What To Do When Someone Hates Your Book

The older I get and the more books I publish, the more I’ve learned that it’s okay if everyone doesn’t love my work. This wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to. Believe me, I have my share of critics, and I had to trudge through some difficult times as I struggled to keep quiet when people were letting me know how much my books suck. I even almost quit writing several times because I got to the point where I believed I was a terrible writer. So I get it. I know how hard it is to brush off negative comments and reviews when it comes to your work. It is a lot easier to be objective when you see another author’s work being criticized, but when it’s your book that takes the beating, objectivity tends to fly right out the window.


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So today for those of you who are struggling with this issue, I thought I’d share things that helped me over the years as I’ve had people tell me why my work belongs in the city dump.

The first step is to be objective about criticism.

1. Understand that taste is subjective.

Honestly, you can’t make someone like your book. Trying to explain why you handled a conflict in your story a certain way or why your character did something someone doesn’t like is a fruitless endeavor.

Why? Because people will think whatever they want. Everyone who reads your book will be doing so with their personal bias already in the back of their minds.  Think of a book you hate that was massively popular. This is the book that makes you ask yourself, “Why do so many people love this horrible story?”

I’ve certainly had this question pop up in my mind.  There is a traditionally published book (which I will not name) that I hate. My hatred of this book was so strong that I actually felt like I was going to vomit while I was reading it. It got so bad that I had to stop halfway into it and throw it out. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this is a bestselling book. When I talk to others about this book, an overwhelming majority praise it. They encourage me to finish it. “It is so worth it when you get to the end,” they say. Personally, I don’t care how much they loved it. They aren’t changing my mind. I don’t care what motives the main characters had. To me, one character was stupid and the other character was undeserving of a happy ending.   Nothing could redeem them to my satisfaction.

Does this mean the story truly sucks? No. Of course not. All it means is that I think the book sucked. It’s just one person’s opinion. That’s all.  The same is true for people who don’t like your books.

2. The reason someone hates your book says a lot more about that person than it does about your book.

The book I mentioned above, the one that I hate more than anything else I’ve ever read, reveals my own likes and dislikes. It reveals an aspect of my personality. The hero and heroine have personality traits I absolutely despise. They did things I would never do in a million years.  Those characters represent the antithesis to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of people I want to hang around.  So all that book really did was reveal the kind of people I admire and respect.

The very qualities a reader likes or doesn’t like about a book are a window into the reader’s soul. You can gain insight into a person by their praise or criticism of the work. So take that into consideration when you come across the comments people make about your books.

Now, that we took an objective look at criticism, what should we do about it?

1. Ignore it.

The longer I’m in this business, the more convinced I am that ignoring criticism is the best way to handle it. Trying to defend your book is pointless. Instead of answering your critics, the best thing you can do is cater to your fans. They’re the ones you’re writing for anyway. They understand your vision for what you do, and better yet, they are already supporting and encouraging you.  They enjoy your work for a reason.  Why change what you’re doing to please the critics when the fans already love what you’re doing?

2. Choose to think on good things.

Recently, I’ve learned that the more attention I give something, the bigger of an issue it becomes. If I dwell on negativity, after a while, I start getting depressed or angry. I stop being as productive as I want to be. Negativity drains you of your energy. On the other hand, if I focus on positive things, I feel happier and freer. I find it easier to focus on my work. I’m more relaxed. I smile a lot more. I’m pleasant to be around, and believe me, my family is a lot happier when I’m pleasant.  So by focusing on positive things, you’ll probably attract a lot more pleasant people into your world.

To be honest, I used to think there wasn’t a correlation between what I was thinking and how I felt, but the more I’ve experimented with focusing on the positive, the more convinced I am that what we think about definitely impacts how we feel. It’s not easy at first. Breaking the old habit of dwelling on the negative takes time to do. But the more I do it, the easier it gets. Life is short. You have to decide whether you’re going to spend it in misery or whether you’re going to spend it in joy.  The choice is yours.

3. Be thankful for what you have.

A spirit of gratitude has a tremendous impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. When something bad happens, I take a step back and start to list out things that are good in my life. If nothing else, the fact that I have food on the table, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back are huge. The fact that I can walk to the car or type on the computer or that I even know how to read are huge. Sure, I have problems. We all do. But no matter how grim a situation is, there is always something you can be thankful for.  Or, to put it another way, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you do.  So taking into consideration your blessings when problems start to pop up can help buffer you from the negativity when it rears its ugly head.


In conclusion

If you reach a wide enough readership, you will have your share of critics. When this happens, do not engage with them. I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary. There’s no need to try to defend your book to someone who hates it. Your time and energy will be better spent focusing on your fans.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Reestablishing a Writing Routine

We go through great changes in our lives. It’s frankly inevitable. In fact, I remember someone telling me once in high school that in a twenty-five year period, it was likely that we would change our city/town, home, job, education status, socioeconomic status, political party, religion, and/or a whole bunch of other stuff. And when that happens, writing routines established over time and perhaps uninterrupted for years, are suddenly thrown out the window. And then where are you?

