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Responding to Negative Feedback: Navigating the Rough Waters of Online Reviews

Responding to Negative Feedback: Navigating the Rough Waters of Online Reviews

We've all been there. You've poured countless hours, sweat, and perhaps a smattering of tears into creating your magnum opus, only to have it trashed by some lunatic/weirdo/douchebag/professional reviewe on the internet. Ouch. Let's talk about how to handle that negative feedback, both when the critics are right and when they're a tad off base.

Part 1: Navigating the Murky Waters of Book Reviews

Ah, book reviews. The double-edged sword of the authoring world. While a glowing review can rocket your book sales into the stratosphere (or at least make you feel Super Kewl), a scathing one can feel like a kick in the crotch of your brain.

Remember: You Can't Please Everyone

I mean, let's be honest, not even chocolate pleases everyone, so how could your book? So what DO you do?

  • Ignore them: The first and foremost advice? Ignore them. And no, I'm not kidding. You don't need to reply, retort, or ruminate. Negative feedback, especially when it's not constructive, is just a part of the online realm. Your book, like every form of art, won't resonate with everyone.
  • Don't dox: Seems obvious, right? Yet, you'd be surprised at how many get it wrong. Unearthing a reviewer's personal information and taking the fight offline is a one-way ticket to Career Destructionville. And trust me, it's not a vacation spot. Plus, it's just Not Kewl.
  • Respect their opinion: Remember, everyone is entitled to their thoughts and feelings. Just as you had the freedom to pen down your story, they have the right to voice their feelings about it. It’s a democracy, not a dictatorship. Even if some reviews sound meaner than a cat woken up from its nap.

Professional Reviews: Making Lemonade from Lemons

Professional reviewers, ah, the gatekeepers of the literary world. They can either throw open the gates to the city of fame or keep them firmly shut. But regardless of their feedback, how you respond can truly set you apart:

  • Stay Calm and Professional: Before hitting that reply button, take a deep breath, or twenty. Let's avoid firing back an emotionally charged retort. You might think you’re Shakespeare reborn, but they might not. It’s okay.
  • Thank Them: yep, you read that right. Thank them for their time and review. Whether you agree or not, they took time to read your work. A simple acknowledgment can go a long way--I have NUMEROUS reviewers who have agreed to review everything I write (like, ever), just because I have a history of not throwing hissy-fits. You want to get in on that action!
  • Build Bridges, Not Walls: Sometimes, a thoughtful response to a scathing review can do wonders. By showing that you value feedback and are committed to growth, you can impress even the harshest critic. And who knows, they might be singing a different tune with your next book.

Part 2: Dealing with the "Professionally Outraged"

There’s a special breed of netizens out there. They seem to have built a career around being perennially offended. If you think you can turn them around with a well-worded apology or explanation, well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

  • The Art of Ignoring: Here’s the deal—some people will never be satisfied, no matter what you do. And while it's tempting to dive into the debate arena with them, it's often an exercise in futility. Sometimes, the delete button is your best friend.
  • Distinguish between Genuine and Troll Feedback: Not all negative feedback comes from trolls. Some of it might be genuine concerns or grievances. Learn to differentiate. If someone is pointing out a genuine flaw or problematic element, it might be worth addressing. But if it's clear they're just there for a fight, remember the first point.
  • ​Remember, It’s Not Always About You: Sometimes, people's reactions stem from their own experiences, triggers, or personal issues. It’s like being mad at a rainy day; it's not personal, it just is. So, even if you feel you've been hit with a tidal wave of indignation, don't take it to heart. Or, in the words of a well-known icy queen, “Let it go!”
  • Use It As A Learning Experience: Even the “professionally outraged” can sometimes point out areas of improvement. Is there a recurring theme in their outrage? Is there a possibility they might have a point, however exaggerated? Reflecting on this can provide valuable insights.
  • Stay True To Your Vision: While it’s good to listen and adapt, don't lose yourself in the cacophony of outrage. Your voice, your story, and your vision have a place in this vast universe. It's a delicate dance between adapting to feedback and staying true to your essence.
  • Seek Support: It’s okay to lean on your community, be it fellow authors, friends, or trusted readers. They can offer a different perspective, help you navigate through the sea of criticism, or simply offer a shoulder to lean on (or a virtual one, in this digitized world).

When the Critique is Mistaken: The Artful Defense

Alright, let's face it. Critics, both professional and armchair ones, can sometimes get it wrong. Heck, even I've been known to get things mixed up (Okay, not often, but humor me). How should you handle these critiques?

  • The Polite Correction: If someone’s criticism is based on a factual inaccuracy, it's okay to correct them, politely. A simple, “Hey, I appreciate the feedback! Just wanted to point out…” can clear up many misunderstandings.
  • Pick Your Battles: Not every inaccurate critique needs addressing. If someone believes your romance novel is a stealth guide to intergalactic travel, maybe let them. As Taylor Swift says, "Haters gonna hate." Also, "Where can I store all my semitrucks full of money?" (Well, that's what I HEARD she said, anyway.)
  • Acknowledge Differences in Interpretation: Sometimes, readers interpret things differently than you intended. It's the beauty and curse of literature. Instead of seeing it as a mistake, view it as the richness of individual perspective.

Make Peace With Feedback

Negative feedback, while not pleasant, is a part of the author's journey. Whether you're a seasoned writer with multiple titles under your belt or a newbie who's just put out their first work, criticism is inevitable. The real magic lies in how you respond to it.

And remember, every review, good or bad, means someone engaged with your work. That in itself is an accomplishment. Wear your reviews, yes, even the not-so-glowing ones, as badges of honor. After all, even the most celebrated authors have faced their fair share of criticism. It's just part of the job, so it's better to make peace with it than hope it never happens to you (or never happens again).

Checklist for Navigating Feedback

  • For Reader Reviews:
    - Ignore when necessary
    - NEVER engage in doxing or online harrassment
    - Respect their opinions, even if you disagree--or they're just WRONG
  • For Pro Reviews:
    - Stay calm and professional
    - Thank them for their time
    - Build bridges, don't throw grenades
  • For the "Professionally Outraged:
    - Master the art of ignoring
    - Differentiate between genuine feedback/concerns and trolling
    - Understand IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU
    - Learn from even exaggerated feedback
    - Stay true to your vision
    - Lean on your communities (like the Bestseller Life community!) for support
  • ​When Facing Mistaken Critiques:
    - Correct politely if necessary
    - Choose your battles
    - Recognize varied interpretations​

Welcome to the Bestseller Life Blog!

I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.

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