I wish. I've not had a lot of scathing reviews, and I freely admit that some of the unfavorable ones I received over the years shared insight into my stories that I was too close to see. But through it all, my golden rule is to sit back and read reviews in small doses as they trickle in but never engage. Nope, I can cry to my friends, and carry on.

This morning, I was in a reader mood. That happens at times. We authors want to put down the pen and curl up with a favorite book and escape. I know some fellow author buds who have recent releases that I had on my 'to be read list'. So I began to shop for some downloads to my IPAD. Then I came across a author (who will remain nameless) with a new release I wasn't aware of. She had a score of 4 out of 5 reviews on Amazon. In scrolling through the comments I saw something quite shocking.

She broke the golden rule!

A reader gave her a 2 star review. No that's not shocking, don't worry I'm getting to it. What's shocking is that she posted a comment under the review that started a 30+ post comment war between her and the reader, and her fans. As I scrolled through the comments I will confess that I identified with the author. What she did is what I restrain against doing every time someone comes in and so eloquently states how badly I suck and warns every buyer to never purchase for me. She fought back! She defended her work. Gave examples were she was misjudged and the reader blatantly missed prose that clearly explained some of her complaint. She fought hard for her baby. And guess what? Ultimately she lost.

At the end of reading her rant, the readers rant, the authors defenders rants, the bystanders shocking rants, I shook my head. We authors have to understand that when we present our children (books) for purchase, we open ourselves to criticism. Deserving or not, the critique of your work is one persons opinion and their right. It doesn't make the things said for or against your masterpiece factual, and even if the person has valid points those points remain just one of many. We should never, never, never engage readers in an open forum and challenge, debate, berate them for 'judgement'. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how devastating the criticism is. No matter the impact to your book sales. No matter what! Because eventually it puts the light back on us. And when who we are becomes the center of focus instead of the work we present then all attention is removed from our work.

I sympathized with the author. I did think the critic was extremely hard on her. But nothing she said in that argument won over the reader. And even more distressing, other potential readers commented that they were turned off by the harsh exchange and didn't want to read her work because of it.

She may be fine with that. I can't imagine that I would ever be. So I stand firmly rooted in my golden rule. Reviews: good bad, hurtful, no matter what I'll keep my mouth shut and live to write another day.