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Revising With Julie, Part Five: In the Public Eye
By Julie C. Dao
Hello! I am doing a series that is all about revising books and I hope you'll check out the other posts.
Last month, I talked about getting feedback from your team and fellow writers you trust. Today, I want to talk about what happens when you get published, enter the public eye, and start getting feedback... from everyone else!
This is the part I felt least ready for when I got my book deal, after hearing so many horror stories and cautionary tales from experienced author friends. Here's a disclaimer: I can't tell anyone else what to do. I don't know you or your preferences, or how you prefer to handle reviews as an author. I have friends who avoid reading their reviews completely, and I also have friends who go and seek out all of their worst reviews on purpose because they want to know what people are saying.
For me, personally, I choose to never read reviews, whether they are good or bad. I never search for my name, I never search for my books, and I refuse to visit my works on Goodreads or Amazon or other retailer pages because allowing strangers' voices to get inside my head hurts me and my ability to write. Even great reviews mess with me because the reader's expectations will always differ with my plan and my vision for the book. Again, it is impossible to write a story that universally pleases the whole world, so I protect myself and avoid all of that.
Every time I talk about this, there's always some condescending person who butts in to say, "Well, little lady, you need to toughen up. You shouldn't have chosen this career if you can't take constructive criticism."
Here's the fallacy in that: reviews online are not constructive criticism. Reviews are opinions that readers share with other readers to help them decide whether or not to read a book. Feedback from random strangers on the internet will not help me be a better writer, especially when I have a team of publishing professionals to help me with that. I can most certainly take constructive feedback, but I must limit it to the people I trust, otherwise I will be trying to listen to every single person in the world.
So, you do you. I will say that the number one rule that should apply to all of us is: Do not engage with reviewers online. By that, I mean attacking or arguing with them, trying to correct them, attempting to explain why they misunderstood, etc. Just don't do it. Even if people tag me in a review or an Instagram post, I don't read any of it. Sometimes I will say "Thank you for taking the time to read and review!" to show my appreciation, and then I move on.
As an author, I promise you will always be the bad guy if you engage negatively online. There's an imbalance of power wherein you have protection and often greater visibility, and the reviewer does not. Also, it's inappropriate to try to stifle someone's opinion, no matter how much it hurts your ego. They have every right to think and speak however they like about your work because it doesn't belong to you anymore. It's theirs now, and that's the deal we make when we get published.
Oh, and this is another thing that is up to you, but I prefer not to be readily available via email or DM. I used to have an email form on my website, but took it down after I experienced harassment, and since then I no longer engage with readers in private spaces. And anyway, I'm an adult who writes for young people and want to maintain professionalism and caution when it comes to interactions with the teens I value and respect. If any important communication comes up, it can go through my agent and publicist and they will discuss with me if necessary.
As I said, I'm not here to dictate how anyone writes, revises, or handles the public aspect of being an author. But I hope that this series will jump-start ideas about how you want to deal with both craft and the business side of writing, and give you a bit more insight into how one author thinks and handles her career.
Thanks so much for tuning in!