Working in an Opinion-based Business

ThumbsupdownWhen I decided to write my first romance novel, I didn’t think about the industry as a whole. But it didn’t take long to understand the ups and downs of working in an industry that is based one hundred percent on personal opinion. The truth is—it can suck.

Think about it, there is nothing about a single piece of written work that can be universally graded to define if it’s good or not. There are basic things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure that are required, but after that it’s open to debate. Opinion. Everything from plot to characters to dialogue to narrative to pacing to word usage can be argued over. It all comes down to what each person feels based on their likes and dislikes. That’s it. And everyone can have a different opinion.

I first encountered this with fellow writers and my critique partners. Next came the few contests I entered and eventually beta readers before I reached the big, bad agents and editors. As an author, this is good and bad. Rejections are a part of the business and once I understood that one rejection is just one opinion, I put myself back out there because the next opinion could be different.

After I finally passed all of those opinions and got published, I reached the big time of opinions in the form of reviewers, bloggers, and every reader who has the urge to let the world know what they thought about my book. Yikes!

LoveditThe internet, with the proliferation of social media, has made it so easy for everyone’s opinions to be heard. But at what point do you stop listening? Where’s the cutoff that keeps you from laboring in depression or getting a big head? For every person that likes your work there is probably someone who doesn’t. It’s a fact no matter who you are or how many books you’ve sold. Of course knowing that and mentally accepting that are two different things.

If I had listened to the opinion of a beta reader and fellow writer who flat-out said my book wasn’t ready to submit, then I never would’ve sent Bonds of Trust to Carina Press. That book sold in four days with a three book offer. Not bad for a book that one opinion said was crap.

DLikewise, I have both five and one star ratings, great reviews and DNF’s for the same book. At some point, you have to learn to turn it off and grow a very thick skin if you want to survive in any business that is based on opinions. Anyone who chooses to pursue a career in the creative arts—actors, artists, dancers, writers, poets—has to find a way to cope or get out.

I know some authors who never read reviews, others who only read four starred reviews or better and still others who read everything. You have to find what works for you. Eventually you learn that a one star reviews is only one opinion and it has no bigger importance than the five star review. Because in the end we all have an opinion and most of us like to make our own as opposed to relying on someone else’s. Yes, some professional reviewers seem to hold a greater weight, but it’s still one opinion and there are literally over seven billion opinions in the world. When weighed against that, one doesn’t seem so important.

How do you handle opinions about your books? I’d love to hear what works for you.


Working in an Opinion-based Business — 9 Comments

  1. I’m one of those who reads ALL reviews, though I admit it took me years to get beyond trying to please everybody. The thick skin? Still working on it. Great post, Lynda.

    • The thickness of my skin really depends on the day. I’ve gotten to the point where I know there are days when I can handle it and others where the internet just stays off. Reading reviews can sometimes be a form of self-torture. :)

  2. Awesome post, Lynda! I’m a person has a sensitive, people-pleasing nature. I’ve been working to overcome both tendencies on a personal level, but on a professional level, especially as a writer, those two traits will knock you flat on your back. As a new author I’ve been paying close attention to tips on how to handle reviews and I’m adding this post to my list of great advice.

    • It’s different for everyone and how you handle it will evolve. I still remember one good author friend who said, “Why read reviews? There is absolutely nothing you can do to change that book. It’s done. Out there and can’t be changed. So what’s the point?” But with the world of twitter, I’ve found it hard to ignore everything when there are people tweeting their reviews. Click, don’t click…argh!

      Sometimes it’s really hard to remember it’s just a business. Especially when you’ve put so much time, energy and emotional drain into the book. But in the end, it is just a business.

  3. I won’t pretend I don’t take the opinions of naysayers to heart, but I try to turn negativity into something positive. When someone absolutely hates the work, I can accept that it just wasn’t their cup of tea. If they are kind enough to tell me what they didn’t like, I can use that feedback to improve future work. I find I can handle the bad better than the ‘meh’ reviews. It’s crushing to know my story might have fallen just short of the mark.

  4. Even grammer isn’t so straightforward any more. Oxford comma anyone? I’m still editing that out of my work! (as is my sainted editor!) And reviews? I initially took them to heart, but that didn’t work because what one reviewer loved another hated. Right now, I’m ignoring them unless a reviewer contacts me personally. I’ve found that I can’t write if I’m reading reviews. Doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad.

    • Yeah. Reviews can have a way of sucking the motivation out of you. They’re a distraction. It is funny to see that two different people have strong opposing reactions to the same thing. It all goes back to personal opinion. That’s it. And there is no one who can say which is right.

  5. Hi Lynda,
    I do read all my reviews. I’ve only had one review that I would consider a one star rating, so I’ve been lucky. So far.

    I’m still working on that thick-skin thing, too. I want everybody to love my darlings (my books), but we all know that isn’t possible. What I can do is to take a not so great review and use it to motive my next work. I’m gonna work harder to make the nay-sayers like me, damn it!

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