Never Complain, Never Explain…

There come’s a time, in every author’s life, when they get a bad review. And the more successful your book is – the more reviews it garners – the higher the likelihood of those 1* and 2* ones coming in. Just take a look at your favourite author’s Amazon page and you’ll see what I mean. No one is immune. So, here are my top tips for coping with those harsh words…

Top Tips for Dealing with Bad Reviews

Firstly… accept the fact that it is UNREALISTIC to expect everyone to love your work. In life, not everyone will like us, and the same goes for our book babies. People have a perfect right to express their opinion and will freely do so, especially if they have forked out hard-earned pennies to buy  your novel. Try not to take their view personally.

Secondly… Learn to differentiate between the constructive reviews and insulting ones. I always read my bad reviews (not all authors do!) and you become used to spotting a personal or offensive tone. Fortunately, they are rarer. Most reviewers take the time to explain their point of view fairly, and I do take on board the comments that are constructive from those reviews. Really, it’s a gift, being given an insight into how someone else sees your work. “I really wanted to enjoy this book, but…” or “It just didn’t work for me because…” On occasion, some observations have made me reconsider my writing techniques, and question them next time I put finger to keyboard. I truly appreciate the time anyone takes to write a review and understand that if someone has felt disappointed, they need to express why. On the journey to publication I had to take a lot of criticism on board and I don’t see why this should stop, simply because I am now published.

Thirdly, in the words of Kate Moss… Never complain, never explain. DO NOT ENGAGE WITH WRITERS OF BAD REVIEWS. They are entitled to their view. Don’t moan about it. At the same time, do not feel the need to explain or justify yourself. Just let it be and move on.

Fourthly… be mountain-like. Lately I have developed an interest in meditation and one visualisation I do involves looking at a mountain and then becoming the mountain… let me explain: a mountain never changes. It stands solid. Whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter. Whether it is day or night. Whether it is sunny, rainy, windy or snowing. Whether a visitor to the mountain calls it beautiful – or calls it plain… the mountain is not affected by any of these external changes. It remains strong within itself.
In other words, as long as you are being true to yourself with your writing- and, in my opinion, have an open-mind regarding your agent’s/editor’s advice and revisions – then nothing else matters. Stand firm amidst all the weather and be proud of your work.

Finally… try to keep a sense of humour and perspective. Be grateful! You’ve made it! Your work is actually out there and people are reading it. Okay, some may not like every page, but at least your novels are finally getting an audience which, presumably, is something you have worked very hard for.

And if you want a laugh, here are a few of the best – and worst! – quotes from reviews for one of the books I have written, that overall got a great rating but still picked up some unfavourable opinions:

I devoured this book in a day!

A little slice of paradise.

To say that I LOVED this book would be a huge understatement

Samantha is a funny, talented writer that makes the words jump off the page

 

Don’t waste your time, life is too short

Chewing gum for the mind

Tough going.

Will be avoiding this author in the future

Harsh comments do hurt – of course they do –  but don’t dwell on them. Eventually, you will be able to read them with a wry smile.  I am just bracing myself for the reaction to my eighth novel, released on 5th May, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. It has one of my most favourite characters ever in it  and I very much hope my loyal readers enjoy the story – along with any new readers who might be fans of coffee 🙂 But who knows. Let’s hope I don’t need too many strong americanos when reviews come in!New Beginnings final cover

 

 

How to Survive Launch Week!

I am currently in the middle of launch week – for my sixth novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun – and as you can see from my wee desk, it has been pretty hectic and whilst enjoyable, hard work! So here are a few of my tips, to get the most out of this exhilarating but challenging time.

 

desk launch week

 

Firstly, I always allocate whatever spare time I have to promoting my book on social media. Sounds obvious? Yes, but some authors are very shy of doing this. However it is important, in my opinion, to connect with bloggers and readers, and COMMUNICATE. By this I don’t mean just try to sell, sell, sell. Instead, tweet or post on Facebook in a way that might excite  potential buyers. Share new reviews and snippets of the plot. Talk about the characters. Post about themes related to your story – I have tweeted a lot about Cornwall, Poldark and delicious Cornish food. Try to keep your various online feeds varied. And MOST IMPORTANTLY  interact with the people who show an interest. Like their comments. Retweet. Show gratitude. It is only good manners, actually great fun and very few authors these days have their own PR person – you are your own trumpeteer and your book deserves to be seen and heard. Just be polite and don’t shout too loudly 🙂

Secondly, don’t raise your expectations too high and get obsessed with rankings. Most of my books have usually taken around four weeks to peak in the Kindle chart, and during that time the ranking can fluctuate up and down. If it slips a bit on the second day of release, don’t flounce out of your office declaring the whole show is going to be a disaster (you can tell I’ve done that, right? 🙂 ) And, hand in hand with this… appreciate the supposedly smaller things. For example, one of my reader friends (you know who you are) told me that she’d waited up until midnight the evening before launch day, so that she could download Breakfast under a Cornish Sun as soon as it was available, and start reading it. That meant an awful lot.

