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Hey there,

I'm so sorry you're feeling blue.

Please know that:

(1) it's not exclusive to you. Our most critically acclaimed writers have fielded rather clueless, self-indulgent, overly personal, and unprofessional attacks on their fine work.

What's more, over the past couple of years, I've received several phone calls and emails from distraught first-time authors about mean-spirited online reviews and comments. In addition to their publishing debuts, many were dealing with personal challenges ranging from divorce to lost day jobs to living without health insurance. All had poured their souls into their manuscripts and made substantial sacrifices in pursuit of their writing life and career goals.

(2) not all of the "noise" matters. Negative reviews in general don't matter in the long run, let alone mean-spirited ones. Besides, not every voice is of equal/any influence. In particular, anyone calling themselves "anonymous" is way at the bottom of the movers-and-shakers list. Really.

(3) you don't have to follow everything said about your work. Turn off your Google Alerts. A lot of successful people do. Exhibit: the very successful (by anyone's measure) Sara Zarr.

(4) maybe rethink comparing responses to your book with those to other books. It's impossible to get a global bead within the first year anyway, and you're too close to it to see the big picture.

(5) a lot of interesting, quality work that advances the body of literature generates the most extreme (positive and negative) responses; it's probably less stressful to shoot for bland writing that doesn't challenge, but is that really what you want to do?

(6) move on to your next project, and put your focus, energy, and emotion into it instead.

(7) if it's hard to have faith in yourself, remember it's not all about you. Don't forget your home team--your early readers, your agent, your editor, your publisher. Believe in their judgment, their contributions, their faith in you. (And, hey, didn't you get some positive reviews too?)

(8) you are player, a contributor to the conversation of books, an exciting newcomer to a circle of storytellers that stretches back before the first fireside gatherings. Draw strength from that tradition.

(9) if tomorrow or the day after that, you're still feeling blue, please feel free to email me or another writer pal for a pep talk. It's not a matter of skin, thin or thick. You survived all the rejection that comes before getting published. You're tougher than you realize, and you'll get through this, too.

(10) focus on becoming your own best cheerleader. Take care of you!

Cynsational Notes

This post was adapted from my comment on a stellar debut author's locked post and shared with permission.

Certainly, more seasoned writers also might feel stung by an overly personal and malicious online review, but it's mostly the new voices that I'm hearing from. Mostly.

Photo by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
wonderful post :)
Oct. 16th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)
Thank you, Cyn!!!

Oct. 16th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)
Thanks for this! I'll keep it in mind when I start getting reviews.
Oct. 16th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
"anyone calling themselves 'anonymous' is way at the bottom of the movers-and-shakers list."

I love that statement.
Oct. 16th, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post! The transition from private rejection (during the submission process) to public criticism has been surprisingly difficult for me at times--and I used to think I had a tough skin.

Okay, back to the writing...
Oct. 16th, 2009 12:42 pm (UTC)
This post is fantastic. Thanks for sharing it with everyone!
Oct. 16th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks & More Insights
Thanks so much for all of the kind words. I'm honored that they were of some interest.

I'm also somewhat embarrassed to report that I accidentally deleted David Lubar's post (fortunately, he's a personal friend and knows my tech savvy is a sham). Basically, he said that he too had heard from authors reeling from similar circumstances and that his heart went out to him. And that he's dealt with blows himself and gone onto great success (okay, he didn't say "I've gone onto great success" because he wouldn't put it that way, but it's true!).

Also, Kathi Appelt writes: "If any of you out there need a shoulder to cry on, I'm here too, right along with Cyn. Feel free to contact me."
Oct. 16th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC)
Excellent post. Thank you!
Oct. 16th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Oct. 16th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
Excellent post.

Negative views are, in a sense, the price we pay for positive ones, and having a book some people hate is a necessary part of having a book other people love.

I've had books go unnoticed and I've had books loved/hated. I think the former is harder, actually.

But either way, it's truly not personal. When readers talk about reading they really are talking about the book, with the writer at most a dim distant presence, I think.
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
You are full of goodness, Cyn...
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Great post. I don't get why some reviewers get so nasty. I try not to. If anything I try to find the positive in the books I read because I know how hard it is to write/publish a book.
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this post. My YA novel goes out on submission soon so I haven't experienced any reviews but just hearing you put it all into perspective reminds me that whatever happens to keep the long-term view in mind.
Oct. 16th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Worst Review Ever
New voices. Old voice. We've all been there. Well, most of us. Here's a great blog called THE WORST REVIEW EVER . . .


It's where published authors lament over the bad review they still can't shake.

To all those newly published, congrats on your accomplishment!
Oct. 17th, 2009 06:34 am (UTC)
There is so much wisdom in this post. Thank you, Cyn.
Oct. 18th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this. Needed it!

Oct. 19th, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)
A bad review hurts, no doubt, but be glad you have a published book to review. Remember how many there are out there who are simply trying to gain representation. You made it! You're published. Be proud. No one can please everybody.
Oct. 19th, 2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
This is really excellent advice for dealing with criticism in general!
Oct. 20th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
A wonderful post and kudos to you for writing it.

Oct. 20th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
I found my way here via my agent's RT. This is such sound and good advice, and not just for new authors. We old ones get cranky and blue too! Thanks for this. It really brightened my day.

Lynn :-)
Oct. 20th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
An Open Love Note
Beautifully said. I'm also available for shoulder-crying. :)

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

about me & cynsations

Cynthia is a New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of fiction for young readers. Graphic novelist. Fond of cats, comics, and cocoa.

Cynsations is a source for conversations, publishing information, literacy and free speech advocacy, writer resources, inspiration, news in children's and teen literature, and author outreach.

Note: via various means and mirror sites, Cynsations has about 6,000 regular subscribers and averages 80,000 page views a month.

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