No matter how good you are at what you do, you’re going to meet critics along the way. Even the Lord God Almighty has critics, and you’re not better than He is.
It can be hard not to let the critics get to you, but if you let your fears of criticism stop you from writing or putting your book out there, you’re going to rob yourself of the chance to make the life-saving difference you were born to make. You’ll also be robbing those who need your story of the chance to have their life impacted by your work. Everyone loses.
Your Critics Are Your Best Friends
They may not intend to help you, but your critics are going to do for you what your best friends won’t: they’re going to tell you the raw, unvarnished truth as they see it. They’re going to point out every flaw and fault your work has – and your work is going to become better for it.
Recently on Twitter, I saw someone saying some pretty trashy things. So, I purposely joked with him about that trash language. He didn’t like it, so he visited my website and noticed it was not finished. Not even close. He made fun of me for it.
Now, I could have used that as an opportunity to head back to my corner of the Twitterverse and tuck my tail between my legs, but I recognized it for what it was: my critic doing me a favor. He was pointing out to me that I needed to fix that problem ASAP. He did more to motivate me to fix my website than any of my friends were able to do.
I’d let this site languish for literally years, excusing myself from working on it by telling myself I didn’t have the time. Motivated by my critic, in one day, the website went from garbage to being ready for business. All because I listened to my critic and put him to work for me.
You’ll Never Know How Good You Are Until Someone Who Doesn’t Like You Reads Your Book
The people who know you like you for the most part. They don’t want to discourage you or hurt your feelings. But when it comes to your writing or any other creative work you do, that’s not helpful. It’s not going to tell you what you need to know.
What you don’t need is someone who is looking for everything that’s right with the work you’ve done. That feels good, but it won’t help you fix what’s wrong with it. What you need is someone who is going to tear it to pieces for you and find everything they can that’s not working so you know what you need to fix.
You need someone who doesn’t care how you feel. That means you need someone who doesn’t like you or know you. If you can impress them, you know you’re ready for prime time.
There are a few times I’ve gotten bad reviews, and they stung each time. But they were super helpful in telling me what I needed to change in order to make my writing better.
The first one-star review I ever got was on my first published book, How To Write an eBook in 40 Days (or Less). Here are the words that reviewer wrote:
I was loaned this from a friend who purchased not only this book but many how-to-write-eBooks that were free for a short period of time during a promo. I’ve also followed a lot of writing blogs, and read what I could on the net about it. I expected that this would be something new or different, since I have not found any other how-to that specifies a time frame for your writing. I admit to being intrigued enough to sit and read it. It didn’t take very long to get through it.
If you haven’t already researched eBook writing on your own, this might be something new for you. If you have had an interest and read everything you could already? This isn’t going to add to your knowledge or change your life. It wasn’t authoritative and there wasn’t anything in here that I have not already learned from my online research.Ang, Amazon Vine Reviewer
OUCH! That was painful. I’d done my best to provide a book that was helpful, geared toward beginners, and this was definitely not encouraging. But it did cause me to take a look at the work I’d done through a more objective lens.
What was this reviewer telling me that I was missing? What did I need to add to make the book something others would find unique enough to be worth their time in reading?
My first attempt added five chapters that covered topics other reviewers stated they’d wished I’d covered but hadn’t. My second, third, and fourth attempts never made it to print – but they started me on the journey of developing a universal writing system that would work for any kind of book someone was trying to write.
Without that one-star review, I would never have found this system and I wouldn’t have anything unique to offer to the writing world. But because of that reviewer, I do.
They Will Help You Fix Your Descriptions and Categories
Sometimes the negative review comes because you listed your book in the wrong category or don’t have the right things in the description. Your critics are going to let you know that right away.
One woman listed her book, which is a family drama, under romance because it had romantic elements in it. The romance readers hated and loathed it. They were trashing her book right, left, and center. All it took for her to get good reviews was to move it to the right category.
Every genre comes with set expectations for what they are going to get when they read it. If you don’t deliver, the readers are going to be brutal. When you’re getting a ton of negative reviews, read those. Be sure that the genre you’ve listed your book under is the right one for what you’ve written. Know what reader expectations are for each genre and be sure your title matches up with it.
One of my books, The Poverty Diaries, got a one-star review, not because the book was bad but because the author of the book (that would be me!) failed to warn the reader that religion and discussions about what to do to fix poverty were part of her diaries. Not everyone likes religion, and not everyone is interested in ideas about how to solve poverty. It’s fair to ask a writer to warn people if controversial topics are included in the book’s content.
Every Critic Leaves You A Gift
Even critics that leave reviews that say things that aren’t terribly useful like, “This book was terrible,” are offering you a gift. Yes, it may be a poorly wrapped gift, but it’s an important gift nonetheless. What that review tells you is that something about your book got under their skin enough that they felt the need to spend a portion of their day going through the hassle required to leave you a review.
Realize that if 100 people read your book, only 3 are likely to leave you a review. Of those, two are going to be critics. One is going to be someone who loved it. Anyone who leaves a review has been motivated by the way they feel about the content to do so. That they took the time to leave a review or criticism at all is a gift. It’s an acknowledgment of your work on some level.
Share Your Experience
I encourage you to share your experience with criticisms in the comments below. Have you struggled with critics? Have you allowed the fear of criticism to stop you? Or do you leverage those criticisms to empower you?