I wrote this post for Journey With Books and wanted to share it with you, my author and blogger friends again:
“You should attempt to veil your petty jealousy over not being nearly as kind, talented or beautiful as [actress].”
I got smacked with this message from a movie distributor after I wrote an obviously less than positive critique of his film. As part of my job at a national newspaper in Canada, I write movie reviews. I re-read that message several times, until the sting went away and then I swallowed the note (not literally — though eating paper is probably more pleasant than getting criticism).
According to Anthony Lane, the film critic at The New Yorker, the task of a critic “is the recreation of texture…filing a sensory report on the kind of experience into which they will be wading.” It’s something that I try to do. I inform and entertain, and hopefully, you will get a sense of whether the film is right for you. My goal is to serve the reader. And by all means, disagree with me. That’s what a review is, an opinion, an invitation to dialogue.
So when I published my debut young adult novel, What Kills Me, this summer, I eagerly awaited reviews. Of course, you want people to devour your book (again, not literally) and then love and obsess over it so much that it borders on unhealthy. But literature is art. And art is subjective.
Firstly, I am grateful to anyone who would take the time to read my adventure story. Secondly, that he/she would spend even more time sharing his/her thoughts is awesome. That’s it. Whether they loved it or hated it. I’m impressed that someone cared enough either way.
I’ve never been anything but happy to work with book bloggers. But they’re individuals. They have lives. They may or may not read my book. They may or may not like my book. Authors can expect mutual respect but a promise of anything else, I think, is unrealistic.
So far as an author, I’ve been fortunate. Tons of people have reviewed What Kills Me and most of them rated it five stars. But a handful have given me, let’s call it, “constructive criticism,” including a production company who reviewed it for film/
television purposes. I studied that in-depth analysis of my novel by a company that produces million-dollar blockbuster films and I loved every critical word. I’m working on the sequel to What Kills Me and will keep some points in mind.
There will always be critics. There will always be haters. The two are different: I once wrote a very personal feature about my first heart break and a reader commented online that I sound “like a nut bar, and any guy with his head on straight should keep away.”
That is an example of a hater.
If you were brave enough to share your word with the public, you have the courage to weather the reaction and sift through the noise for lessons. To authors, my advice (as a nut bar) is: listen to the critics, ignore the haters. To reviewers, my advice is: Be honest, be respectful, your opinion matters.