Last week we talked about how to maximize the value of a critique, with the goal of carefully considering each person’s opinion. This, however, does not apply to critics and reviews.
Critics usually do not have the author’s best interest in mind, but instead their own. They write to call attention to themselves, their writing, and their mastery of words. They see discussing another person’s work as merely a vehicle to promote their own cleverness.
Even more suspect are social media reviews, where the apparent goal is often dogmatic, hurtful, or divisive proclamations—the louder the better. Too often, these reviewers seek not to inform others, as much as to call attention to themselves.
Given this, here are some thoughts about dealing with critics and reviews:
Ignore Them: My recommendation is don’t read reviews. Although tempting, there’s little to gain and much to lose. If we bask in their praise, don’t we have an equal obligation to consider their criticism? By reading them we’ll either be falsely puffed up or detrimentally pulled down.
Don’t Respond: If you do read reviews, resist the urge to react to negative comments. Responding merely gives reviewers credibility and emboldens them to be even more snarky. Things can quickly escalate out of control. By saying nothing, we may say the most.
Have Someone Screen Them: If you have a need to know what reviewers are saying, have someone else read them and summarize the key information you seek.
See Their Value: There’s a saying in marketing that the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity. Regardless of what’s written, accept each review as a promotion for your book or writing. People may disagree with the reviewer and buy your book anyway. Or they may forget the review and remember only the title.
Reviews are part of writing; they have value but shouldn’t influence our self-esteem or future work.