You will get bad reviews. It’s inevitable, I promise you. Take comfort in the fact that it’s a rite of passage all writers go through. Every – single – one of them, and after the first one has you on the floor, bawling your eyes out, and inexplicably trying to chew your own foot off for a while, they’re not so hard to deal with. Some are pretty funny, and some are just to be ignored. There are people out there who delight in trashing books, and sometimes the authors of books too, for reasons unknown to most decent humans. Sometimes it’s jealousy, and sometimes it’s just because they’re mean. Sometimes also these one star stabs to the soul are perfectly legitimate in their author’s hearts and minds, because they really didn’t enjoy what you wrote for reasons that do or don’t make sense to you. Whatever the reasons are for your one star clanger, you must never, ever, never, never, and I repeat, never respond to them. If you really need to share your pain then talk to a friend – preferably a writer friend, who will totally get you. I personally don’t think that it’s a good idea to respond to fabulous five star rave reviews either. “Liking” that wonderful review is good enough. The reviewer might actually not appreciate being gushed at by an unknown author, no matter how much you really want to catch a plane, find them, and kiss them on the lips. Reviews are for readers, good ones and bad ones. It’s best for you to let them be.
Now the trolls on the other hand can be some crazy scary creatures. Try and avoid them at all costs, and be very wary of provoking any. After any amount of time cruising around our dear world wide web you’re guaranteed to come across a couple. Whether it’s something you’ll read in a forum or on a blog or article that enrages you so badly you act before thinking, or a troll actually infiltrating your own sites for whatever reason, you need to throw away that pointy stick without poking that horrible hairy monster, turn around very quietly and run away. On other sites you’re better off never getting involved with these people – ignore them, and they won’t even know that you were there. On your own sites use your block, ban, and report buttons with gusto in the event of any sort of blow across your bows. I have a few times and that’s been the end of that for me personally, but I have witnessed some pretty awful trollings online that were truly appalling to see, especially on Goodreads. Have no part in these things if you can help it.
When you do get a negative review, pass it on to that part of you who is the business – not the writer – figure out if there is anything to learn from it, in which case it becomes helpful, and if not, move right along and forget about it. Don’t waste your valuable online time on trolls and hurtful reviews.
How much time of every day should you spend “marketing” online, versus how much time should you spend each day writing your next book? Writing your next book must always take priority. A couple of self-published books have gone on to be NYT bestsellers with break out first novels, but that’s not the way this author life generally works. You have to produce more than one book. A little quirk that all of us readers have is the desire to read more from a writer we love. We’ll read a book that we adore, and praise it from the rafters. We’ll look for more books by the same author, and if there aren’t any, we’ll forget about it unless something pops up to remind us about it again. So schedule your daily writing time, and try and stick to it, doing other marketing and business related projects at other times of your day.
If you want to write books and earn a living from it, you are going to have to write and publish more books. If you’re writing a series you probably won’t see substantial sales until you have a couple of books out there. Don’t panic about this though. Underlying anxiety fussing about getting this done could very well knobble your creativity and leave you staring at a blank computer screen. I read an article by Hugh Howey a long time ago, where he said that he didn’t ever bother trying to market his first book until he’d published others. It was only his seventh book, Wool, that rocketed him to fame. I took his advice and I’m glad that I did. As you publish more, you learn so much more than you expect to after that bright eyed ecstasy when hitting the publish button for the very first time. Definitely do market and advertise your first book – of course you must, but don’t let disappointing first sales put you off writing the next or let marketing consume all of your time. You need time to build a readership. Patience and tenacity are what the Indie needs to succeed.
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Article excerpt: The Absolute Indie