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Criticism; a spear in my heart! Or, It’s Okay, They Gave Me A Chance

11 Jun

I recently received two reviews for my books that were, how do you say, ‘non-positive’:

3-star review for Birds of Passage

1-star review for The Boy & Little Witch

In both cases the reviewer didn’t finish the book, didn’t read more than the sample would have given them. Some pertinent quotes:

“…unfortunately, Resonance Book one failed to hold my attention.”
“I gave the book several chances to capture my attention and make me want to read to the end. Ultimately, I just couldn’t get involved enough and had to put the book down.”

“I picked this book up several times to try to read it.”
“When I promise to read a book, I follow through, which I had EVERY intention of doing so with this book, but I could not even get past the first chapter.”

As the author, how do I feel about these reviews? Surprisingly, totally fine. Pleased, even. These two people gave my books a chance–multiple chances, even! I can’t ask anything more than that from anyone, and I don’t think any author can. They even shared their thoughts about the books, took the time to write reviews explaining why they didn’t like them. My books weren’t for them, and that’s fine. Nothing’s for everyone, but everything’s for someone. They didn’t enjoy what I’d written, and so they stopped reading. I’d actually prefer that to having someone force their way through, what I like is for people to enjoy my writing, not feel like it’s some kind of punishment. So to those readers all I have to say is, “Thank you for giving my book a chance, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts about it, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it.”

Of course, it hurts to get a negative review. But lately I’ve found myself growing increasingly … strong, I suppose. There’s tension and trepidation when I get any review, even a 5-star makes me nervous, but the little ‘rush’ I get is passing quicker and quicker. With a bad review I have the same physical reaction as when someone tells me I’m wrong or criticises me or starts arguing with me, what I think of as a ‘negative adrenaline rush’, I go cold and my chest goes tight and my heart beats faster and there’s a roaring in my ears and I feel a bit sick. When I was younger this could last for a long time, minutes, even hours, leading to tension and stress and general feelings of negativity, even depression. There’s a good reason I avoid arguments ๐Ÿ™‚ However, as I’ve said before ‘dealing with criticism’ is a skill and it can be learned, and slowly but surely I am getting better at it. Upon being disagreed with or criticised or argued with recently, or when reading a non-positive review, I get the same physical reaction, but it passes quickly. Within a few seconds, usually. This allows me to more easily react in a more reasoned, mature, non-emotive way. I still don’t seek out criticism, because the physical reaction isn’t pleasant even when it’s brief, but I can take non-positive reviews in my stride now. And I’m really happy to know that; it was the part of this whole indie authorship thing that I was most worried about.

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6 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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6 responses to “Criticism; a spear in my heart! Or, It’s Okay, They Gave Me A Chance

  1. George

    June 11, 2011 at 11:43

    Good on you. Still, it always blows.

     
    • Ben White

      June 11, 2011 at 12:39

      Yes, it’s never an easy thing to fail, even when it’s just ‘to entertain’. Still, all part of being an artist.

       
  2. Gemma

    June 11, 2011 at 12:16

    If i hadn’t already read it, the way she reviews it makes me want to read it!

     
    • Ben White

      June 11, 2011 at 12:38

      I think ‘bad’ reviews can lead to sales, or at least people giving it a try. I can think of lots of books where I read a negative review, disagreed with it, thought “That actually sounds great!” and tried the book ๐Ÿ™‚

       
  3. Mark Williams International

    June 11, 2011 at 21:16

    I’m always intrigued to check what other reviews a neg reviewer has made previously.

    Very often the most unpleasant and even malicious views are from reviewers who have never left a review before and make no reference to any element of the book that might indicate they even bought it, let alone read it.

    I can understand someone being so impressed with a book they felt cmpelled to let other people know. When you’ve invested time and energy in something and really enjoyed it of course you want to shout about it.

    A good film, a TV prog, a nice meal, a fanastic beach – it’s normal to share your enthusiam.

    But if a book fails to interest you, just like the TV prog, then move on. It’s not as if you’ve just spent a fortune on a hardback. A three star sounds reasonable if a book didn’t live up to expectations. A one star…

    BTW, living in Wesr Africa I don’t have easy access to Amazon direct, so haven’t yet left feedback, but when I do Charlotte Powers has a resounding five and Imogen a four.

    Or maybe I’ll be having a bad hair day that morning or have had an argument with the other half, or just feeling pissed off generally, and leave two one-stars, just because I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

     
    • Ben White

      June 11, 2011 at 22:11

      I’d be happy with one star reviews, they lead to more sales ๐Ÿ™‚ But yes, when I find something I really love I talk at everyone I know about it, to an annoying degree. If I don’t like something, I just forget it and move on.

       

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