Handling Public Criticism by Rose Gordon

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This post is part of a Virtual Book Tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rose will be awarding a $100 gift card to Amazon.com to a randomly drawn commenter during this tour and her Reviews Tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on her tour.

Handling Public Criticism

A huge thank you to Long and Short Reviews for having me on today. I was given a list of topics to choose from and since this is a review site, I thought it appropriate in an ironic way to select the topic about handling public criticism.

The fact is, whenever you put yourself out there, whether it be posting a picture on a public site that you took of what you considered to be a beautiful sunset, putting a video of yourself on YouTube, going on TV or the Radio—even if it’s for a 2-minute story on how you got ripped off by an Internet scam, or write a book and have it published for all to see, you’re putting yourself out there to be criticized. Sorry, but that’s the best sugarcoating I can do.

When (not if, but when) you’re criticized you can do one of two things:

1. Sulk, cry, go hide under a rock and completely disappear from the Internet as if you never took that picture, posted that video of you eating fifteen cherry pies at last year’s state fair or wrote that dreadful book.


2. Laugh it off.  Everyone says, “Stick and stones can break my bone, but words can’t ever hurt me.” That’s a crock of crap. Words do hurt. Broken bones (and even flesh wounds) can heal faster than the hurt inflicted by words.

[Notice there is NO option 3 of fighting back. This is futile and can only make YOU look like a real moron. This is one of those cases where you do not fight fire with fire. You graciously accept their words and then go behind their backs and have your reaction.]

A friend of mine recently got her first badge of honor AKA a 1-star review and came to me saying, “Don’t people understand authors are people, too?” I wonder that, too, sometimes, but it’s how you choose to react to this kind of thing that makes the biggest difference.


Here is my best advice regarding public criticism:

Write a review of the review. Go into Word and write a review just as snarky and nitpicky as theirs if you wish, but make sure you do it in WORD and leave it there. Analyze whatever you want. Their review was posted publicly; it’s your right to review it if you wish. It’s actually quite calming and you wouldn’t believe the amount of creativity that starts flowing when you do this! But as I said, leave it there.

Make a joke about it. I have a book that was labeled OTTT, over the top trashy. While I wasn’t thrilled to get such a…er…unique assessment of my book, it really didn’t hurt my feelings. Honestly, I’ve read reviews far more hateful than that. Ironically, I’ve actually let myself embrace this one a little. The writer of this particular review probably had no idea how much mileage I was going to get out of that review! And oh, I’ve ridden it a long way. It’s a great way to open up conversations when people I don’t know ask me what I write. I say, “Smut.” People either laugh or get a strange look of shock on their face, and if they dare say they don’t believe me, I proudly proclaim, “One of my books was labeled OTTT–over the top trashy!” A review doesn’t have to have a four or a five next to it to turn it into something positive–good “lines” are found in all sorts of reviews. A year ago, I was asked to scan my Amazon reviews for positive lines to use as a means to promote my book to a book club. The line I chose (without altering it a bit) was from a 1-star review.

Consider the source. Was the person another author who left the review (sadly it’s a large percentage of other authors or aspiring writers who leave overly critical reviews)? If it’s one of these, then don’t take it to heart. They’re probably jealous. Was it a person who only leaves bad reviews? Then don’t let it bother you. While some people only review books they like, there are others who only like to pick books apart, and your masterpiece was just in their way that day. When people only have negative things to say, it makes it harder to trust their opinions.

Consider the truth of it. Was what they said true? This is often the hardest thing to accept. Did you really mix up your facts or make your heroine a shrew? Did you neglect to have your book edited? If what they said is true, jot down some notes and make sure you address these things in the future.

Consider the fault found. Was this something that was subjective, such as: I think the heroine was wrong for her role in the hero making an arse of himself and she should have been the one begging for his forgiveness. Or: This book gets a 1-star because it has sex in it. While it can be irritating to get the latter of these statements and not a lot can be done about the former, both of these are things that are subjective and nothing to worry about.

Don’t dwell on it. No matter how you choose to handle your pain: scarfing junk food, crying on your girlfriend’s shoulder, reviewing their review, assessing their review and the true facts and arguments that were presented, do not let it consume you. Some might say not to spend any energy on this and I can respect that, but for some of us it’s easier to “let it go” if you DO at least acknowledge it. But acknowledging it and dwelling on it are two very different things. Have a set amount of time you’re willing to devote to this, say 10 minutes (or less). Then when those 10 are done, say to yourself, the attention I’m giving that tweet, review, comment, or whatever is done. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve shed my last tear, consumed my last bonbon and written my last snarky word about it. It’s done. You cannot dwell on it and let it consume you or you’ve just let that other person win and it’s not worth it.

Remember your book is not for everyone. I know it’s hard, but not everyone is going to like your writing style or your characters, nor are they all going to get your jokes. It’s life and it’s 100% okay.

And if all else fails, go on Jimmy Kimmel and read the mean tweets about yourself like these people:


http://www.longandshortreviews.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#About the Author:5_13 jilted Author ProfileUSA Today Bestselling Author of ten unusually unusual historical romances that have been known to include scarred heroes, feisty heroines, marriage-producing scandals, far too much scheming, naughty literature and always a sweet happily-ever-after. When not escaping to another world via reading or writing a book, she spends her time chasing two young boys around the house, being haunted by wild animals, or sitting on the swing in the backyard where she has to use her arms as shields to deflect projectiles AKA: balls, water balloons, sticks, pinecones, and anything else one of them picks up to hurl at his brother who just happens to be hiding behind her.

