By now, you’ve all had a good laugh at Jacqueline Howett’s expense, right? It’s been a few weeks since her flameout went viral. If you missed it, go check out the comments on this review, wherein the self-published author with, shall we say, such unique grammar and spelling goes down in flames over a review that wasn’t so bad, actually. I mean, the reviewer could have eviscerated her book. All he did was make some measured critical remarks about her technical issues. She then proceeded to explode all over the comments section, alienating readers, agents and editors whilst providing endless entertainment for lookers-on.
Alas, she is not the only author who throws tantrums when things don’t go her way. And that brings me to the blood and bone of this post: if you can’t take criticism, don’t fucking publish.
Seriously. I mean it. Shop your shit around to your friends and family and leave it at that. Don’t present your baby to the world and expect everyone to love it as unconditionally as you do. It’s not going to happen. Be realistic. Even huge-name authors like Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, and John Grisham get bad reviews. For every hundred people who worship their books, a handful hate them. If you think you’re going to be the exception to that rule, you are in no way ready for public consumption.
If you’re willing to risk people saying mean things about your baby and decide to publish, you need to set your own expectations. You will get bad reviews. And the proper response to those is: “Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read my book and share your opinion.”
Really. It is. If you can’t do that, either don’t read the bad reviews, don’t respond at all if you do read them, or don’t bloody publish in the first place. Have I emphasized that enough yet?
Bad reviews aren’t that bad, really. For every reader who’s turned off, there’s another who’ll buy your book just because they want to see the train wreck for themselves. And they might end up liking it, and telling everyone they know that the reviewer was a brain-damaged idiot, and then some of them will end up buying your book, and you’re golden. Why, then, make an absolute ass of yourself by throwing a screaming tantrum? You’ll lose far more potential readers that way. Nobody wants to spend their money on a WATB.
An author really needs to have a thick skin. All creative people do. Not that all of us do, obviously, but it’s best for all involved if you at least try to grow one. Learn how to take criticism. One bad review is just one person’s opinion. Don’t take it as a personal attack. And if dozens of bad reviews pour in, well, then it’s time to do a wee bit of soul-searching, see what the common complaints are, and take a moment to stand back and assess yourself and your writing, because, much as you hate to admit it, they might be right. You will never, ever improve as an author if you can’t use negative and critical feedback to hone your writing skills. And you’ll never make it beyond vanity publishing if you lash out at anyone and everyone who says anything the slightest bit negative.
The truth is this: you don’t have to publish your book. If you do, other people are under no obligation to actually like it. Deal with those facts now, before you’re faced with negative feedback you weren’t prepared for but should have expected.
Oh, and if your grammar and spelling are that atrocious, invest a few hundred bucks in a good freelance editor before self-publishing. Your book and your readers will thank you.