A couple of months ago, I moved into a new apartment so I could start a new job after a job search that lasted several months. Now, prior to this move, I would’ve said to anyone who asked that I didn’t really have a writing routine, that I just wrote wherever I could. Well, that is kind of true, because I do tend to write whenever I can if it’s convenient for me. But after the move, I did realize I had a routine of sorts established, and that routine no longer existed.

You see, while I was job-hunting, I lived with my dad, and in the evenings, I would settle down on the couch downstairs in the living room and write or edit while I watched whatever show I liked was playing that evening (you can get a lot written during commercial breaks). This routine lasted from late October 2015 to the end of May 2016. And my God, did it work! I edited the same novel twice and wrote more than a few short stories and blog posts that way during the job search, and it kept me sane while I looked for employment.

However, after I got employed and I moved for work, a lot changed for me. Yeah, I had increased independence, a nice location near work with a grocery store, a Target, and a library very close to where I live, and the chance to be as eccentric as I wanted within the confines of my own home without anyone judging me. But I also did not have a cable package, a TV, or a couch (though that’ll change soon with one of those). So suddenly the routine I had, which I’d been using for months and which I’d been comfortable with, was about as useful as an alchemy textbook at football practice.

For a while, I tried just writing or editing as much as I could when I sat down in front of the computer. Sadly, that worked horribly. I was moving at a snail’s pace, getting through only a couple of pages a week. A chapter could take up a whole month! With work getting busier and busier for me, I was starting to worry if I’d ever get back to the level of productivity I enjoyed prior to the move and in college.

But then a friend of mine gave me a recommendation that I found very useful. She had recently joined a group on Facebook where members sign up each month to try and write 250 words a day, and it had helped her get back into a routine of writing fiction after a pretty lengthy hiatus. That got me thinking: I can’t write every day, some days there just isn’t enough time. But what if I just tried to write 250 words every time I sat down in front of the computer? It couldn’t hurt to try.

To my utter delight, it worked like a charm. The first time, I ended up writing a little over the minimum 250. The next time, I ended up writing over 700 words! And the third, I managed to get out over thirteen-hundred words! It was amazing. Somewhere between words 150 and 250, a switch would flip and the story would just start flowing out of me like a river. In this way, I managed to get out the outline for my NaNoWriMo project in about a week or so.

Once that experiment had proven successful, I wondered if I could do the something similar with editing. It would have to be slightly different though, because editing is editing. Sometimes all you have to do work on is changing a word or a punctuation mark, and word count doesn’t change that much, but sometimes you rewrite whole sections and the word count changes dramatically. I ended up going with editing at least three pages per session, and that worked as well. After I rewrote the beginning of a short story I’d been working on and off with for over a year, I managed to finish editing the rest within a week (it helped that on the last night I worked on it, I was doing everything I could to avoid the presidential debates and I only had twelve pages to go!). Clearly this new routine I’d been working with was doing its job.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to adopt this routine if your old routine becomes impossible to do, but I am saying you shouldn’t just throw yourself into work and expect magic to happen. That didn’t work for me, and I’m not so sure it’ll work for you. Instead, take baby steps. Try writing a little a day until you find something that works for you and you’re at a level of productivity that works for you. If you do that, then I think that whatever life throws your way, you’ll be able to get back into the swing of storytelling with little to no trouble.

Have you ever had to change your writing routine? What did you do and how did it work out?

Categories: Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Book Promotion is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Strategy

I read this excellent article “Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn’t Make Sense” and wanted to pass it on.

The article fits in with the topic of this post which is why we’re not all called to promote books the same way.

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Is there really only one way of doing things?

I get weary of hearing marketing gurus insist that their way of doing book promotion is the “correct” way of doing things.  This sets up the idea that every author who doesn’t follow their advice to a “T” is somehow a failure.

Imagine if I were to write a blog post over here telling you that every writer must write romance.  Then, I not only told you the genre you must write, but I also told you the plot you must use and the type of characters you must include into that plot.  And if you don’t do it my way, then you’re not writing correctly.  Such a thing would be silly, and yet, this is what I see a lot of marketing people tell writers.  They must do X, Y, and Z, and it must be done in a certain way.  If you don’t do it exactly as they think it must be done and you don’t sell enough books, then you have contributed to your own failure.

Nature testifies to the value of being different.

Think of this world we live on.  Is the landscape the exact same across the globe?  Are we in a world that is only mountains?  And more than that, do all the mountains look the exact same?  Of course not.  We live in a world that is full of variety.  Some places have mountains that are covered in snow.  Some have mountains covered in trees.  Some have mountains that have rocks in them.  And there aren’t mountains all over the place.  The mountains are in certain places.  In other places, you have oceans, the plains, hills, deserts, etc.  So the world itself suggests there is no one way of doing things.

Writers’ personalities are just as different as nature is.

Now let’s consider something else.  People have different personalities.  And as writers, we have different interests.  Not everyone writes romance.  Thank goodness for that because I like reading a variety of genres!

If you break down the genres, you’ll find a whole list of sub-genres that narrow things down further.  In romance alone, you have historical western romance, Regency romance, Victorian romance, Highlander romance, contemporary romance.  If you want to break it down further, you can add other niches like paranormal elements like vampires and werewolves.  There are so many divisions within fiction that a person can get very specific. More than that, not everyone writes fiction.  Nonfiction also has it’s assortment of variety.

