OK. Look. You don't need me to tell you what to do. You don't need me to spew out a list of nine things you need to do in order to be a writer. Or three ways to deal with bad press. You're kinda awesome, and you should probably be reading some Roxanne Gay or William Boyle or writing something yourself instead of reading another silly, generic list on a blog.
What you shouldn't be doing, of course, is reading your own reviews.
Recently, with all of the Authors Behaving Badly news, the stalking, the attack on Vine reviewers, etc, you people have kinda gotten out of control. You authors, I mean. You're weird.
So I'm supposed to give you a bunch of reasons you shouldn't respond to bad reviews? Well, I'm torn on that one because you should respond to criticism of your work, but you probably shouldn't be reading reviews -- good, bad, lavender.
Let's go with responding to reviews and work our way back.
Once you put your book out there, you've lost control. Most authors will tell you that. What do you hope to gain by responding to a "bad" review. I mean, having someone dislike a thing you wrote? That's not a bad review. That's normal. The world doesn't exist to make you happy, pumpkin.
I was fortunate to get some great press and some great reviews early on for Country Hardball. And I read the reviews that first week or so. I read reviews in the papers. I read reviews at Goodreads. I mean, I'd worked for a long time on this book. What would The World think of it, you know?
But, if someone in a one-star says, "I've lived in Arizona my whole life and this isn't any Arizona I know. The author has clearly never even been here" -- am I obligated to comment, "Thanks for reading, but the stories take place in Arkansas, not Arizona. Those state abbreviations can get confusing. Cheers."?
Or if someone complains that they gave up on page three, should I comment that things really start picking up on page five?
Or if they say that they hate the book because it says the Fauxville tornado hit in 1931 and they know damn well that it hit in 1932 because that's when Grandpa Hezzie lost his leg, should I post links to news article proving they're wrong?
If you're reading reviews of your own book, what is the problem you're trying to solve? You need to know what people listened to in 1948 Chicago, so you do some research. You want a better word for "transcend," so you grab a thesaurus. What is it that you need to get from reading reviews on Amazon or Goodreads?
Do you need to know that people like your book? Didn't your 13 beta readers like it? Your agent? Your editor? People at Green Gulch Publishing, a division of Simon House? Copy editors? Those people who interviewed you? The nice lady who invited you to her book club? The other nice lady who invited you to read at Ye Olde Booke Shoppe? The guy at Books by the Brook? All those people liked your book, yeah? So you need to make sure everyone liked it? Pumpkin, we've been over this. You could donate eight gagillion dollars to cure cancer in orphans and people would still say, "Hunh. Must be nice to have that kind of money." You ain't gonna be loved by everybody. Hell, there's probably people out there who don't like ME
! (I know, right?)
So why are you reading reviews? Are you looking for bad ones? Are you waiting for Them to find out that you're a fraud? Come on, you're supposed to handle those fears in your dreams, not out here.
People like your book. Not everyone, of course. But some folks are assholes, you know? What are you gonna do?
I'm thinking reading "good" reviews are just as problematic.
Someone likes this thing you did? That's great. So there you are, reading along, and the Goodreads review says the reader liked the way you handled Nadia's accent. Hunh. That's weird. You hadn't really thought she'd had an accent. Maybe you should go back and read that part again. Or this nice reader over here said she was hoping for a Marcus spinoff and maybe some more on the backstory of the manicorns. Well, yeah. That's not what you're writing now, but maybe you should set this aside to write that. Or, wait, here's another review that says you're the next Delilah S. Dawson. Well, that's cool. You hadn't thought of this book in those terms. Wonder what the reader meant by that. The worldbuilding? The character building?
Why, in the name of Walt Frickin Whitman, are you doing this to yourself?
Why aren't you writing the next book? The next novel? Why are you reading your Amazon reviews?
I think it's super cool and nice if someone takes the trouble to blog up a review of something I've written. If it seems like a good idea, maybe I shoot that person a quick email of thanks. Some authors post a "thanks" in them comments, which seems a little stalkery to me, though I don't know why. It just kinda has that "I'm watching you" vibe. I dunno. Whatever you do it cool. You don't need me to tell you that.
And some authors troll the internet and set up alerts so that they can RT links to every single nice thing anyone has ever said about their books. Your Twitter followers and FB pals probably already know you wrote a book and maybe they've read it. So I'm not sure what the point is to this preaching-to-the-choir thing. Maybe so they'll RT your RT of a positive review? I dunno.
Mainly, though, shouldn't you be writing?
You should FOR MOST SURE CERTAINLY respond to criticism. To me, though, it makes sense to do this before your book comes out. If a beta reader doesn't like this part or that part, maybe look at that part. If your agent or editor thinks you should work on a Marcus spinoff, maybe think about that.
But trolling around on the internet after your book is out? I mean, what can you do about it then except make yourself sick over it? Turn the internet off and get back to writing the next book, yeah? I mean, after you post a comment here, of course.
A book review is meant to tell people whether they should read the book. Will they like it? Does it have too much humpy-time or thin characters? Is it superballz awesome? Reviews are for people who might read your book. Reviews are not for authors -- they're for readers. Good reviews. Bad reviews. Doesn't matter. For an author, they're all bad reviews because they're not for you.
Anyway, hugs and all. And stop being a dumbass, pumpkin. You're better than that.