You know those dreams where you show up for your first day of school or to give a presentation at work and you look down and realize you're naked? Yeah, those suck. But guess what?
Welcome to being an author.
Writing can be a pretty solitary career. We sit in our little writing caves and type up the stories we can't get out of our minds any other way. We drag out all of our life experiences, our vulnerabilities, our fears, our quirks and pepper our pages with it--whether we realize what we're doing or not. Our voice is us. Even if the story is about someone who is nothing like us or about something we've never experienced. We are naked on those pages.
And unlike most other careers, our goal is to expose that nakedness to others and subject ourselves to public judgment and ridicule.
That's a pretty brutal position to put yourself in. We know we have to have tough skin. And we do have it. We've been through the gauntlet of critique partners, query rejections and editor feedback. We know how to take constructive criticism.
However, once your writing is OUT THERE. Like for the general public to read and comment on, it's a whole different kind of naked. And I don't think any writer can be completely impervious to others commenting negatively about his or her work. Agents, editors, crit partners--we can deal with their opinion because we know they are coming from an informed viewpoint.
But when your story is out in the world--ANYONE can share their opinion. I can't tell you how many times I've seen reviews on Amazon where people have rated an erotic romance one star because "this book had graphic sex in it." Hello. Their are half-naked people on the cover. It's called EROTIC romance. By definition, the sex scenes are fully described using all the fun words.
Or someone will give a bad rating because the bookseller didn't ship their book on time--like that should have any bearing on the book itself. And on Goodreads, people can rate a book before there are even ARCs printed. They can rate the book when the manuscript is still scattered on the author's floor! (You can learn more about that here on Adventures in Children's Publishing.)
And as authors, there isn't much we can do about it. People can do what they want. They can tear down your book in mean-spirited, completely non-constructive way. They can post spoilers that give away the twists of your book. They can give completely inaccurate information. They can basically tell you that you look awful naked and that you should never take your clothes off with the lights on again.
And you have no control over that.
All you have control over is how you react. That's where you need to put your focus. I know that's what I'm going to try to concentrate on once my book it out. I've already suffered a mini-anxiety attack just putting up the first chapter of CRASH INTO YOU on my website. The reactions have all been positive so far, but it still felt like I was stripping in front of everyone, lol. That's the longest piece of my writing I've ever made public.
But anyway, here are a few tips once you've taken off your clothes in front of the world...
Tips on Being Naked In Front of an Audience AKA Being Published:
1. NEVER respond to negative reviews. Ever.
Okay? Don't do it. It makes you look petty and oversensitive. Just don't say anything at all. Or if you have to say something, say thank you for reviewing my book, sorry it wasn't for you.
2. Do not let a bad review ruin your day.
Most of the big reviewers will tell you that a bad review often sells as many books as a good one because people think--ooh, that sounds awful! I must see how awful it is for myself. (Then hopefully you surprise them.) It's the "Eww, this stinks. Smell this!" mentality.
3. If you find yourself being distracted or personally wounded by bad reviews, stop reading them.
This will be the hardest for me because I'm one of those people who wants to know--even if it's bad news. But if I ever feel like I'm getting brought down by the negativity, I will step away.
4. Repeat after me: You can't please everybody.
This is the one I constantly have to remind myself of. Someone will hate your book, probably many someones. But others are going to love it! Your story is going to be some person's favorite book of the year. Think about those Oscar winning movies--how many times has something won a buttload of awards but you totally thought it sucked? Every story is not meant for everyone.
5. There's no such thing as bad press.
Okay, that's not true 100% of the time. If you make a jackass out of yourself publicly, that's not going to be good. But, in general, you'd rather people be talking about your book than not. Think how many people tear down Twilight. I bet many, many of those Twi-haters are first in line when each new movie comes out, if nothing else but to go in and laugh. Buzz is buzz.
So what do you think? How do you react to negative reviews or how do you think you will react? Will you have to read them or will you avoid reading reviews? What other tips would you add to this list?
And if you'd like to see me "naked", you can go here and read my Chapter 1. Feel free to tell me what you think. I'm pretty tough. Mostly. ;) (Over 18 only, por favor.)