Expanding on this, not everyone writes the same length of book, either.  Some write short stories.  Others write novellas or novels.  And some even write more than 100K words.  If someone were to tell writers they must write in a very small niche with X, Y, and Z requirements, they’d be laughed at.

So why are we pigeon holing writers?

This is what I feel we do with book promotion.  We box writers into believing they must engage in certain activities online in a certain way if they are to be successful.  (Success often means money, of course.  The intrinsic value you bring to a reader’s life or the passion you had as you wrote the story rarely get factored into “success”.)

What marketing gurus often fail to take into consideration is that each writer has a unique personality, and what works for one personality type is not going to work for another. Yes, there might be some valid things to consider, but not everyone has the same talent.  For example, speaking engagements is one way to promote a book.  The idea is that you talk and generate interest for you book that people might then buy.  I tried speaking.  I was awful at it.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear me give a speech.  So that type of technique would be all wrong for me.  I’ve also tried doing those newsletters where you update your readers on something every week or so to remind them you exist, but honestly, I have no interest in trying to email people that often.  I’d rather do blog posts and send out an email when I have a new book out.

The point: 

Instead of trying to put writers into a little pigeon hole, I think it’s time we embraced the fact that book promotion is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Below I’m going to throw in some examples of why I say this:

1. Not all writers need to do the same type of social networking promotion.

I keep hearing every author needs a blog.  I blog because I love it.  I may not be blogging as much as I used to, but I do still blog.  However, I would not tell writers they must have a blog if they want to be successful.  Blogging isn’t for everyone.  Not everyone wants to write posts.  I know authors who are much happier engaging with readers on Facebook and Google +.  They have no idea what to talk about on a blog, nor do they have the interest in maintaining one.  They’d rather writer a couple of sentences and engage directly with readers.  Some even prefer Instagram or Pinterest.  Some like the forums.

My point is, the choice of where a writer spends time needs to be a good fit for their personality.  To tell someone they must be doing a specific social activity or aren’t promoting right is not helping that person.  Instead, it would be far better to tell writers that they ought to pick the things that are the best match for their personalities and focus their time and effort on those things.  Yes, they might lose potential readers by not doing a certain activity, but they might gain readers when they do another one.

2. Not all writers have the same amount of time to devote to book promotion.

Some of the tips I hear from marketing gurus would take far too much time than I personally have, and I know other writers who are even more strapped for time than I am.  Maybe the marketing guru has a lot of spare time to devote to a certain activity.  Maybe they aren’t working a full-time job.  Maybe they aren’t trying to write new books.  Maybe they don’t have children and a spouse at home who need meals prepared and a house cleaned.  Maybe they don’t have an adult child with special needs still living with them.  But some of us do.   And we’re trying to get more books written so our current readers and prospective readers have something to buy.  Some writers make book covers or edit to make money, which adds another reason why their time is so limited.  My point is that life is busy, and sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything we’re told we “must” do.

Again, I want to emphasize that sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all.  For certain writers, they might have the time.  But not every writer does.  So it’s not fair to tell a writer who is strapped for time that if they aren’t spending X amount of time doing Y, then they are hurting their chances of success.

3. Not all writers have the same amount of money to throw into book promotion.

I know writers who are living on social security.  I know writers who are in debt.  I know writers who are struggling to make ends meet.  Not everyone can buy a Bookbub ad.  Not everyone can pay $600 for a marketing guru’s course.  I even heard of a writer who spent $1500 in one month on book promotion.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head on that one.  I don’t have that kind of money to throw into ads.  I’m too busy digging up money for the IRS so I don’t accrue a penalty for not paying my quarterly taxes on time.

For some of us, even $100 can mean the difference between eating for the month or not eating.  I know the topic of ads is a popular thing, but not everyone can afford them.  So to suggest that a struggling writer is a failure at book promotion just because they aren’t buying ads is putting them through needless guilt.

Now, this isn’t limited to placing ads.  Other examples could be writer’s conferences, online marketing courses, or giveaway items.  There are others, but this post is long enough as it is.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is that writers need the freedom and relief of knowing they aren’t failures just because they don’t promote books a certain way.  I know authors who have written excellent books who have done ads, mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, and other things very well.  And yet, their sales aren’t showing it.  You’d swear by the lack of sales that they aren’t effectively promoting their books or that their books suck.  Things couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are doing everything right, and for some reason, they aren’t selling as well as they should be.

Whether marketing gurus will ever admit this or not, there are forces outside of our control that impacts our sales.  We have no control over which reader reads our books, likes it enough to pass it on to others, or even if a particular reader has a high level of influence within his/her circle.  All writers can do is control the product (book) and the type of promotion they choose to do.  From there, it is out of our control.

So take heart if you’re a struggling writer.  You’re not alone, even if you might feel like it.  No one can guarantee your success if you follow their formula.  They can only give you strategies that might help.  But they can’t promise you anything.  Take their advice with a grain of salt and apply that which fits your personality best.

Categories: Uncategorized

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