March 28, 2011

Mistakes Newbie Writers Make

Well, I wasn't planning on blogging today, but after seeing this, (read it first if you want, but come back…please!) I have to chime in.

When my first "novel" came out, I was as green as they come. I didn't know Jack about the publishing world. I thought it would be cool to go to some AOL groups and post a blurb about my book to different places and see what happened. I was not ready for the nasty backlash that came after.

First, I should say, the book wasn't very good. The plot was interesting, my characters and dialogue were decent, but the rest, well, just bad. Bad writing, bad editing, bad bad bad.
The people in those AOL groups didn't have any problem telling me I sucked. They didn't have a problem pointing out that just jumping into their group and putting a blurb up wasn't going to help me either.

Some people were harsh and nasty. One was actually very kind and emailed me to explain how my attempt at self-promotion was the wrong way to go about doing it. She was right.
The whole incident helped me to build a thick skin and quickly taught me what NOT to do to get reviews and how not to piss off people. I was schooled the hard way.
Avoid it at all costs.

Here’s some tips I’ve learned.

1. Build A Thick Skin! If someone doesn’t like your book, it’s okay. Really! Do you like every book, movie, TV show, or play out there? No, of course you don’t. So expecting everyone to love your baby, while a great positive affirmation, is highly unlikely. If you don’t like the review, don’t use it, but remember, this person took the time to read (sometimes buy) your book, that in itself is a major feat for any writer.

2. No Spamming! Don’t post your blurbs everywhere and anywhere. If you’re a part of a writer’s group, feed, chat, etc., that’s awesome. Make sure you’re keeping up with it at least monthly if not weekly. If you return to these groups and post your new release then leave, you’re not going to make any friends and they’ll just think of you as a spammer.

3. Don’t Bitch! Someone will always HATE what you’ve written. It’s rarely personal and all a matter of opinion and we all know that everyone has one. If you bite back at someone who has something negative to say about you, you’re just adding fuel to the fire and making yourself less likeable in the long run. Remember, negativity breeds negativity, misery loves company yada yada, you know. Take it with a grain of salt.

4. Be Gracious, Always! Remember, the internet is FOREVER! Whatever you post out there can be found years from now. Even if you hate the review or comments about your work, thank the person for their comments. You’ll come across as more professional and people will take you seriously. A prime example is my Dear Author first page blog thread for Lucky’s Charm:

Many people didn’t like the first page. Many of them had really great comments that helped me tighten the story. I commented twice. Once with a revised version of the chapter (since it was posted six months after I’d written it and I revised it several more times). The second to thank everyone again for commenting. I never received any negative backlash for adding in the revised version, and even got a comment saying it was better. The great thing is that a few of those people said they would read the book, including a NYT Best Selling Author!

5. Listen And Learn! While you can’t please everyone all the time, you can learn by paying attention to what people say about your writing. Some of the bad comments I received about my early writing helped me grow. People pointed out my weaknesses early on, giving me the chance to hone my skills before I put another crappy book out there. Others pointed out my strengths, which I continue to use in my writing to this day. Your family, friends, and even some of your writer friends may only (and always) tell you that everything you write is magical and fantastic so they won’t hurt your feelings, but is that what you really want? Having a stranger tell you their opinion doesn’t mean it’s the truth, it’s just another point of view you should take into consideration. Some of those strangers may be your readers one day.

Have you had a bad review? What did you do? How do you deal with the negative feedback? I’d love to hear!


Irene said...

The worst review I ever got came from someone who apparently didn't read my book. I don't know what book the reviewer was writing about, but it wasn't mine. Best advice for newbies is not to act as if your book is the next Moby Dick or Wuthering Heights...maintain an open mind and open heart and make sure the book is the absolute best you can write. Don't jump into getting it out there if it is proof you don't know what you're doing.

Terri Talley Venters said...

Thank you, Jenn for sharing. Great timing since my book is in editing. I like your advice on growing a thick skin and bracing yourself for a bad review. Your solution to thank them for their comments is better than mine. I was just going to mention I'm a second degree black belt! (love saying that, btw). Going through the writing and rewriting process, I received the most helpful comments from my mother. She helped my first book evolve with constructive advice. Like you said, you learn from the criticism of others.

Anonymous said...

I'm at the fortunate/unfortunate stage of having friends review my book, and all of them have given me glowing reviews. I have had a few short, unsolicited reviews that were very nice.

One honest review from an acquaintance pointed out some problems (I don't mind that and will review the issues), but I have a hard time taking the review seriously, as comments they made while reading the book led me to believe they skipped over a few parts...

Another recent reviewer, solicited, was horrified by the content. I thought I made things clear in my synopsis about the content, but I was apparently mistaken. She tried to give a nice review, but her revulsion got the best of her in the long run. I will not use that review, and thankfully, I have that option.