As a new author, you've probably considered the issue of how you'll feel if you get a bad review. You can't know what your reaction will amount to until you get one, but it can be hard to remain unruffled by negativity towards your work.
Some notable authors have actually embraced less than glowing opinion. The most caustic critic of playwright and novelist, Joe Orton, was a woman called Edna Welthorpe. She frequently wrote to the press slating Orton’s plays but did Mr Orton care? No, because he was actually penning the letters himself.
Orton knew the value of publicity of all kinds. The, Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches, attitude of Andy Warhol.
I once heard the phrase, "If you have no bad reviews, no one is reading your work." If one takes this summary as being true, the day you get that, "these characters suck," you're on your way.
After the friends and family opinions, when you will be given 5 stars by those around you in the understandable desire to support your work, your hard crafted words will be out there with people who have no clue who you are and so will be saying honestly what they felt after reading your book. Some will love it and and some will hate it. But take comfort that they are reading it.
This can be easier said than done, and brings me to real point of my blog —the issue of answering your reviews.
I can't stress enough how potentially career ruining it can be to comment on a bad review. I understand you will feel that some of the criticism thrown at you is unwarranted, but you would be very unwise to retaliate.
People are at perfect liberty to hate your book, just as you are in being hurt or annoyed by this. But better to reserve your griping for the family and friends I mentioned before, who will tell you why the reviewer is wrong and remind you of what a genius you are.
In my opinion, the advice not to comment on reviews should extend even to those filled with praise. Of course, you are going to tweet about your lovely four and five stars and so you should! You can even click the like button...folk love a chance for some fingertip action on that wee beauty! (I’m sorry, I write porn. Force of habit.)
What I do think is unwise, is going down your reviews and answering every one of them, addressing all the points made, saying how much you agree and expressing gratitude for what you’ve learned from the reviewer's words.
Why? Because to me, it puts unfair pressure on the reader. Anyone coming along to review your work can't fail to notice that you're reading them all and putting in your two penneth. For some, this can be intimidating and perhaps encourages people to be less than honest. I'd probably not want to say, "bloody hell, I've seen better prose written on a toilet wall!" if the author was sitting there watching me. I'd likely rearrange it slightly to, "Bravo! The Man Booker Prize is in the bag, baby!"
Not all will be put off by the fact you're going to review their review but some certainly will.
Again, I'm not saying don't tweet, quote or put up a big happy status because you got five stars. Just refrain from commenting on the actual review page. Or worse still, going on to comment on the comments on the review page. I have seen this done. It's not your personal forum, so just don't.
Debate over opinion on your work can quickly turn nasty. Folk who've ended up as the lone voice defending themselves on a page full of insults have been flamed. Seriously, it's never a good idea. A professional attitude is the key to dealing with reviews of all kinds. If you are mortally hurt by criticism, perhaps being an author is not for you. Obviously, no one likes to read bad things said about them. You'll feel shit for a few days, but that will pass. Irate rants by you will remain in screen caps forever — as will the big dent in your reputation.
Katsura (aka P.M Leckie) can be found on twitter @tabathathorn
The works of P.M. Leckie are here:
The work of Katsura and Yuramei, can be found at www.bigdealcomic.com