A writer I look up to once tweeted (and I'm just paraphrasing this because I can't recall what she said word for word) that something she learned from her 15 years in this business was not to read reviews that would only make her feel sad. And I totally agree.
Another author I consider a role model also saw unfavorable reviews as results of her books getting in the wrong hands. Definitely agree with this, too. In fact, there's this review for my Fangirl book that I often use as an example for this. The reviewers explained how my book would appeal to certain types of readers but did not appeal to them because the book wasn't to their taste and they explained the reasons why. I did NOT feel sad at all about the review because the reviewers weren't just nice. They also understood and appreciated the fact that just because they didn't like the book didn't mean the book was bad. It just wasn't to their taste.
Because I write and publish for an international market, there are automatically more chances of my books getting in the wrong hands and I've learned to accept this. I've learned to EXPECT it. Why?
One reason why people won't "get" my books is because of what I believe in.
- Some readers think my heroines are criminally naive and innocent. I totally understand that, but I won't change it because for me, I just consider those qualities as being "optimistic". They're selfless and giving because they choose to be so.
- Some readers think my heroines are too forgiving. I totally get that, too, but here's the thing. I'm a fairly religious person. I'm far from being perfect but I try to be a good Catholic and part of it is being forgiving. To err is human, to forgive divine. And remember how Jesus said you should forgive people seventy times seven? So, yes, these beliefs of mine are reflected in my stories and they will stay that way.
- When Drawn was first released, I received a few emails and reviews that said I was being a racist because my characters used the word "Japs". Apparently, in the US this was a racist term - something similar to "nigga" I suppose. This is NEWS to me because I live in the Philippines and we Filipinos love to abbreviate. We even call ourselves "Pinoy" rather than Filipino. I'm Filipino-Chinese and I don't mind being called "Chinoy", "Intsik" "Tsek-wa". It is what it is. When I learned about this term, I made the decision NOT to edit the book. I believe that the best way to defeat bullies and racists is to take away the negativity from their actions. I hope that with my books, "Jap" becomes a cool term. That way, in the future if a real-life racist uses "Jap", it wouldn't amount to anything because we've destroyed the negative power behind it. So screw you, racists!
Another reason why people won't "get" my books is because of my own reading preferences. I'm bad at remembering sources of quotes but there's another one who said that authors are compelled to write the kind of stories that they want to read but can't seem to find. I consider this a universal truth, which is also why I don't mind when some readers don't like my books. It only means we don't have the same taste in books.
- Some readers think my books are too steamy. I like it that way because I believe physical attraction plays a huge part in relationships and I think physical intimacy is one of the purer no-bullshit ways for couples to communicate.
- Some readers think my books are unrealistic. For me, love at first right or "insta-love" is real. It happens. So yes, the way my characters meet and fall in love can seem unlikely to happen to some and I totally get that.
The moral of this lesson is not to prevent you from reading unfavorable reviews. If you have found it to be productive, good for you. I myself have found some of them extremely helpful. I have long-time readers who take the time to give me honest feedback and those I truly appreciate because I know their words come from the heart. But as a rule, I don't intentionally seek them out. I don't go out of my way to read unfavorable reviews and for me this is okay because---
- Writers are their own worst critics. If you write, you know this to be true. No one can be harsher than you are with your own writing. However, we can also be willfully blind and this is what you need to get rid of. You must understand and accept that your book is NOT and will NEVER be perfect.
- Those reviews are usually drive-by one-stars. They are NOT your regular readers. Aim to please them and you might end up displeasing your core readership - the readers who have been with you from the very start and appreciate you being true to who you are and how you really want to write.
- Those reviews may "pressure" you to write a certain way. Trust me - I learned this the hard way. I tried to win my critics' approval before - I tried to do it their way, mistakenly believed that their validation meant everything and you know what? The result was a book with sucky sales, sucky reviews, and a book that I'm just not proud of. I don't regret this part of my life because it's taught me a valuable lesson but I definitely do NOT wish the same for other writers.
- I strive to keep learning. I still buy and read guides / manuals / how-tos for writing fiction, and these books naturally help improve my writing.
- I keep reading - and I try to learn from what I'm reading. When I admire how a certain author tackles a particular plot or how another author writes a certain way, I take note of it so that I can do something similar with my next book.
If you genuinely love your work and you constantly strive to be good at it, bad or unfavorable reviews won't ever kill you. In rare cases, it can kill your "author name" but that's the great thing about digital publishing. You can always start fresh with a brand new pen name and this time emerge as a stronger, better, and more experienced author.