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How to respond to criticism of your latest book

14 September 2017

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Ouch. That last review hurt, didn’t it?

The fact it was nestled among countless great reviews is irrelevant. It’s Friday, and you know you’ll now spend all weekend replaying the words of a single negative review over and over in your mind.

If this feels familiar, don’t worry - you’re not alone. No one - not even the most accomplished, famed writers - will ever create a piece of work that doesn’t draw criticism from certain factions.

You can’t make everyone like your books, but you can learn how to respond positively to criticism and make the most of it.

Don’t get defensive

You’re only human; if you spot a negative comment about your hard work, you’ll understandably want to leap to its defence.

Unfortunately, in doing so, you’ll probably only make things worse.

There are far more subtle, effective ways to defend your work than to turn to in-your-face “what would you know?!” retorts.

Thank the reviewer for their honesty and say you’re actually pleased to see their thoughts among so many positive comments, because it’ll keep you on your toes and enable you to continue improving your writing.

Don’t make changes

The book is written. Editing and republishing it because of a negative review isn’t a sensible investment of your time or money.

Criticism from beta readers enables you to adjust your work before it hits the shelves, but the thoughts that arrive from people who have paid for the finished article need to be taken on the chin.

The changes (if you feel they’re required) can be made in your next piece of work.

Learn, and move on.

Don’t waste time getting a second opinion

Although not the worst idea in the world, seeking a second opinion off the back of a poor review may put the person you choose in a tricky position.

Think about it; what you’re really asking them to do is agree with you and suggest the negative review is wrong.

What if they agree with the criticism?

Once again, second opinions are useful during the editing stage, but deliver little value when the book is out in the big, wide world. And, besides, the other reviews you receive are your second, third, fourth (and so on) opinions!

Act on it

Many an author has made the mistake of not acting on feedback.

By ‘acting on it’, we mean “do whatever you need to do to make it useful”.

That might be a positive reply (see our first tip) or the process of acting on a specific piece of criticism during your next novel, but whatever it is, do something with it - don’t let negative feedback slip beneath the rug where it will remain forever on your mind.

Final tip

Don’t let negative feedback occupy your every waking moment. It hurts, yes, but if you instead view criticism as an opportunity to improve, it’ll turn into something far more transformative.

Remember - that person still bought your book; they saw something in it that captivated them, so you’re clearly doing something right!

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