Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When you get a bad review, eat chocolate and keep writing

Yesterday my editor sent me the Kirkus review for THE DAY BEFORE.

Now, we all know Kirkus is known for being harsh, although some have said they've softened up the past year, since the sale. Still, they remind me a bit of this guy.

Well, I skimmed through the review quickly, with one eye practically closed, because I knew more than likely, it would be a bit painful. Mostly, I was looking for something nice. Something I could use in a quote on my web site. Just a little something. The closest thing I could find was:

"Sometimes the poetry just tells the story, and other times it is almost too precious."

That's not really a compliment though. It's like the reviewer is saying between the lines - give me a break! Haha. Beyond that, there's not a thing. It's just... not a good review.

A few years ago, I probably would have been upset by this review. But now, not so much. Part of it might have to do with the fact that I went to Lisa's memorial service on Saturday. For months, my thoughts have been filled with cancer, loss, and grief, and I've been so very aware of how precious life is. There isn't any time to be upset about a silly review from Kirkus! I have so many other things to do - things that matter.

But part of is just... I get it now. I understand these basic principles that come along with the business of being published:

1) Not everyone is going to like your book. No matter who you are, what you write, it's impossible to please everyone.

2) Some books are going to be more universally appealing than others. It's just the way it is, and my books are a bit different, in style and format.

When I go to schools and speak to kids, I tell them, "Don't be afraid to be different. In fact, dare to be different! We may get some flack for it, but we are being true to ourselves, and that's the most important thing." At the end of the day, I know my books speak to some kids in an important way, and I'm proud of that.

3) It is better to be reviewed with a not-so-great review than no review at all. I know librarians are smart people. They're going to be able to read through the reviewer's opinion and see that the premise is unique and surely some teens are going to want to read this book.

4) It is possible to get so-so reviews and still find success. It is also possible to get lots of wonderful reviews and have your book die a painful death. Reviews don't really guarantee anything. Yes, good ones are nice to have. But they aren't necessarily essential. I bet if I tried, I could find lots of NYT bestsellers who didn't get any rave reviews.

5) It seems I quote Sara Zarr all the time, but I love this thought she shared with Cynthia Leitich Smith in an interview: Can you separate your identity as a writer from your popularity as a writer? Because they are not the same thing.

Okay, so what if you're reading this thinking, but Lisa, it HURTS! They said mean things about my book!

Repeat after me. It is just ONE person's opinion. Just like not all agents liked your book, not all editors liked your book, neither will all reviewers like your book. It doesn't mean you're a bad person! And it certainly doesn't mean your book is bad.

Tuck it away, eat a bit of chocolate, move on, and KEEP WRITING. It'll be okay. It really will be. Write more books!! PROVE THAT REVIEWER WRONG!

 That's what I'm going to do.


  1. Ah man, I really feel for you authors. I can't imagine how that feels. You're writings are your babies, and for someone to badly criticize I know it kills you. This was a great post though! I'm glad you posted it. I am a blogger/reviewer so this is good for me to read as well.

    If a book isn't your cup of tea, you don't have to be a big ole meanie about it. :-)

    (((BIG HUGS))) ♥

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. First of all--Kirkus is crazy. I've read THE DAY BEFORE--and I loved it!

    Second--you're so right. Please remind me of this wisdom when I'm in the same position someday.


  4. Wow, can I just say that I love this post. Not only does it show a slice of the real life being being an author, it shows that it isn't all stardust and moonbeams--it is real, and can be painful. And probably not something a lot of authors want to talk about, so thank you for being so real and hoenst.
    Second, I love your attitude. You are exactly right, it is one person's opinion and it is so easy to understand that until it is your baby they are dissecting. But in teh grand scheme of life, it is so silly, is it not?
    Your philosophy is perfect: eat chocolate and keep writing! Love it :-)

    Thanks for sharing girl!

  5. Thank you, Lisa! Great post and great attitude behind it.

  6. I for one thought your book was awesome! I read it in one sitting and absolutely loved it!

    Tara @ Taming the Bookshelf

  7. Brilliant. You should be proud of yourself for reading it and taking it so well.

    I'll be bookmarking this page and coming back to it when I get my own bad reviews.

    - Liz

  8. Great post, Lisa. I think of reviews like taste in music. Some people adore Country and hate Opera. Does that mean that Country is good and Opera is bad? No one would say that (well, maybe some would ^_^)

    I'm sorry you got reviewed by someone with different "taste".

    Just wait until us verse-lovin' folks get a hold of it!

  9. Bad reviews are hard. It's hard to read them and hard to give them. I always try to be honest and point out that even though it might not be for me, someone will love it. And I think most librarians get that. And you're right-even NY Times bestsellers get negative reviews!

  10. Thank you, Lisa! I really needed to read this today. Now, I think I'm in love.

  11. For what it's worth, I love your books!

  12. This is a really timely post for me! Kirkus just reviewed my iPad app, and the comments were, um, less than glowing, lol. On one hand it stings, but on the other, it's pretty obvious that whoever did the review wasn't part of our target audience. Gotta just shrug and keep going!

  13. I read and review a lot of books. It's really hard to do a review. I have seen reviews where the reviewers are really rude and I just don't know why they have to be that way. It does depend a lot on what kind of books you like too. That is why there are so many varied reviews on books though.

    I give you authors a lot of credit for putting your writing out there for people to read. I always think about that when I read and review a book.

    I am a new follower to your blog!

  14. What an amazing post!! Thank you!

  15. Thank you, Lisa, for this post. This past week, Kirkus ripped apart my first book. After five years of hard work and anticipation, I was completely crushed. I know it's important to keep moving, keep writing, and not give up. Your words give me hope!
    Many thanks,

  16. Lisa, you give some the best advice to authors I've ever seen. In fact, I came to your blog just now to find your post in support of traditional publishing -- I was going to direct a young student to it because she was considering going the self-publishing route, and I thought your post was the best one I've read so far.

    And now I find this equally strong one about reviews. Thanks so much, Lisa. I appreciate all that you share with us. You are a gem.


  17. Great post, Lisa! It's always tough having people read your material. You have a realistic and wonderful perspective though...it's this kind of thinking that helps you keep writing and sharing.

  18. As an idiot who has paid for a Kirkus Indie review for my debut novel I can only await with baited breath the terrible fate I've brought on myself! I was hoping the same thing: there would be something I could use, a sentence, a word. Such as: 'Pure rubbish, this author should burn every available copy, for that will be as good as it gets for his career.' and I could turn it into: '...as good as it gets...' Thanks for the inspiring post!