I recently received a one star review on Amazon for my newest book on writing, One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author. The review read, and I quote, “Sounded like a seventh grader put it together…” The reviewer then proceeded to make the accusation that I attempted to copy Anne Lamott’s iconic book on writing, “Bird by Bird” grinding the proverbial salt to the wound by saying, “He missed by a mile.”
How do you even respond to that? The truth is you can’t and you don’t want to.
My emotional cycle played out like this…first comes a few seconds of anger, then a few minutes of shaken confidence, then about ten minutes of worry that it will have a negative effect on the book sales and then, finally, I shrugged it off and moved on.
Not only do you move you, you try to determine if there’s a kernel of constructive criticism that can make you better. If the negative reviewer reveals something you can work on to make you a better writer they’ve done you a huge favor and you should thank them for their honesty. My big takeaway from this review is apparently not to write like a seventh grader. I’ll try to work on that.
Seriously, being an indie affords you countless opportunities to develop a thick skin but the great thing is almost every negative can be turned into a positive. According to James Altucher (whom I respect very deeply) we should strive for a Flesch-Kincaid readability score of three for truly effective writing. A FK score of three translates into third grade level so ideally I need to get to work at reducing this by four grades.
I’ve said it before, writing is not the profession for the timid or faint of heart. You must be like a gold miner panning for glimmers of shining truth in the river of life. The occasional bad review, can even give your book more legitimacy by showing that it’s not just a bunch of friends and relatives writing reviews for your work.
The truth is not everybody is going to connect with your writing. If you want to become a writer of the caliber that will leave a legacy and be remembered you will probably have as many haters as you have fans. When this happens I will know I’ve truly succeeded at my craft and in life.
~Eric Vance Walton~