Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How I am responding to negative reviews. Every single one of them.

Today we have a break from the Sanctum blog tour, and the last week has passed in this huge blur, so I wanted to take this post and reflect on something.

Sanctum has received its first negative reviews.

And now that I know how it feels, HERE IS HOW I RESPOND:

First, allow me to introduce my brains:



(for the purposes of this dialog, please picture them 100% more brain-like)

Sneaky Brain: OMG someone left a critical review. This is awful. So awful. It’s the worst thing ever.

Smart Brain: Whoa whoa whoa. Catastrophize much? First, WTH are you doing, reading every single review? Haven't we talked about this? And second, what's so awful about it?

Sneaky: Okay, well, I was curious about how the book would be received. AND NOW I KNOW AND IT IS AWFUL. I'll bet more and more of these negative reviews will come pouring in. The floodgates are opening!

Smart: Um. You're overgeneralizing. Breathe. I'm going to ask you some questions, 'k?

Sneaky: I don't exactly have lungs here.

Smart: Jeez. You know what I mean. Anyway, did you actually expect that every member of the reading public would like your book?

Sneaky: Well, I hoped--

Smart: You are a brain, are you not? You might have hoped, but you know there's not a book on this planet that has 100% 5-star reviews ... unless those reviews are fake. Do you want people to think your reviews are fake?

Sneaky: *horrified gelatinous shudder*

Smart: And next: When other authors' books get a few 1- and 2-star reviews, do you decide their books are bad?

Sneaky: Well, that would be stupid. Of course not. I mean, THE HUNGER GAMES has close to 25,000 1- and 2-star reviews. And that book is awesome. As indicated by the approximately one million 4- and 5-star reviews it has. But SANCTUM will never have that many reviews. So this isn't the same.

Smart: Oh, hello double-standard. And wait. What proportion of Sanctum's reviews are positive?

Sneaky: *checks the latest GR stats* Over 80% so far? But I've always been a straight-A student. You know that.

Smart: So if your performance isn't perfect, you're a failure? That's some excellent polarized thinking right there.

Sneaky: Well--have you read those reviews? One of them called the book a waste of money!

Smart: And here we go with filtering. Are you going to ignore over 80% positive reviews and only pay attention to a few negative ones?

Sneaky: No, I'm just saying those negative reviews stick out to me. Like a needle. In my tender, succulent brainself.

Smart. You're minimizing the importance of those fabulous reviews. That's sad. Because lots of smart people have said awesome things about Sanctum, and you're giving their voices less weight than those of the few who didn't like it. That's a bit disrespectful, don't you think?

Sneaky: Hey! I don't mean sound that way. It's just: those negative reviews give me a bad feeling. If I had a stomach, I'd feel like I'd been punched there. How did this all go south so quickly? I thought things were going well!

Smart: So if you're feeeeeeeeling bad, that means things really ARE bad? Emotional reasoning FTW! Or should I say: FTL.

Sneaky: Yes, but it's hard to stay positive when someone says your main characters were boring and annoying, and that your dialogue is poorly written. They basically said I'm a bad writer! I can't believe I screwed up this book so completely! I brought this on myself! I knew I should have stuck with my day job!

Smart: GAH with the personalization. Once again I'll remind you that lots of other folks have said the opposite about your characters, dialogue, and writing, and they've also said your book touched them deeply. Also: this isn't the last time others will say bad stuff ... but that doesn't change the book or what you've accomplished. Nothing can change that now.

Sneaky: But I want everyone to love me! I want to be perfect!

Smart: I say this with love, but: you deserve to be eaten by a zombie.

 And there you have it. Smart Brain wins on points. Moving on.
[If you want to read more about the Sneaky Brain and the Smart Brain--how one trips you up and the other can save you--take a moment to read this post. And maybe this one. Or just ... have a nice day, okay? I like you.]


  1. LOVE this! I should bookmark this post and come back here often.

    Last week, The Caged Graves received a 2 star rating on Goodreads. And the ARCs haven't even gone out to readers yet! How did this person even read it?

    Know what I did? Removed Goodreads from my bookmark bar. Now it's more than a click away. I have type in the whole darn URL. Which makes it harder for me to look there ... and helps me forget the place even exists for whole days at a time.

    Good luck demolishing sneaky brain, or at least getting her eaten by zombies. I haven't had a chance to read Sanctum yet (my whole world had a small implosion these past few days), but I know I will love it!

  2. Oh Sarah! You are funny and an awesome writer and I will read your books forever and who cares about negatives reviews and I'm talking too much *sigh* I love this post!!! :)

  3. From someone who catastrophizes and overgeneralizes twice before breakfast, I really appreciate this post. :-)

    It also reminds me of this bit of wisdom from George Bernard Shaw: "Give up all anxiety about those plays. Let this experience cure you of your excessive sensitiveness to reviews. If I bothered about such things I should go mad three times a week, and die on the alternate dates."

  4. this post. This should make you feel better though: John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" was so poorly received that it was banned and burned in his own home town. Yikes! William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" actually went out of print in 1955 after selling only 3,000 copies in the US. Thank goodness cooler heads prevail with your (what I'm sure is brilliant) Sanctum. It is next on my reading list, and I can't wait!

  5. Ha! LOve to see inside your head. Chin up, as they say.

  6. Wow, I didn't know The Hunger Games got that many 1 and 2 star ratings. Did those people not read the same book I did????

    I think a 80% successful review rate is awesome. :D

  7. Ha! I love Smart and Sneaky brain. If/when I have a book out, I'm going to try my HARDEST not to look at reviews. Every fantastic book has negative reviews. And if you look at Goodreads, virtually every single book is in the same star range. So what does that tell us?

  8. haha, this post made my morning. I'm glad Smart Brain is there to tell Sneaky Brain what's up. :)

  9. Smart brain really needed to slap sneaky brain around a little. Can't imagine dealing with the ups and downs of reviews, but this seems a healthy enough way of doing it. :)

  10. One review for Sanctum started with "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamazing!"

    I think both Sneaky brain and Smart brain should be pleased with that :)

  11. This alone is proof that you can write: " tender, succulent brainself." So here's a big, squishy hug to that tender brainself. Funny how we only see the negative within a barrage of the positive. Promise me you'll bandage up my bruised brainself when this happens to me, too!

  12. Ah I love this. This is my future.

    1. Also, for the record, you have ZERO one or two star rating on Goodreads :P That's a pretty great achievement!

  13. Hahaha, love this post. It's brilliant and clever and very insightful. Every author on the planet should read it! :)

  14. LOL!!! Ahh... Sarah! Thank you for your smart brain! I've been having this SAME reaction to my first "mean" review. (See how my brain translated it? Haha!)

    Oh, thanks for being so smart and logical. My husband was actually saying these exact things to me last night (filtering, polarized thinking, emotional reasoning, dot dot dot). Why is it easier to hear from you? :D

    Thanks again, honey~ <3