Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Riding the Review Rollercoaster, by Karen Witemeyer

Despite two RITA® finals and a spot on the CBA best-seller list, Karen Witemeyer still has to dig out her heart armor every time a new release hits the shelves. Her newest book with Bethany House, Short-Straw Bride, will be releasing later this month, so she's banging out old dents and preparing herself for the upcoming barrage.

Riding the Review Rollercoaster

One of the biggest adjustments for me as I transitioned from unpublished to published author came in learning how to handle reviews. Listening to a critique of your work is never easy. Anyone who has entered a writing contest and received feedback can attest to that. But when your book is published and available for public consumption, your feedback no longer comes to you in the privacy of an email. No. Now it comes in public forums for the whole world to see. 

So how do you handle the ups and downs of books reviews?

Option 1 - Avoid the rollercoaster all together

Some authors have wonderful self-control and simply elect not to read reviews. Positive or negative. If you can resist the curiosity burning in your brain, this is a wise option. The good reviews won't puff you up with false pride and the bad reviews won't destroy your confidence with their stinging criticism.

Option 2 – Stay on the kiddie coaster

You don't want to get discouraged, so you opt to read only the 4-5 star reviews on Amazon and the blog reviews that are written by people you know. While this option offers a lot of encouragement and warm fuzzies, I would caution against it because it's too easy to start believing your own press. When you read gushing, glowing reviews claiming you are the best writer to have ever put words on a page, pretty soon you start to feel like you've arrived. You've mastered the craft. This attitude can be destructive in its own way to an author's career. If you're not constantly growing and seeking to improve, you become stagnant and predictable and lose the spark that earned those glowing reviews in the first place.

Option 3 – Hang on and enjoy the ride

This is option I prefer, though the ride can get pretty bumpy. The highs are breathtaking and glorious, but the lows are just around the corner. The key to enjoying the review rollercoaster is to face it with as much objectivity as possible and to armor your heart in advance. No matter how fabulous your characters, how action-packed your plot, or how stellar your craft, there will be readers who don't like your book. Accept that fact now and gird your loins for the reviews those readers will write. Yes, they will still hurt. But if you've prepared in advance you can read them with enough objectivity to look for nuggets of truth that will help you improve your writing in your next novel. 

Did the reader fail to connect with your heroine? Look for ways to deepen your characterization or make your heroine more likeable. Did she complain that the pace was sluggish? Look for ways to add more action to future plots. Did he lose interest in the story? Look for ways to infuse more conflict and employ more hooks.

Don't dwell on harsh words or spiteful attacks that can steal your passion, but sift through the negativity to see if there is anything of value to take away. And if a shot penetrates your armor, reread some of your gushing 5 star comments to stop the bleeding, then get back to work on your next project.

One other note I will mention about reviews, NEVER respond to a negative review. No matter how careful you are, it almost always comes across as defensive or as a case of sour grapes. If you need to commiserate with someone, so do in private with a critique partner or a trusted friend, but train yourself in first aid so you can bandage the wound and move on. The more you prepare in advance, the thicker your armor will be. Who knows, maybe you’ll laugh with your writing friends and brag about finally getting your first 1 star review as an author’s right of passage. 

So how do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the soon-to-be-released, Short-Straw Bride. U.S. residents only, please.


No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?


Anonymous said...

a great posting...i love your novels, karen...thanks for the chance to read your latest.

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Emily C. Reynolds said...

Karen, thanks for sharing. I've tried to imagine myself in those shoes (hopefully one day!) and I'm glad to hear your perspective. I'll admit the idea of reading only 4 and 5 star reviews appeals, but you've made a very valid point about developing an overinflated ego. Thank you very much for this candid post. A lot to consider.

And thanks for the giveaway...this book sounds like a bundle of fun! I'd love to win. Best wishes in its success....and lots of 5-star reviews! *G*


Clari Dees said...

I am looking forward to Short-Straw Bride because I have thoroughly enjoyed your other books.

My first book is in the publishing stages right now, and I'm trying not to think about the reviews when it comes out. I'm going to have to learn some first aid, because I don't think I'll be able to resist reading *all* the reviews. Thanks for the encouragment and words of wisdom this morning.

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks for stopping to refuel with us, Karen. ;o) This is sound advice for every writer.

Karen Witemeyer said...

KarenK - Thanks so much for your kind comments. I've got your name in the drawing!

Emily - I hope you get the chance to ride the review rollercoaster one day soon! It really is a fun ride overall.

