Question: How do you handle negative feedback on a book?
Answer: I had to learn how to handle negative feedback, the hard way. Just like every other author does. The first negative feedback I received, I handled very badly. I at least had the good sense not to comment on the Amazon reviews section, venting instead via my (personal, NOT author) Facebook page. I had received a 2 star review and I actually knew the person who'd left the review. Not only that, this person was family! I know we authors are supposed to be able to handle negative criticism but I hadn't learned that particular talent yet.
This reviewer admitted that she hadn't finished the book. Her biggest reason for such a bad review? One of the characters used the Lord's name in vain. (yes really. That was actually her reason.) She gave two other reasons for the general despising of my first novel to be published. They were: 1) The amount of curse words (FYI there's less than 10 in the entire thing) and the descriptive sex scenes (which were under 5 in the entire novel). She continued with an explanation that sex should be implied, not explained. But she made it very clear that she stopped reading the minute I took the Lord's name in vain and did not finish the book. Which meant she didn't even get to read the rest of the cuss words and sex scenes! ;)
She also implied that since my bio page stated that I sang at church, that she expected better of me. The actual title of her review was "Don't judge a book by the author's bio". So I had to comment (via Facebook) that maybe I go to a Pagan church where people have sex in front of everybody during services. (I don't, by the way, but I really felt like being a smart-ass). (Uh, oh. Sorry for the curse word). I did end up changing my bio to 'singing' instead of 'singing at church' so no one else would come to the same conclusion as my (apparently) very shocked, and disappointed relative. So my going off the deep-end on Facebook because of (what I saw as) a betrayal by a family member continued...
I (shamefully) declared that said relative was a religious zealot and should have known that since the book is a ROMANCE, it would have sex in it. I had assumed too, since the book wasn't classified as religious or inspirational that it would also have adult content and language. Well you know what they say about people who assume! ;)(in case you don't: It makes an ass out of u and me. Get it?) Well apparently it wasn't as obvious that a ROMANCE book would contain adult situations.
Well my little, unprofessional outburst fired up a literal shit-storm (oops, there's another curse word... guess I still have a little bit of bitterness) which resulted in yet another family member, angry that I called the first family member a religious zealot, echoed the first relative's review with a negative one of her own. On Amazon. Where everyone could see it. Where I can't delete it. Where it effects the sales of my book.
This relative, at least, left me a 4 star rating. But echoed that the cursing, use of the Lord's name in vain, and sex were completely unnecessary. And since I knew who this particular relative was, I was again angry. Because this specific relative had read the 50 Shades of Grey series and loved it! That series is like hard-core porn compared to what I wrote, but I digress...
My point is, that though I didn't handle my first negative review very well, I have since learned that it doesn't matter. The rest of my reviews for that particular book are all 4-5 star ratings so I have to assume (yes there's that word again) that people like my book. I have to assume that MOST people will understand what my book will be about when it's categorized as a romantic suspense. I have to assume that people will read the blurb and positive reviews and understand what the negative reviews are: proof that you can't please everyone.
And that is the absolute truth. An author will NEVER please every reader. Most of the time we will piss-off at least a few of them. We have to learn how to accept that fact and deal with the negative reviews.
Look at J.K. Rowling. One of the biggest literary figures of this century, immensely popular and famous, yet her book was BANNED by some libraries for its references to magic! When I say some readers will hate what you write, well she had hordes of people that hated what she wrote, boycotted it even, yet she went on to sell over 400 million copies and that figure is from 2011! So there's your proof.
Take the negative reviews, the criticism, hate, displeasure, betrayal, etc and let it go. Because in the end it doesn't really matter. (Of course that's a different story if ALL your reviews are negative...The different story being that something is probably MAJORLY wrong with your book, but I digress again.)
Another factor of the negative review is that you can gain positives out of it. Say a reviewer said 'I loved the story-line but it was too short! Would like to have seen more detail between so and so or more conflict with such and such.' Perhaps another reviewer said: 'loved the book but hated the cover. Needs a new one.' or: 'good story but too many grammatical errors'.USE these negative reviews to your advantage. Fix your mistakes, make a better cover, add more to the story and release a second edition.
You write what you write because you're passionate about it. Because you have this story bursting inside you, screaming to be told. It's YOUR story, which means it's no one else's so, naturally, someone else may not like it. That's life and that's okay.
These are negative reviews that you should LOVE to get because in reality, they are POSITIVE. They give you constructive criticism, ways to improve, ideas, etc. Take it and run with it. Being a writer is ALL about perfecting your craft. You are ALWAYS learning. Your next book should always be your BEST book and the next one and the next one and so on. Take all the reviews, all the criticism, all the ideas, and learn from them. Because that is really what will make you a better writer. :)
And to continue in the current 'smart-assery' of this blog post, here's a picture to help you understand what I'm saying: