When I say book critics, I mean the good, the bad, and the ugly. Anyone who comes across your book or book series will be a critic, so there will be a little bit of everything here. Yes, some people will love your work, others might like it, and still a few will despise it.
Sometimes, it might go as to what types of issues your book’s plot and themes deal with. I don’t need to name any specific issues as there are a lot, but usually the more sensitive the topics, the larger of a target you just put on your work for both good and bad.
I already know this when it comes to the Lord of Columbia Series. In fact, I’m kind of expecting it on both ends of the equation, but that’s for another article in another blog.
Today, I’m giving you a crash course on how to deal with both positivity and negativity.
Aside from a few trolls and brutally honest people, most book reviews are positive as long as the author:
1. Places their book in the correct genre.
2. Keeps the plot in line with zero plot holes. There may be a minor plot error, but the author must remain consistent with variables like character names, locations, names of locations, season, terrain, etc. One mistake can damage credibility.
3. Doesn’t ramble with loose writing such as the overuse of adjectives, adverbs, and even descriptions. If readers wanted vast descriptions, they wouldn’t read a work of fiction, where action always drives the plot in today’s world.
4. Avoids typos. Again, a few typos might happen, and no editor will find all of them. But if an author wants good reviews, the least they can do is make sure their manuscript is as close to error free as possible.
My basic rules for dealing with reviews go in this manner:
If the review is positive, or anything with three stars or above, read it. Three stars means the reader generally enjoyed the work but might have a few gripes about certain elements. It’s okay to take this kind of criticism in stride, which will only make the current work (if the gripes are grammar/consistency related as you can always reupload) or your next work better.
Ditto for four stars. Four stars means the reader liked the work but might have had one or two things that jumped out at them which docked it a point. Again, read these reviews because usually they’ll highlight your strengths and weaknesses if they left a few paragraphs describing their review.
Of course, you can read five-star reviews, too, but these are really nothing more than morale boosters. Sure, they may’ve raved about your book, but take it with a grain of salt, because I believe all books have their quirks and there is no such thing as a perfect book, book series, or rating. It’s one reason I’d rather see stars in a one to ten rating than one to five. We will see much more honest feedback with ten stars.
I wouldn’t recommend reading anything two stars or below and if you have a sensitive personality, steer clear entirely. Also, just like my skepticism revolving around five-star reviews, one-star reviews make me just as skeptical unless the author simply wrote a first draft, uploaded, and conned people of their hard-earned money.
If the book is two stars, the reader didn’t like the work but did like it enough to finish it. Think of two stars as a ‘D’ on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale. A ‘D’ is still a passing grade, but it’s below average. Again, I wouldn’t recommend reading two-star reviews, as sometimes brutal feedback can erupt.
And please, just ignore the one-star reviews. Some of these people might have read a sliver of your work, or may just completely disagree with it on a deep level. For instance, if someone from Religion A read a book that criticized Religion A, they might hand out a one-star review just so it lowers the book’s rating slightly.
So don’t take one-star reviews seriously unless Amazon sends you an email informing you that your book is full of typos and plot errors. If this is the case, the one-star reviewers might be trying to tell you something.
As I’ve stated, myself, Northern Knights and the entire Lord of Columbia Series deals with sensitive topics with strong political elements. There’s also an allegory that’s sports-related in nature, so a certain city’s fan base wouldn’t take kindly to the work.
If your book contains any theme regarding such deep, sensitive issues, especially when politics and religion are involved, I strongly urge you to be prepared for what might come your way.
Now, the good news is that you do have a target market and those are the people you want to identify and sell the book or book series to, but when word gets out to a larger audience, that’s when you might run into people who believe that anyone who sees the world in a way other than their own is a threat to any supposedly utopian society of theirs and will go out of their way to criticize your work (no exaggeration here!) in hopes that it’ll sway others not to buy.
This bodes especially true if one is touching on religion and there is no one religion out there that doesn’t see itself as the true way in life. The same holds true for those with zero religious ideals. Again, some people are more sensitive to these topics than others, so do well to remember this fact.
