by Deborah Raney
One of the hard things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate bad reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers on amazon.com. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, religion, ethnicity, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.
I’ll never forget my first scathing reader review (for Beneath a Southern Sky…and it’s still up on amazon.com, along with several others, if you want to weep along with me!) That review nearly paralyzed me for a few days. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay, HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like ME!
When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably has never met me. I don’t think he/she meant the words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than a dozen years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking-and I’m not usually an excitable person. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.
But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an amazon.com review that I had written months earlier for a book that made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my reviewer made-I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man, but like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.
My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real, imperfect people. Just like me.
DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, </emA Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career. Her 23rd novel released from Howard/Simon & Schuster in May 2013, and she is currently working on a five-book series for Abingdon Press Fiction. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –the setting of many of Deb’s novels–for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.