5 Tips In Responding to Criticism

I would like to start off by saying I love Twitter. I have met some great people over there and have followed some wonderfully enlightening links. That’s how I found Author Tony Eldridge who runs a very informative website called Marketing Tips for Authors. One of his Twitter links sent me to his blog post on 5 Tips In Responding to Criticism.

With my debut medical romance, When One Night Isn’t Enough (for those of you visiting for the first time), going live on Harlequin Mills and Boon on May 1st, dealing with reviews and criticism has been on my mind of late. So I’d like to share Tony’s tips, with his permission (given as long as I give him full credit for this piece and link to his sites, which I’ve done). I, for one, have printed it out and taped it to the wall behind my computer.  

Authors have a unique job. They put their words and thoughts out there for others to digest, contemplate and enjoy. Authors take a chance every time they produce a book, a post, an article or a poem. The trade off in sharing their words and thoughts is that every reader will have a reaction to their words and sometimes that reaction is not a nice or as complementary as the writer would like.

It doesn’t always seem fair, and the criticism does not always seem accurate to an author, but that doesn’t change the reality that authors still have to deal with criticism. If a person pursues the craft of writing, then this is a reality. Even the most celebrated authors have their one star reviews and their most boisterous critics.

So, when we read a less-than-stellar critique of our writing, how should be respond? Here are some ideas that come from experience and the advice of others wiser than me. I hope they help.

1. Keep It In Context– Remember, a negative review or criticism is not the final, universally accepted view of your writing. It is the thoughts of one person. There are probably a lot more people out there who do not agree with the reviewer. It’s hard to swallow, but no writing appeals to everyone. No matter what we write, some will like it and others will not. Nothing will ever change that. Keeping this in mind will help us cope with that negative criticism we receive.

2. Look For The Good– When we are going through tough times, the last thing we want to hear is something like, “When life gives you lemons, make lemon-aid,” right? Well, that’s what I am telling you here. Once the initial emotional reaction to the criticism is mostly out of your system, take another look at it. Is there anything you can learn from what was written? Does the person have any points that you might be able to use to become a better writer? If so, great! Thank them for the advice and move on. If not, then just by going through this process, you will be a stronger writer.

3. Don’t Attack Back– It’s often tempting to roll up your sleeves and come back swinging at negative criticism, especially if we perceive it to be unfair or inaccurate. Keep in mind that there are a few people out there who are called Internet trolls. They love to attack (many times anonymously). They love to stir up trouble and create a big scene. When you bite and start to defend yourself and attack back, they are quick to call in their troll friends who are salivating for a good fight. These people get their kicks from the fight, not the principle of the criticism.

It is almost always best not to respond to the negative criticism at all. If the person is a troll, they will get bored if you don’t fight back and they will move on. If they are not a troll, then they are not expecting a response from you anyway. And the vast majority of your readers will find a fight between you and trolls tasteless and amateurish. When you are tempted to “defend your honor” against an attacker, remember that the easiest way to do that is by reacting in a professional way.

4. Don’t Change Your Routine– After we read a particularly bad criticism, it can often leave us gun shy. We don’t want to write that next post, or we don’t want to launch that new marketing push for our book. We fear that everyone is watching us now that they have read that criticism. Remember, most people have not read the criticism. And of those who have read it, most probably do not agree with what was written. The quicker you can move on, the better you will be. Before long, criticism like that will roll of your back with little to no affect on you. Honest.

5. Choose Well Who You Talk With About The Criticism– Sometimes you want to call or e-mail a friend when someone criticizes your writing. That can be helpful if you choose the right person to talk to. I remember talking to a colleague who gave me wise advice on how to respond to a particularly personal attack someone made on me one time. She gave me advice that really helped me deal with it in a constructive way while helping me remember that the criticisms would only be as big of a deal as I made it out to be. (Thanks Phyllis Zimbler Miller for your great advice!)

Remember that as an author, you have chosen a path that will always invite criticism. Some will be constructive, some will be unfair, but criticism will be part of your lot. If you take time now to think about how you will deal with it, you’ll find it much easier to handle when it happens to you. 

Now it’s me again! If you’re a published author, have you ever received a negative review or other form of public criticism? How did you handle it? For aspiring authors, have you ever written a negative review? How do you feel when you see one? Do you base your book buying on reviews? Did you find this article helpful?

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11 Comments

  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the links Wendy! I pay very little attention to reviews when it comes to picking new additions to my TBR pile. Opinions vary so widely that I think I’m better off with just the blurb and excerpt =)


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lacey!
    I don’t pay much attention to reviews either. There are some authors I read everything they put out, no matter what. But sometimes, if I’m on the fence about a book, I’ll check out the reviews. If the majority are not good, I’ll wait to get the book from the library rather than purchasing it.


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    Some very good tips. Reviews are always an iffy stuation. I usually mostly ignore them except to find a bit I can clip from them.


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy,

    All are very valid points made in this post. Thanks for the links and sharing this post!


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by Janet and Nas! I’m glad you liked the tips/points!


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Great post, Wendy. I will keep these tips in mind.

    I spent this past weekend with my sis and her MIL and I have to say that my sister (who’s always been top notch in my eyes) was astonishing. Her MIL loves to criticize, but no matter what negativity the woman threw her way, my sister simply acted as if she never heard it.

    She never blinked an eye.


  • Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina!
    Your poor sister’s probably heard the criticism so often she’s desensitized! I’m glad she doesn’t let it get to her.


  • Posted April 27, 2011 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    Late to the party but have to say that I LOVE this post. Grace under fire . . . that’s all we can hope for! And something I’ll be striving for myself.

    Thanks for sharing this, Wendy!


  • Posted April 28, 2011 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

    Hi Aimee!
    I can’t take any of the credit. Just passing it along. The first time I get a bad review I’ll probably forget each tip and fire off a distress e-mail to you!!!


  • Posted April 29, 2011 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

    This is a great post and something I need as my book makes its way around the reviewers circle! Thanks for the reminder. I love twitter too! So much great info.


  • Posted April 29, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by Jen! I referred your book to a friend of mine. When is it going to Amazon. I need to get over my fear of downloading books from sites other than Amazon.


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