Again, I simply advise you not to read the bad reviews. While I’ve rarely received rude comments, it’s almost always from those who see the world in a certain way and can’t stand it when someone even writes a different idea in even their own product that they could’ve avoided by not reading it.
For instance, a hot topic and allegory in Lord of Columbia is that I’m EXTREMELY (and this might rub a few the wrong way) critical of American intervention overseas and participating in endless regime change and endless wars. Being an American citizen and knowing my own nation plays the role of global police officer in an issue that is important to me may put a massive target on my back from Conservative America. I’m Libertarian, so both ends of the equation may not like everything I write.
The above is just one example that if the allegory is seen through and the theme is understood, can and will trigger people who’ve been brought up to believe by their parents, extended relatives, government schools, and even at sporting events (who started the mixing sports and politics thing, again?) that it’s crucial for American soldiers to be stationed all over the world in peacekeeping efforts and to spread freedom to oppressed nations.
And again, when your work contains sensitive issues that will differ from popular belief of a large group of people, criticism will follow simply due to the theme elements.
One way to deal with the following is:
1. If you have a blog that deals with your book’s or book series’ themes, just don’t approve of the negative comments and DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM! It shows much more character and strength to hold back and press the ‘disapprove’ button, even if it causes your blood to boil.
2. If this is in the form of a book review, as I’ve mentioned earlier; don’t read the review. Bear in mind that reviews are almost always irrelevant unless they’re on Amazon for the time being. The reason is because Amazon has strict guidelines when it comes to reviews, and this is done to ensure trolls aren’t giving random books they don’t like the cover or description of one-star ratings.
Internet or Social Media Callouts
Yes, these can and will happen if and when your book or book series gains traction. Even J.K. Rowling was called out by numerous conservative Christian groups stating that the Harry Potter Series promoted Witchcraft. If you know anything about Witchcraft, you should realize that these groups had a weak case to make against the famous series.
This will happen to any author who isn’t shy about writing plots that are centered around themes that deal with such sensitive issues. Again, if the theme is critical of foreign intervention and the country you live in is that country carrying out such interventions, while mainstream thought has always been this is for the ‘greater good,’ callouts will happen.
Again, what do you do with the callouts?
As I’ve stated in the above section, DO NOT RESPOND.
If you get involved in a social media or internet forum (are these still a thing?) war at any given time, your credibility could be permanently damaged. Look at famous athletes who’ve lost their cool and have gotten into it with fans. Did it help their cause? No. Did it hurt their reputation? You can bet on it and probably win.
And please, don’t post or Tweet about such people as well. You can base characters on them. You can be vague in your blog and use them as an example as a reference if you’re writing an article touching on the subject. But you can’t directly go after them. It can and will hurt you way more than it hurts them.
Best Way to Deal with Critics
For one, if it comes to book reviews, never respond to any of them, even the positive ones. Thank them in your mind, but you don’t need to do so on Amazon. If such a reviewer contacts you via email and states they loved your work and gave it a five-star rating, then you can feel free to interact.
Now, if a reviewer contacts you via email and says they loved your book and would like to leave a review, don’t respond. This is a parasite looking to sell you a cookie-cutter review. While it might be tempting, it’s not a real review and it’s bought. It’s fixed. So don’t do it. More on that in a future article.
The same goes if someone calls out. Don’t respond. If someone makes a post pertaining to you, don’t respond. In any case of an argument, don’t respond. Let your writing and your blog do the arguing for you. If you are vocal on Facebook or anywhere else regarding your book themes, let the sources you share do the talking, but you can’t waste your time arguing.
Again, if those who disagree will just view the source for themselves instead of leaving rude comments after reading a headline, maybe they wouldn’t waste their time criticizing a viewpoint you have with evidence to back it up.
Once again, don’t respond. And remember, failing to respond to such criticism is a strength, as it’s our natural inclination to defend our viewpoints. If such issues are in your book, you’ve already crafted and justified your argument. Point them to the reading material and you did your job.