I’ve been told by just about all of my author friends that I should never read reviews of my books, especially the ones that show up on Amazon or Goodreads. I wish I could take that advice, but I read them. I enjoy the good ones and get upset/sad/angry at the bad ones for different reasons. I know my novels are not for everyone, that I very intentionally wrote in a style that would turn some people off. I sometimes ask myself if I can write something that will appeal to everyone, but nothing does. Those people who really like my works might see an attempt at popular fiction to be pandering. I agree. I understand that I will not likely ever make a living as a novelist, so what’s the point of writing as anyone but myself?
But the criticism. People can be mean and it takes a lot of willpower for me not to fire back at the ones who really don’t get it or have read one or two pages, made their negative first impression and, unlike Lizzie Bennet, did not stick around long enough to fall in love. I want them to understand why my sentences go on for days and why my ending is intentionally meant to make them feel what they are feeling which they ascribe to a negative. I don’t want people to feel good at the end of my first book. I really don’t. At the same time, I shouldn’t have to go around defending myself to my readers. And so I don’t.
Criticism is hard to take and sometimes it is anything but constructive. And on the internet, it’s worse because of the freedom of firing away from a faceless position. It’s always easier to serve one’s worst when there is no personal accountability. Sometimes criticism isn’t even voiced, but is just what you read on someone’s face. Sometimes criticism isn’t personally aimed at you, but you take it personally just the same.
As a Jew, I take any criticism of Jews personally. Those are my people, anti-semite! Only I get to crap on them! So it goes for every other group I am a member of….such as unions or teachers or trans. There is a lot of hate to go around for all my groups. A lot of negativity and like a moth to the flame, I read it all.
I don’t know why I do. It’s like reading politics. I’ll read all the articles that Suzan Cooke posts or everything at Daily Kos (and, yes, I’m a progressive…) and a lot of it is critical and very negative. I’ll read things at Huffington Post or some other news site. I’ll read the Trans articles there and much as I shouldn’t read my own reviews, I read the comments on the articles.
And I want to respond to them all, all the faceless fearless fuckers who voice their ignorance and think it jest or, worse, think their opinion to be right and true and necessarily spoken. Sometimes I do as I never do to critics of my books. Sometimes I fire back or simply try to explain how they are incorrect in their information or their logic.
It doesn’t help. I don’t believe it helps. I don’t think people change their minds unless circumstances force them to do so. Certainly a comment on a website or a blog or a review is not going to make them think that unions are better or teachers are amazing or trans people are not bathroom creepers…or they actually liked my book.
I still read the criticisms, though. I want to know what I’m up against.