How to Handle Negative Criticism by KJ Taylor – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. KJ will be awarding an eCopy of Broken Prophecy to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to handle negative criticism

Authors and critics have had a difficult relationship since time immemorial. The trouble with art is that it is subjective – one man’s masterpiece is another’s disposable pulp. Nobody is immune from criticism, and in the end every artist does best to accept it as a part of the business.

With that said, there are ways of dealing with it. Some authors refuse to read reviews altogether. Others do read them, but generally decline to comment. Some do comment, but are careful to be civil about it. And some track down their critics and hit them over the head with a wine bottle in a Walmart carpark, though that was probably a one-off.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that there is a difference between a well thought-out, reasoned negative review and someone who is just being a jerk. Being nasty about other people’s books is a lot of fun, unfortunately, and since there are people out there who will applaud you for doing it you can easily fall into the trap of being a hyper-critical douchebag with nothing nice or constructive to say.

With the former type of negative feedback, an author can read it and learn about their shortcomings and therefore see how they can improve with future books. With the latter, the author will come away with nothing but hurt feelings – anger, depression, and resentment. This is most likely the goal of that kind of critic, who has no interest in helping authors to improve and doesn’t really expect them to read their criticism anyway.

Unfortunately, without actually reading a review it’s generally impossible to know which kind it is beforehand. And, having read the nastier kind, it’s very hard to stop yourself from blowing up at the critic, which Anne Rice notoriously did at least once. If you do that, then the critic “wins” and you make yourself look whiny and childish. When Anne Rice threw a public tantrum on, she was universally laughed at. That’s not a mistake you want to make.

Therefore my advice is that you should only read reviews when you have enough confidence in your abilities not to take personal offense. When I was first starting out (ten years ago, I should add!), any sort of negative feedback left me feeling crushed. These days I rarely read reviews, and when I do I’m able to accept them. If the feedback is negative, then I can say “well that’s his opinion”, or “okay, that’s a fair point”. But it takes a while to get to that point, unless you’re a naturally confident person to begin with of course. Very few authors are, unfortunately.

So if you’re just starting out, keep your distance. If you insist upon reading bad reviews anyway, resist the temptation to have any sort of public reaction. If you must complain, complain to your friends or your cat. The public admires authors who display a calm and mature attitude toward their critics (J.K.Rowling is a fine example), so do your best to maintain that even if you don’t feel calm or mature. It’s all part of the business in the end.

A fun adventure that satirises fantasy tropes in the style of Terry Pratchett.

Ambit Afterman is the Chosen One. Born with the mark of the silver bellflower on his palm and given a magical spear, he is the one whose coming the prophecy foretold.

Unfortunately, he would much rather drink beer and get laid – destiny can go fuck itself.

Together with his demon friend Snarl, Ambit sets out on a mighty quest – to make sure the prophecy doesn’t come true, and avoid doing anything heroic under any circumstances. Along the way he will make polite conversation with demons, not deliver any great speeches, not train with the wise monks, and weasel his way out of adventure and into the nearest pub. But there may just be time to have cheap sex with the beautiful princess along the way.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Luckily the stretch of demon country didn’t go too much further. Ambit kept following the river, and by evening he could see green up ahead. Grass started to peek through the stone, and after a while the land gradually flowed back into trees and plants, all of them festooned with flowers. There was some fruit as well, and Ambit picked a good meal’s worth of it and sat down under a tree to eat.

As for Snarl, several times along the way through demon country she had stopped to dig in crevices and other places, and had made a meal of the rocks she dug up. At one point she had even found a rough diamond, which she picked up with a rasp of triumph and carried with her for the rest of the walk – resting it between the spikes on her back.

‘Saving it for a special occasion?’ Ambit asked her now, watching her put it down and caress it with her claws.

Snarl looked up at him, her red eyes shining. ‘Something this fine you have to savour, otherwise it’s not special.’

Ambit dug in his pack for a roll of leather strips, and started to restrap the spear, carefully covering it from the butt to just behind the point. ‘You’re right about that,’ he said. ‘I’m still saving that bit of cheese I picked up in Fessifern. It’s probably even mouldier now than it was then.’

