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Smackdown!

All right. Let’s say, just for argument, that Polly Prolific has written a novel. She thinks it’s a marvelous piece of literature, for sure. Now Polly could send out a query letter—or seventy-three queries—and contact agents and publishers, or she could go indie and self-publish.

This being today and not, say, 2006, Polly decides to go the indie route. She works up a cover, maybe hires a freelance editor, formats her book, and publishes on Kindle. So far so good.

Then she starts the marketing and promotions. She arm-twists her mother and sister-in-law into downloading a copy. She persuades her preacher’s wife and her next-door neighbour.

Finally she picks up a few reviews on Amazon. Five stars (and she’s thrilled!), four stars (and she’s happy), three stars (and, instead of being pleased, she’s annoyed but can’t quite figure out why). And then, of course, it happens. The blasting, flaming, scorching, “I hated this book and everything about it right down to the punctuation!” review.

Now, how is Polly going to react?

Every writer gets those reviews, even the greatest.

Lately, I’ve seen a few writers, mostly indies, administering a smackdown to those whom they feel have “wronged” them in their reviews. Right there in the comments.  Telling the reviewers that their opinions weren’t valid, that the points they made were wrong, that – in the words of one I’m thinking of now, “giving this book a two-star rating is just wrong!” Well . . . I have a bit of a problem with that. The review is that person’s opinion. See that word: OPINION. It’s not gospel. It’s not going to ruin your book if someone doesn’t like it.

I know, you put hours—weeks—even years into writing this book. But calling out reviewers who don’t happen to care for it isn’t mature, isn’t wise, and in the long run isn’t going to win you any fans.

Grit your teeth. Take a deep breath. Ignore the living daylights out of a bad review.

Unless, of course, the reviewer has bothered to mention something you might need to take note of. When I write a less-than-happy review, I always give my reasons: bad grammar, shifting point-of-view, errors in punctuation. These things need to be fixed, not fumed over.

Sometimes a bad review can actually intrigue a reader anyway. I have picked up a couple of non-fiction books precisely because a reviewer went off on such a clearly biased rant that I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

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