day twenty seven: when to respond to the critic

Your book is out and people are reading it. One day, you stumble on a review that misses the point of the story entirely. They're marking you down for clarity and they haven't even read the first book. Or they're misreading a character's place. Or they're reading too much into a scene. You fill in the blank. Whatever it is, they hated your book and they're letting everyone know.

You feel your pulse quicken and you shake your head. They're just mistaken. You come up with a plan to respond to the review (on Amazon or Goodreads or a comment on their blog or — oh! even better! — a post on your blog) and this person will see the light. They'll be so thankful you took the time to respond in order for everyone to reach a deeper understanding.

Right? 

WRONG.

Please don't feed the critic.

I know you want to — they're talking about your baby, after all. I get it. It hurts when someone twists your words and work into something pliable and simple. 

Resist the urge to engage.

Nothing good ever comes of it. Ever. It's why Goodreads includes the following suggestion in their author portal: 

Do you see what they said? Others read your response. Even if you email the critic to engage in a civil discussion, I guarantee there will be forwards and screenshots and private messages. Regardless of how you approach this person, there will be someone who sees it as hostile.

Listen. There will always be critics. Always. And critics are not horrible people. I'm even going to go so far as say a huge majority of them really do know what they're talking about when they read a book. They know what they like. If they didn't like your book, there won't be much that will change their mind.

And that's okay.

Because you have a group of people who do like your book. Focus on them. Build relationships and conversations with them. 

Don't be the cocksure author who assumes everyone will know and love you, even if it takes a few conversations explaining WHY your book is so amazing. Be a human who understands that not everyone will get why you're doing something and that's okay because you're gonna do it anyway. You know what you love. You know what story is burning in those bones of yours. You spent weeks and months and maybe even years getting it out on paper.

Listening (and engaging) with critics will cause you to doubt that story. It will anger you, frustrate you and belittle you. Why? 

Because if someone doesn't like your work, they're not going to suddenly like your work after you comment about their criticism. It will be the circle of doom trying to figure out why someone doesn't like your art.

And that will drive anyone crazy. When we're driven crazy, we do crazy things

Remember: focus on those who are with you in the arena. Focus on those who want to hear more of your work. Forget the rest. Not because they aren't important, they are — their thoughts and feelings are valid. Forget them because focusing on them will cause you to doubt your core. 


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Posted on October 27, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.