Bad Reviews Aren’t Fatal

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By Suzanne Woods Fisher

A few weeks before my first novel was due to release, I received an advance review from Publisher’s Weekly. That moment is seared in my mind: I remember the time of day it was when I received the email, where I stood in my house, how it felt as I read it.

Because it was terrible. Truly awful. The reviewer skewered my book. Usually, there’s something positive to spin from reviews, even if it’s just a few words to pluck. Not this one. The reviewer hated the book from start to finish, effectively giving me a very public black eye.

It was a crushing blow. I was convinced that my publisher would halt production of my book and rip up all my contracts. Finished…before I even got started.

That was thirty-plus books ago. I’ve gained a thick skin since that first review, something all writers need but no one tells you how to get. Every single author will get a few battle scars along the way, especially in this reign of customer-driven-social-media. A career in writing can be compared to standing in front of the world in your underwear. You’re oh-so-exposed.

But one mark of a professional writer is to persevere, to welcome scrutiny and learn from it, with the goal of continually improving skills.

Here’s my best advice for writers: Don’t count your critics. Weigh them.

You want to please the right people, because you can’t please everyone. If you try to please everyone, you’ll only get stuck. So, then, who are the right people? Who are the critics you need to weigh? For me, they’re my editors, my agent, and my first draft readers.

Here’s my next best advice: Critics can be wrong.

That first book, the one that received such a horrible, scarring review from Publisher’s Weekly, is still in print, ten years later. Either readers weren’t reading the reviews or people just didn’t care what the critics said. That book has done really well and continues to sell. To date, it’s sold over 200,000 copies.

I can’t promise the same outcome for you, but I also hope you don’t receive a scathing review for your first novel. Regardless, here’s my last piece of advice for you as an aspiring writer: Do not quit. No matter what. If you’re meant to write, you are meant to write.

Bad reviews aren’t fatal, says today’s ACFW guest blogger @suzannewoodsfisher #ACFWBlogs #writing #christianfiction Click To Tweet

Carol award winner Suzanne Woods Fisher writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. With over one million copies of her books sold worldwide, Suzanne is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, ranging from non-fiction books, to children’s books, to novels. She lives with her very big family in northern California.


Comments 1

  1. Oh, the critic’s scathing words;
    where do I begin?
    He shook my world, and led me towards
    another fifth of gin.
    But away temptation, evil thought,
    I will not find a cure in drink.
    No matter the dismay this brought,
    I have to stop and think
    that the agent liked the book,
    and the pub board bought the thing.
    Pre-reviews, that early look
    made me feel just like a king,
    so I figure that awful-reviewing-feller
    is a bitter man in his mother’s cellar.

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