Bite your tongue

Publishing is an emotional business because we’re working with writers who dig deep into their souls and pour forth fabulous books. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, money, and time go into making each book a success. And let’s not forget we’re mixing a lot of different personalities together on the playground – many whose temperatures shoot into the fever zone at the drop of a hat. So it’s only a matter of time and a perfect set of circumstances when someone’s gonna blow.

It happens. The question is, what are you going to do about it when something sucky comes your way?


I’ve already talked about going into the ozone over editing and cover design, but the next biggest source of cranky behavior happens with reviews. There’s a rather delicious brouhaha going on over at AW about some nastiness that, frankly, makes my head spin. I don’t really give a rat’s pattoot about the whole mess except to point out how a bad review can reduce supposedly sentient beings into ranting lunatics. Sadly, this is far from an isolated case.

It’s bad enough when an author has a temper tantrum over a bad review and stomps her little feet like my kids did when they were three-years old. But when a publisher gets involved in the idiocy, one has to wonder if they’re potty trained and allowed to cross the street unaided. And yes, much to my sadness, I’ve seen it happen on a few occasions.

In the age of the internet where anonymity emboldens people to commit all kinds of shameful behavior, the idea of civility and a stiff upper lip seems to be a fleeting notion. Nowadays, nothing is too outrageous or insulting, and it becomes incumbent upon the adults to shake their heads and take a step back.

Fact: not everyone will like you or your book. Those reviews may be constructive or personal attacks based on nothing more than they don’t like your publisher, your face, your politics, your religion, you nose, your beagle, and a whole host of other imbecilic reasons that includes not liking your writing. So what are you going to do? Take on the world one grumpy reviewer at a time?

Being a professional means just that. Acting like an adult, with grace and maturity, and not stooping to the third grade level. This requires that you grow a very thick skin and hold your head high. If you’re proud of your work, then let the little twerps of the world wallow in their sticky juices of discourse.

Biting your tongue and maintaining your composure takes the wind out of their sails. Tweeting or blogging “I got a nasty review” makes you look thin-skinned and unprofessional. Be bigger than that. Be better than that.

6 Responses to Bite your tongue

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    Fact is, people will say bad things.

    But how could anyone not like the beagle?

  2. I don’t plan to read reviews — even the positive ones. No Google Alerts. No nothing. What good would it do? Good reviews will swell my head, and bad ones will explode it. Better to focus on things I can control.

  3. Pelotard says:

    Heck, where I am, I’d be happy to get a bad review because it’d mean my name & book title would be there in front of all these people. (Have to get published first, though :))

  4. Lauren says:

    In a civilized world there would not be nasty reviews. There would be critical reviews. And there would be negative reviews. But nasty really has no place in the world of reviewing. Even if a reviewer hates the book because it is poorly written, the professional reviewer is morally obligated to tackle the book with strength and grace.

    One of my reviewers, for example, is currently struggling with her review of a “bad” book. Here is a brief excerpt from the e-mail concerning why and how:

    If a work is bad enough from beginning to end, I may savage it. I start off, you see, being really angry at all the things a book could have been. All my first notes are negative. It would be dead easy to turn into a kind of Dorothy Parker. Except that’s not who I am. The anger stems from concepts or abilities that are wasted, or writers who aren’t quite educated enough to pull off their magnificent plan. This means I spend a lot of time working out what the writer was trying to achieve and who their audience is and measuring them against that, or considering their work in the light of a broader concept. I still put the worries in . . . but I will very, very seldom (and then only with outstanding reason) go apply all those negatives I thought of at first. When I read reviews that do that, I always wonder why the reviewer bothered.

  5. Allen Parker says:

    I’ve gotten bad reviews. I treat them as if they were a good review and I send a VERY short email that says thank you for the review and have a wonderful day.

    Then I move on. My work does not appeal to everyone. Some will not like it. Some will be offended. That’s the nature of the work. Others will like it and I can revel in their reviews.

    It’s bread falling peanut butter side up. Wait for the jelly.

  6. Lauren, this is fantastic feedback because I go through the same emotions when I read a poorly written manuscript. It’s true; I’m angry for the exact reasons your reviewer describes. But to allow that anger to continue into a review demeans the reviewer and define them as one who lacks maturity and professionalism.

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