I'd love to tell you I don't read my own reviews, but alas, that ship has sailed. Just last post, I referenced an Amazon reviewer who called my debut novel "dreadful." (He actually called it "fairly dreadful" and gave it two stars, which I suppose is slightly better than all-the-way dreadful, but I digress.) So yeah, I'll cop to reading my reviews.
Now that my books have been out a while I've mellowed some, but early on I read them compulsively. When DEAD HARVEST first came out, I'd google daily for new reviews, and lurk on Amazon and Goodreads too, so desperate was I to find out whether folks enjoyed it. I was fortunate; most did. To this day (knocks wood, makes sign of cross, spins around three times and spits) I've not gotten a single negative review from a reputable publication, and my batting average with regard to reader reviews ain't half bad, either. But, as the kids these days almost certainly don't actually say, haters gonna hate, and occasionally, one of 'em would drop an internet bomb on my fragile good cheer. I'd skulk around for days, cursing up a blue streak and muttering random snippets of the offending nastygram to myself while I shook my head in disbelief.
Did I want to comment? To argue? To sic my friends and family on them until they crawled back under whatever bridge they had emerged from, poison pen in hand? Hell yes, I did. Until, that is, I learned two tried-and-true methods for beating back the urge. And because I like you all so much, dear readers, I will share those methods with you today.
Method the First
Think back on the last great book you read. Remember how it made your heart soar? Your pulse pound? How it restored your faith in humanity and sparked anew your love for the written word? Good. Now:
- Go to Goodreads. Don't worry; you don't need an account.
- Search for the book in question.
- Hover over "filter," and click on "1-star."
- Read, fume, and realize there are people out there who will hate anything. Then tell yourself the idiot who slagged your book probably would have done the same to this one, had they read it. (Is it true? Who knows? Who cares?)
Method the Second
I know I keep bringing up Amazon and Goodreads, the reason being they account for the vast majority of the reader reviews on the internet. But this method can just as easily be adapted to any reviewer, whether amateur or professional.
- Open the offending review in your web browser of choice. (If it's a print review, you can still play along, but you'll need back issues of the publication in question. I'll leave you to figure out the details.)
- Is the reviewer's name hyperlinked? If so, click on it. If not, you'll have to resort to Google.
- Read through their reviews until you find something that demonstrates their execrable taste and makes you feel better.
This one sounds wishy-washy, I know, but I assure you, it works. For one, people who take the time to write a bad review tend to review tons of stuff. For two, your work is brilliant (right?), so clearly, they must be no-taste-having troglodytes who wouldn't know a decent book if you beat them about the head and neck with it. Don't believe me? Here's a couple real-life examples:
The author of DEAD HARVEST's sole one-star Amazon review doled out a rare five-star review for the Farrelly brothers' new Three Stooges flick. If that's his benchmark for perfection, no wonder I missed by a mile.
My most virulent Goodreads detractor also gave one star to, amongst other things, ROMEO AND JULIET and ENDER'S GAME. WUTHERING HEIGHTS, DAVID COPPERFIELD, and (I shit you not) THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK fared slightly better at two stars. (Aside: what kind of soulless monster gives THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK two stars?!)
***Reading all this, you might ask yourself, "If you need elaborate coping mechanisms to deal with bad reviews, why bother reading reviews at all?" To which I say this: every once and a while, you come across a review from someone who doesn't just love your book, they really, truly get it, too.
It's those ones, not the bad reviews, I comment on: a quick email or a tweet by way of thanks. Because letting someone you've never met inside your head only to have them feel instantly at home is a rare sort of magic indeed. Believe me when I tell you, it's worth every howler sent your way.