Handling Bad Book Reviews
My Road Goes Ever On
Handling bad book reviews is never easy, but the power of writing is not in what others think. Ultimately, the writing craft is a blessed endeavor that one must choose to appreciate…
The art of writing fiction and non-fiction probably hasn’t changed all that much since the dawn of scratched messages on cave walls—it’s still centered on the honest communication of facts or the creation of vivid fiction to reveal some “splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God” (Tolkien) to our fellow humans.
But in recent years, with the advent of personal computers and the internet, the mechanics of writing and finding readership has altered dramatically. Publishing editorials in the newspaper has given way to blog posts and podcasts. Sending out manuscripts to publishing houses has morphed into self-published work on Amazon. Writers have to know more than how to write something worth reading but how to market their work in a vastly over-saturated market.
Along the steep learning curve, there is one aspect of professional writing that always trips me up—handling bad book reviews.
Personally, I hate asking other people to read and review my work. When I first published, my husband was so proud of me, and we thought my first book was such an awesome accomplishment, that I was quite willing to share my endeavor with family and friends. It took me a while to clue into the fact that it was a cringy reality for members of my inner circle.
I had to stop and realize that as I know people in certain roles when they approach me from a different vantage point, I can feel lost, confused, and uncertain as to how to react. Gaining that insight helped to ease my initial disappointment, but it did nothing to get the necessary reviews to sell my work in a large and varied marketplace.
Having a penchant for making mistakes first and learning from them later has taught me to be very careful about who I respond to on social media. I have followed up with promise-makers who honestly didn’t know what they were doing, paid for review services not rendered, and been scammed, lied to, and tricked to my own humiliation.
On the other hand, there are some great readers who have supported my work faithfully over the years and many diverse productions. I have been blessed with connections who became friends. My work has received huge support from people I’ll never know but whose words of encouragement have cheered me when my hurting heart begged me to give up.
In truth, support does not mean five-star reviews necessarily. It means an honest review that truly reflects the readers’ thoughts and reactions to the book. Entering the public forum and becoming a part of the human discussion through fiction or non-fiction is an honor but also a risk. What more does an author really want? Perfect praise belongs to God alone.
Therein lies the labyrinth of an author’s real world. Some readers have extolled my work while others have knocked my ratings nearly to the ground with a few taps on the Amazon book site.
So, what can I, as an author trying to make some form of a living from my work, do about this situation?
First, I have learned to be grateful for the kindness of supportive readers, even if their reviews offered honest reflection rather than accolades, and thank them whenever possible.
Second, I understand that not everyone will like my work and some won’t even read it but rather will hit it with low ratings and scathing comments. For the most part, reviews of my books have been extremely supportive, so my faith in my work has not been completely destroyed. People who send shafts of anger are simply a part of public life.
Third, a couple of times, I made the mistake of assuming that I knew who wrote a nasty review or sent a low score, only to discover that I was wrong. “Let it go and do not assume anything,” are now words my writer’s heart must live by if I ever hope to move forward.
I do not write to receive positive reviews and make lots of money. Some money would be helpful, but still, I must write for a deeper purpose or suffer the convolutions of current trends and personal moods.
Ironically, I now see my work as a writer in much the same way that I view my service as a mom and homemaker. I don’t cook and clean for applause. Rather, I serve because I love my life as a mother and a homemaker and find deep satisfaction in every action done well, in every new skill enhanced, and in each project accomplished to the best of my imperfect ability.
Critical reviews still hurt, and supportive reviews will always please me. But, however important to Amazon’s sales ranking, reviews do not reflect the true value of my work. Ultimately, the writing craft is a blessed endeavor that I choose to appreciate. I’ll let God be the ultimate judge of my work.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
Daily reflections from her blogs also help one to realize that we as humans are reaching for something much bigger than ourselves during our brief time here on Earth as “spiritual beings having a human experience.” She expresses life is a journey towards that eternal home in Heaven. ~A CBM Christian Book Review
“You are an inspiration. I think a lot about your stories and even tell my daughters about them.” ~Edith N. Mendel Fréccia