Clari - Congrats on your debut coming up! That's so exciting. I know you'll be able to handle the reviews. And I'm sure there will be many more positive ones than negative. I never could resist reading all the reviews, so I had to teach myself some first aid. You'll learn, too. Enjoy the ride!

Karen Witemeyer said...

Thanks for having me here, Ane. It's always a pleasure!

Marianne said...

i enjoy your novels, Karen. and i am a reader, not a writer, but still enjoy reading posts about writers. i am from Canada, so not entering the contest. Just wanted to say hi

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Marianne. So glad you dropped by. I love hearing from readers! Thanks for leaving a comment. It brightened my day!

Jackie S. said...

Great post! I am so anxious to read this new book...'cause I really loved the others, Karen. Thanks for the chance!

Melissa Jagears said...

I can't decide what I want to do. I am overly hard on myself as it is, so I think I should choose #1, maybe even indulge in a little #2, but I like to analyze so I'll either cave or really want to do #3, but I'm not sure it would be good for me. I just don't know, I'll probably learn by doing #3 the first go around and see how I take it. :) rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

Ginger said...

I love the sound of this book and thanks Karen for the heads-up on those reviews. Now to get published, so I'll have to decide which choice to make. :)

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Melissa. You are wise to analyze yourself and your reactions first before deciding how best to handle the reviews. Maybe you can find a new balance that works for you.

Ginger - Thanks for your interest in Short-Straw. I'm hoping it will be a fun read for those who pick it up. I wish you the best on your publishing journey and hope to see you on that rollercoaster soon!

Wendy Newcomb said...

Great sounding book and I love the cover, thank you for hosting the giveaway.


Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Wendy. Thanks for stoppy by. You're definitely in the drawing. :-)

Tina Forkner said...

Hi, Karen. Congrats on your latest book. It sounds wonderful. I have to say that I tried #3 for both of my novels, but it wasn't always easy. I would get elated about good reviews, but that emotion was nothing compared to the mega hurt I felt about bad reviews. Just call me a big baby, but it affected me at times. Next time I have a book out - I hope it won't be too much longer! - I'm going to try to stay out of the review thing and just enjoy interacting with my readers. That's the best part about being published is connecting with readers who are touched by your work. That's not going to be everybody, but I think I'll put my time and energy into those who are truly interested in my characters and their story. said...

Book looks great!! Can't wait to read it!

I handle crits pretty well, but then again I can chalk it up to learning status still. I am wondering if all that will change if I get my book in print.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Tina. You are so right about the interaction with readers being the best part. It absolutely is! I know several authors who avoid reviews altogether, and I think that is a great way to go. My curiosity gets the better of me, so I opt for the armor. I hope you find a method that works well for you. And I hope to see another book with your name on the cover soon!

Karen Witemeyer said...

Tarifaris - Thanks for coming by today! For me, reviews are a little more difficult than crits just because they are in such a public forum. Thankfully the good far outweighs the bad. Hope you get to experience it for yourself someday soon!

Anonymous said...'ve really helped illuminate what is to come. I'm pre-published and so not in that stellar atmosphere of having reviews to worry about yet. However, now I feel 'armed and ready' for that day when it comes. Thanks!
Yvette Carol

JoAnn Durgin said...

Karen, I'm going to write a blog post entitled "I wanna be like Karen Witemeyer!" one of these days. Congrats on the Holt Medallion Award, and well-deserved! Seriously, I've been mulling writing such a blog post for months. I admire how you deal with everything so graciously, and can stay "above the fray" so to speak. I wear my heart on my sleeve and tend to get worked up over things over which I have no control. This Novel Rocket blog is so timely for me right at this moment and the Lord knew I needed to see it as I'm struggling with my first one-star review; I'm smarting one minute and almost in tears and raising my chin in defiance with an "I will go on!" attitude the next. And yes, my publisher says I've reached a level of readers now that the mixed reviews are inevitable. Maybe in time (and more books), it'll get easier. I pray that's the case. I've always been sensitive, but I think that also makes me a better writer. I need to concentrate on all the great reviews and take what I can from the negative. Putting on the armor...thanks for these encouraging words, Karen. Blessings!

Genevieve Graham said...

Wonderful post. And as a newly published author, I'm also newly arrived on that roller coaster. It can be tough to keep your responses to yourself, but it's definitely the way to go. I agree on trying to find out what was missing for those reviewers who didn't like the book. And I keep that in mind if/when I'm reviewing for someone else.

Ane Mulligan said...

Yvette, you're the winner of Karen's book. Please email me with your snail mail address. ane (at) anemulligan (dot) com