‘Disgusting,’ said Snarl.

‘You’re right. I’ll have to toast it if it’s too far gone,’ said Ambit. He finished covering the spear, and then put it aside while he dug out his map. It had been drawn on another roll of leather, and thanks to spending so much time in his pack it looked even older than it was. He untied the string holding it together, and a pungent odour wafted out, making Snarl cringe.

Ambit sniffed cautiously, and peeled the last curl of leather apart. Something green and furry fell out onto the grass, and he picked it up. ‘Wow, I was right.’

Snarl watched him buff the lump of cheese on his shirt. ‘You used the map for that?’

‘It’s waterproof, isn’t it?’ said Ambit. ‘Now, let’s see where we’re at.’ He pinned the map down with his free hand and inspected it, absent-mindedly biting into the cheese.

Snarl came over to look. ‘Which river are we by?’

‘That one,’ said Ambit, pointing to a spot which had been handily marked out for them by a greasy cheese stain. ‘We’re here at the edge of this bit of demon country – map shows we just left this area around one of the Nine Mountains – in Seberry, and the river should take us right into the valley where those monks live. Let me see if I can work it out.’ He worked his way around the map, using his finger to measure distances, and then nodded. ‘If we keep up the pace, we should get to the monastery around lunchtime tomorrow.’

‘Finally,’ said Snarl.

‘Maybe you can eat your diamond there, make a celebration of it,’ said Ambit.

‘Only if it’s good news,’ said Snarl.

‘It’d better be after all this,’ said Ambit. He rolled the map up and put it away, stifling a yawn. ‘But first we get to do my third favourite thing and get some sleep.’

‘We’re just going to make camp here?’ asked Snarl.

Ambit lay back against the tree. ‘It’s too far to the nearest village, and knowing my luck there’ll be another old coot going on about chosen ones. I’ll take the chance of getting rained on over that any day.’

‘And I won’t have to hide,’ said Snarl. She looked skyward. ‘It had better not rain.’

‘Yeah, here’s hoping,’ Ambit said sleepily.

Snarl left him where he was and waddled over to the next tree along. She wandered back and forth for a while, growling and muttering to herself, until she found a good spot and started to dig. The dirt steamed as she shovelled it aside with her claws, and in very little time she had disappeared underground. A while later she came into view again, squatting just inside her burrow and peering out for any sign of trouble.

Ambit, meanwhile, stayed comfortably stretched out on the grass with the spear still in his hand. Every now and then he opened one eye partway, but eventually he gave that up and went to sleep.

About the Author:

K.J. Taylor was born in Australia in 1986 and attended Radford College and the University of Canberra, where she returned to obtain a Master of Information Studies in 2012. She currently works as an archivist.

She published her first work, The Land of Bad Fantasy, through Scholastic when she was just 18, and HarperVoyager went on to publish The Dark Griffin in Australia and New Zealand five years later. The Griffin’s Flight and The Griffin’s War followed in the same year, and were released in America and Canada in 2011. The Shadow’s Heir, The Shadowed Throne and The Shadow’s Heart have now joined them in both Australia and the US.


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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why?

    • I’d choose to be Donald Trump. First of all I’d give my obscene amounts of money away to charity. Then I would go on TV and admit to being a megalomaniac douchebag. And then I would move away to live in the poorest part of Mexico, determined to spend the rest of my life helping the needy… after which I would switch back to being KJTaylor, leaving Mr Trump broke and very confused.

  3. Linda Romer says:

    Hello K.J. Broken Prophecy sounds great ♡ I would love to read your book. Thank you

  4. Interesting excerpt and good advice about handling negative reviews which must always be tough for any writer.

    • Yeah. You’re so emotionally invested in what you write, that when someone says harsh things about it it hurts in a way you wouldn’t believe. It’s as if they’ve struck at the deepest, most fragile and secret part of yourself, and the feeling of humiliation and shame is just terrible.

      I’m not exaggerating; that’s honestly how it felt back in the day. Nowadays I just shrug and say “that’s a shame’, or ‘what a jerk!’. Not that I’ve read anything truly cruel about my writing in a long time, so that probably helps.

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