Website: http://www.rosegordon.net

Blog: http://rosesromanceramblings.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rose-Gordon-historical-romance-author/178033968907233


5_13 Cover His Jilted BrideIt’s her wedding day and there is no groom in sight. But why should Amelia Brice be surprised? Hiram, Lord Friar is known for having no gentleman’s honor to speak of and his jilting her on their wedding day makes it official.

Elijah Banks cannot allow his childhood friend to continue to be shamed this way. It’s been almost an hour past the time when the wedding was to start, and that bounder still hasn’t shown up. Unable to sit still a second longer, Elijah does the only thing that seems logical from where he stands: kidnap the bride and marry her himself in order to escape this scandal with one far more forgiving for a young lady’s reputation.

The only trouble is, she has a secret…but so does he; hers is big…but his is bigger.



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  1. Mary Preston says:

    Who’d be a writer? I’d be hopeless at taking criticism for a book I wrote. I would probably just want to go hide in a cave somewhere.

    If I saw OTTT in a review, as a reader, I would actually be intrigued.


    • LOL Believe me the thought of escaping to a cave has crossed my mind once or twice.

      See, as I said, I’ve gotten A LOT of mileage out of that review! I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s found it intriguing!

  2. Thank you for hosting

  3. I have another one: Discourage your friends from defending your work from negative reviewers. I’m nearly always willing to give a new author another chance—nobody’s perfect, after all—but when I see negative reviews getting attacked by the author’s “fan club,” I’m turned off. Improvement in forthcoming works is the classy response.

    • YES! Even people who are “well meaning” can cause a lot of damage by doing this. I won’t lie, I know that it’s happened on a book of mine, and while I appreciate what she was trying to do, in the end, I think it only made it worse.

      Truly, in the end, reviews are just opinions and what I find good writing or entertaining, might not be your definition of the same thing. It doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong, it’s just opinions.

  4. Lea-Ellen {night owl in IL} says:

    It’s tough to be an author. Your article is totally correct. Authors also have to realize that selling books is a business. And getting a less than stellar review is not necessarily bad – constructive feedback is (or should be) helpful. And the readers who read reviews before buying a book will actually be more inclined to buy it if there are some 2, 3, or 4 star reviews. Most of us can tell when a review is fake or not aimed at the book itself.

    Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}

    • Absolutely. I think it helps the book’s credibility to have a few not-so-stellar reviews. It also helps to avoid disappointment. If all there is is positive recommendations of a book, then it gets someone’s hopes up and if they’re not met, I think it’s more disappointing than if they went into it knowing that maybe it’s not the best book for them or that they might not like it.

      • that’s a very good point, Rose! It *is* frustrating to be let down by a book; but usually I’m willing to cut authors a bit of slack – I know how hard it is to write a great story!

  5. Those are actually some great snips of advice. I know I am terrible at handling criticism…of any kind…If someone was talking smack about my book I’d probably do the first option of crawling under a rock and crying!!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  6. Karen H in NC says:

    I’m like Andra…I don’t handle criticism too well. In the past, I usually ended up crying! How embarrassing is that?

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

    • Actually not as embarrassing or uncommon like you might think. I know many writers (including myself) who’ve cried over reviews. I think it’s par for the course.

  7. Thanks for sharing! Excited to hear more about the book! 🙂

    hense1kk (at) cmich (dot) edu

  8. Rita Wray says:

    I think I would burst into tears, I don’t take criticism well.


    • I’d say that I USED to do that, but actually (and this is really embarrassing to admit), there was one not so long ago that cut to the core and before I knew it, the tears were welling up.

      I will say that eventually you get somewhat immune to it. I used to get a sick feeling and would physically crumple with each scathing remark–and fight to hold back tears, but after so long, it just became a matter of: that’s life and I started to take it as a backhanded compliment: I’d finally sold enough copies of that particular book for it to land into the wrong hands. That’s all I can do. Occasionally (like a few weeks ago), something will be worded in a way that it causes those old emotions, but usually, I just glaze right over the words. It’s just not worth my time.

  9. I think Angela Adair-Hoy said something along the lines of “you haven’t made it as a writer until somebody hates you.” Great post!


  10. momjane says:

    I think people who do reviewing should remember that they are not supposed to be critical, but helpful. Let the author know the good points of her story too. You had some good responses.

    • I think the difference to remember is constructive criticism v. destructive criticism. While some really good reviewers can offer the first without it overlapping into the second, I’ve noticed there are some people who are only interested in leaving the second and that’s what’s sad. Unfortunately for them, their comments say far more to those reading the review than what their words say about the book. At least that’s my opinion when I read reviews of other books before purchasing.

  11. Good tips

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  12. Amanda D says:

    I hate to say those videos are funny because they were so mean! How does someone think up the insult to Larry King on the first video? Ironing out his skin???! I was always taught think before you speak. Would you want that statement said to you? If not, zip it! I know there’s constructive criticism but I see many harsh reviews on Goodreads. Great tips for how to deal with it.

    • I love that motto, and I try to live my life by it; however, I have to face the cold reality that not everyone feels the same and many believe that putting yourself out there via a book or whatever entitles those who pay for it to offer whatever kind of criticism they feel is adequate.

      As for the videos, while I don’t find the insults to be funny because nobody would want to be insulted that way, but the reactions of the celebrities just crack me up!

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