Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Negative Reviews: Toddlers vs Champions

This Week's Topic:
The Mentality of Negative Reviews:
Do I recognize my fight-or-flight response to negative reviews and do anything to stop it?

I admit that a one- or two-star review is a gut punch, but...whether that punch is thrown by a petulant toddler or a 250-lb champion martial artist makes a world of difference. I can keep my intestines in place and unbruised from attacks by the toddlers of the interwebs. (I eat enough cheeseburgers to give me plenty of padding!) End of day, my reaction to those public tantrums is, "O-okay, nothing to learn here. Moving along."

Folks who want to correct my spelling, get into grammatical debates, or who seek to inflict their religious oppression on others fall under the category of Toddler. I don't waste brain space or emo spoons on those. 

The 250-lb champion martial artist can make me double over with a whimpered "oof" while my insides turn to goop. Once I regain consciousness, I take another read. Why, oh, why would I subject myself to that? IMHO, these readers articulate why they feel what they feel about my book in such a way that shows their love of the genre even if they have no love for my book. Often, on my second reading of the poopy review, I have to admit ...they're not wrong about this or that piece. Perhaps they found the gaping hole in the plot, a sameness of supporting characters, an (unintentional) insensitivity to a marginalized group, or that I was too coy with my clue reveals, which made the mystery fail. D'oh! 

My ego is not so massive that I can't learn. Thanks to constructive feedback and experience, I can now see the glaring mistakes I've made in the first books in both my series. (Sorry, readers! Truly!) Continuous improvement is part of the joy I derive from being an author. 

Now, that's not to say that I believe reviews are written with me as the target audience. Of course not. Reviews are written by readers for readers. I don't respond to reviews--glowing or craptastic. Again, they're not meant for me. Readers with an intention to school me via review are not likely to succeed. I'm a brat like that. 

Don't misunderstand, I value reviews. I'm grateful my work moved someone enough to take 3+ minutes from their day to publicly post their opinion. Naturally, good reviews are better because I'm trying to sell books, but if what I wrote pissed off a reader so much they need to leave a scathing review, that's their catharsis and not my problem. 

Little secret: what some readers may see as a red flag, I might not. What the reviewer is opining could well be what I intended. Some of my favorite reviews call my works "weird," "bizarre," and "unlike other books in the genre." They make me giggle with delight. I write in genres that are rife with roads that have been well-trod, so whenever a reader says I've done something different, I break out the full Snoopy dance. 

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