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One of the biggest adjustments for me as I transitioned from unpublished to published author came in learning how to handle reviews.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?