Criticism goes hand-in-hand with being a published author. And if you are a published author, then you know perfectly well that it’s not all constructive criticism. Inevitably someone will come along whose review (for example) is scathing, apparently for no other reason than to simply be scathing and to tear down everything you have worked so long and hard to build.
More after the jump…
At these times it can be the hardest thing in the world to be gracious. But this is exactly what you need to be. If you see a negative review online, step away from the screen before your fire gets the better of you and you end up posting a vitriol-laden reply. If someone approaches you in person to say your book isn’t interesting, or if at an event someone heckles you, you absolutely cannot lose your cool. I won’t presume to have all the answers as to how you should respond, but you do need to take a breath and recognize that how you respond will have a knock-on effect to how you are perceived.
When one of our authors was on the radio recently, the gentleman who was broadcasting made the comment “But it’s not really that interesting, is it?” Of course he meant it in jest, but our author calmly replied “Well of course it is, and let me tell you why,” and he went on to tell a couple of anecdotes which ended up playing very well. It was a good interview.
Ultimately, as a published author you become more than an individual. You become a brand, which means you’re just like any other author and in some ways like any other business: people will be less inclined to buy a product from someone who has come off as sour, bitter, ungrateful, sarcastic, resentful or plain old negative and unprofessional. If you are confident, show your personality, take criticism in stride and in general just handle yourself with poise, you’ll be doing yourself a favour and will be in a better position to reap the benefits as a result. Perception matters, and the perception of you and your book go hand-in-hand.
Being an author takes a level of personal courage. No matter who you are you’re putting a part of yourself out there, and opening yourself up like that is a very difficult thing to do. It’s a personal risk and a professional one, and if you’re going to make the decision to be an author then do yourself all the favours you can. Do things that put you in a better position. Don’t beat yourself or do things that could affect you or your book negatively.
Think about your image. Consider who you are as an author and what that means for you as a brand. Understand that everything you do will have consequences, positive or negative. So when the time comes where you’ll have to deal with some adversity as an author, if you handle the situation with grace, then you’re doing the right thing. Such a large part of the game (and any success you might achieve) is predicated on the position you put yourself in, and nobody can have a bigger effect on this than you.
Be a professional, do the right things and position yourself for success.