Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Dear Authors... Stop Attacking Reviewers

Hello, friends. Today's post may seem a little punchy at first glance, so let me start by saying I have no one specific in mind who I'm trying to subversively call out. HA! Truly. But I do want to speak to a trend I've been seeing on social media that seems to be worsening as the months go on: authors mocking bad reviews, or otherwise seeking validation online.

Now, I get it. You poured your heart and soul into this thing, shed tears over what might've been months/years of rejections, worried about the next contract and the sales numbers and Amazon's algorithms and you really, really need people to take this thing seriously - only for Nancy to show up and say your characters are flat. (Apologies if your name is Nancy.) You want to lash out. You need to lash out because this crazy person doesn't know what the heck she is talking about or the fact that your hero Jack's eyes have little flecks of the golden sun that represent his dreams and how could anyone call that flat?

But here's the thing. You wrote the book. You got a chance to bring your beautiful, heart-tugging story into the world - a privilege, by the way, denied to most - and that is your part. None of us have any business engaging with reviewers unless they contact us personally. We certainly have no business discussing it publicly on social media because if we are being honest, the only real motive for that is our own validation. Ouch. I realize that stings. I don't mean to sound harsh. I also realize you need to vent sometimes, and reviews can hurt. But Facebook, Instagram, you name it, is not your front porch with your mama or a coffee shop with your best friend, or even a private message on any of those online platforms. Social media is by nature... well, social. And we need to be intentional about what we are doing in those spaces.

More than anything, though, as Christian authors - as Christian people - we are called to honor one another. I realize that may feel like giving up or letting someone who totally missed the heart of your story have the final word. Trust that your story speaks for itself. 

All of us want readers. Part of that means having readers who just don't get it.

Our decision to honor is not an endorsement of others' character, but an endorsement of our own.

When you read mean, horrible things about the story you love so dearly, by all means, tell some trusted friends who can get you back on your feet again. Tell the Lord you feel broken and doubt your ability to write the next book. And if it comes to it, stop reading reviews entirely. But please, friends, let's stop dragging our bad reviewers through the mud of social media - even if we think they deserve it. They may, in fact, deserve it. But we are called to more. We do not get true validation from strangers' words on a Goodreads account, any more than we find it with a slew of kind comments on Facebook from friends who empathize. Because the thing about it is this - there will always be another bad review. I just went to Redeeming Love's reviews on Amazon for the sake of illustration, and the first one that pops up is ONE STAR. Francine Rivers, y'all. We cannot allow our confidence to ebb and wane with the words of whoever comes along that particular day. 

Each person is going to come to a text differently, according to life experience, values, preferences - you name it. Maybe those things caused them to see your book ALL WRONG. But still, on some level, they engaged with your story - your story. There is a phenomenal privilege in that. Let's honor it well.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and teaches literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW, and when she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals or finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her website, - she would LOVE to have you as a newsletter subscriber so you can get her weekly devotionals. You can sign up on her website.


Terrie Todd said...

YES! Thank you so much for saying this, Ashley! This behavior not only draws attention to bad reviews, it seems like a pathetic cry for validation and it invalidates the opinion of your reader--an opinion to which they are completely entitled. You've said this so well.

kaybee said...

Ashley, this is strong stuff and needs to be said. I just finished reading the galleys for my "last first novel," and it struck me as I was reading that this isn't "my" story any more and they aren't "my" characters. For better or worse, they belong to, well, the world. For how much or how little "the world" wants them. So I've begun to detach from them, and it. It's like sending your child to kindergarten. Heck, it's like GIVING BIRTH. And it's the chance we take.
My day job is newspaper reporting and I've had to grow a thick skin because of that. But fiction, the work of my heart, is a whole other matter. But so worth it.
Kathy Bailey

kaybee said...

If you're traditionally published, you have to cling to the notion that SOMEONE thought fit to put your words in print. Some days this is all you have. If you're indie, you have to believe that Someone gave you those words in the first place, and that He wants them said.
Kathy Bailey

Ashley Clark said...

Terrie, thank you for your kind words!

Kathy, you are SO wise. And I think you're absolutely right. Fiction is so much harder to divorce yourself from emotionally... and I think to a certain extent, that's how it should be. I can remember a time when I first began writing fiction where I had such a thick skin, I wasn't writing very vulnerably. Then as the years passed, I started caring more and more-- HA!