In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes, wrote Benjamin Franklin. Authors might want to add nasty reviews to the list.
Every novel that is ever published will get at least one bad review – that is, if it gets any at all. You cannot as an author please everyone.
But a critical review still makes for painful reading. You’ve done your very best and here is some stranger being rude about your work. It feels like a personal attack, and no amount of re-reading of praise in other reviews removes the sting.
Some critical reviews – however unpleasant they are to swallow – may be a good thing. They can point out weaknesses of which we’d been entirely unaware. This is useful constructive criticism, offering things to consider when writing our next novel. We can be very grateful for this help.
The nasty reviews where you can’t help thinking that the reviewer hasn’t bothered to read the book can be dismissed but they are still irritating. One less than complimentary review of my novel All Desires Known said something about its sleepy village backdrop, which struck me as odd as it’s set in a busy town with scenes involving the local theatre and mentions of Waitrose! Clearly I had failed to give enough sense of place …
Authors have a range of advice for coping with negative reviews. Worth remembering is that most would-be readers have learnt to be suspicious of nothing but praise and a hundred per cent crop of five stars. All those friends and relations roped in …
Iris Murdoch’s philosophical approach might come in handy as well. ‘A bad review is even less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia’.