Thirdly, pat yourself on the back and celebrate! You’ve done it! Regardless of sales and rankings, you’ve brought a bookbaby into the world and been through the gruelling writing, rewriting and copy-editing process. It’s a mammoth task, producing a novel. It requires real stamina, guts and passion. My new summer book features a quirky cocktail bar called Donuts & Daiquiris, so there was really only one way I could celebrate – cue this delicious Spiced Mojito!

me mojito 2

Fourthy… Don’t let launch week overwhelm you. Whilst I enjoyed  my cocktail evening out last week, I had intermittent stomach pain from sitting down working for too long. And the day before backache. Plus lately I’ve developed what I call Twitter Seasickness – a real sense of nausea from being on there too long, replying to tweets and scrolling up and down my notifications to find competition winners and… you get the picture. In other words, realise you have a life away from your writing and desk. Whilst launch week is super-important, in the bigger picture it isn’t the be all and end all. It takes a few weeks, sometimes a few months  for a book to be found by all its readers and some of you may even delay your blog tour, for example, until the hullabaloo of the actual launch has settled down. So remember to take stock and breathe 🙂

Finally… Get stuck into another project. The more novels you get out there, the more readers you’ll pick up. Plus, thanks to a widening back catalogue,  the bigger those royalty cheques will look. Still allocate a good part of your available time to spreading word about your launch baby… but one of my diehard mottos is:  you are only as good as your next book...

Are You your Job?

First and foremost, let me make it clear, I love my profession and thank the universe every day, that I am lucky enough to do a job I adore. But is there the risk that it represents too much of my identity? To me that’s an easy question to answer. My CV is almost the length of a football pitch (okay, slight exaggeration)… In the past I have been a translator, tutor, doctor’s receptionist, hotel worker, envelope-stuffer, retail assistant… you name it, I’ve probably got the T-shirt. But never, ever, before being an author, has my feeling of self-worth been so closely linked to my career.

The good side of this? It drives me to succeed as it is my reputation and self-pride at stake. I think this applies to anyone who is self-employed. I work long hours. I strive to be my best. I do lots of promotional work and forever look to improve my writing. I write speedily to increase my output and become as prolific as possible.

Photo0026

But the bad side?  Recently I realised that striving to my best – for me – means striving to be THE best and that is an unattainable and dangerous goal. If a book doesn’t sell as well as the previous one, a little voice hints that I’VE failed. If I get a bad review, it feels like a huge blow to the person, SAMANTHA TONGE. If I lose followers on Twitter, I wonder what I  am doing wrong. Writing is so closely linked to an author’s ego. If I were merely tweeting on behalf of an employer such as a school or doctor’s practise, the ups and downs of that platform’s success would have little effect on me as a person.

In my opinion,  the important thing, as a writer – or artist, actor… any of those professions where you give away a little piece of yourself during the process – is to distance yourself as much as you can from the business side. You won an award (like I did for Game of Scones)? Great. Recognize it as an appreciation of your work, not your soul. It might happen again. It may never. That doesn’t mean you, as a person, have succeeded or failed any more or any less. Just received a bad review? The reader isn’t saying YOU deserve to be the target of rotten tomatoes. They simply didn’t enjoy one of your pieces of work in the way that some people love sushi (yuk) and others don’t. Not gaining as high rankings as another author? No matter. That’s the nature of the business. There are lots of contributing factors and whilst you are the face on the tin, you aren’t responsible for everything like the packaging or final recipe – or amount of luck.

me award 2

 

Plus social media  – whilst highly enjoyable – can easily feed into a writer’s fragile ego. Are my photos appealing enough? Are my tweets and statuses funny? Why have my ‘likes’ gone down lately?

I strive to stand back and see being an author as just a job. And this isn’t as hard as it sounds, luckily for me, as I have a lovely family to enjoy time with. If I had come to writing as a younger person, without other responsibilities, the knocks might have hit harder. So my advice? To start with cut down on social media outside the 9 til 5 or during the day if your writing life starts in the evening. See your social platforms for what they are – tools to drive your career and not an indictment of the kind of man or woman you are. A little hint that you are connecting too closely with your job is what you talk about when you speak to a distant relative on the phone. How much of your news is about your work? Have you anything else to say about other aspects of your life like hobbies and trips out? Try to find an even balance.

So next time you get a bad review or your book doesn’t soar, still pat yourself vigorously on the back. Or as you launch a new book, like I will be doing soon with my summer novel Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. You are doing the hardest thing ever – putting actual parts of your soul out into the big wide world, to be scrutinised by Joe Public. That earns you the permanent judgement of being one hell of a gutsy person, who looks failure in the face – instead of creeping around it, too scared to ever dare step out of its shadow.