All authors get bad reviews. What do you do when you get one?
A. Go all Anne Rice on the so-called reviewer who dared call into question your literary genius, in the process not only insulting the reviewer’s meager intelligence and no-doubt substandard education, but also intimating that his lineage is less than noble born?
B. Adopt the best Dr. Smith from Lost in Space voice you can, curl up into a fetal position, and exclaim, “The pain! The pain!” all while self-flagellating yourself over your lack of talent?
C. Do nothing (other than maybe write a blog post emphasizing the need to DO NOTHING) and move on.
Ding, ding, ding! For me, at least, C is the correct answer.
Why is that? Because a particular review (good or bad) doesn’t mean all that much, whether it comes from John Clute or Joe Blow. Remember that a book isn’t a mathematical proof that’s objectively true or false, valid or invalid. It’s art, and art speaks differently to each person who interacts with it. Each reader will have their own, subjective truth (if I can wax all New Agey on you for a moment), their own idiosyncratic response. For some, that response will be positive. For some, that response will be negative. Both are correct, both are ‘truth’, because the reading experience belongs to the reader.
So, you got a bad review. It means you didn’t reach that reader. It happens. It’s disappointing, sure, because you hate to think someone looks back on reading something you’ve written and doesn’t consider it time well spent, but it happens. And it will happen again with the next book. And again after that. So it goes.
In the end, it shouldn’t affect you much. To do this for a living, long term, you must have (or develop) a certain confidence in your voice, style, and technique, a confidence unmoved by the slings and arrows of outrageous reviews. The last thing you want to do is question or tinker with those things because someone somewhere said something negative about your work. Someone will always say something negative. That’s the nature of this beast.
Ask yourself this — Are you selling/being read? Then you’re golden. Carry on, scribe.