I was born a people-pleaser. When I was a little girl I wanted everyone to think I was the smartest, the sweetest, the cutest, the most talented. It’s the reason my poor brother endured endless amounts of torture at my hands when he was an infant and toddler. Jealousy. Pure and simple. He was stealing my spotlight, and I didn’t like it.
As I got older my need to be liked got me in a lot of trouble. It drove me into the arms of a boy who seemed to love me but ended up hurting me. It took me down the road of drug abuse and co-dependency.
I had no idea who I was, what I thought, what I valued. I was a chameleon. I liked what those around me liked. My opinions matched theirs. I couldn’t stand the thought of thinking differently. Of having people displeased with me for even one moment.
Luckily, God redeemed me of all that. He healed me, and then took me on a gentle, grace-filled journey. One where I learned who I was, and what I valued. As I grew and matured, I cared less and less about other people thought of me, and more and more about what God thought of me. Now my opinions match his, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. It’s okay if people are displeased with me.
Everyone won’t like me or agree with me, and that’s okay.
But there is one area in my life where I still struggle with this need to please – my writing. Clearly when I release a book I want people to like it. Honestly, it wouldn’t make sense to write and publish a book if I didn’t. However, I also know there will be people who won’t like it, and sometimes that’s hard to swallow.
When I finish writing a book I go through many emotions. First, I feel relief. Second, I get excited. Third, the doubts start to set in. My mind whirs through all of the possible things readers will hate about the book. I panic and desperately wrestle with myself, wondering if I should take things out, tweak the plot, etc. In the end, I almost always keep everything the same. I surmise that no matter what I change, someone will be unhappy.
So I release the book as is, and inevitably there are readers that love it, and readers that hate it.
I write romances and typically they have an HEA. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve gotten over the years, saying how predictable my books are. How they are unrealistic. And since I usually write in the young adult genre, I always get the reviews by the readers who are irritated at how “high school” or “juvenile” the book seems. As if it’s somehow my fault they bought a book without paying attention to the genre it was in.
In For the Win, there were those who were upset with my happy ending and how I made everything tie up neatly for London.But then Until the Sun Burns Out releases and there are those that are angry about the sad ending. Angry that things didn’t tie up neatly. Angry that the ending isn’t predictable.
It reminds me that I can’t win. I can’t please everyone.
I don’t know why the bad reviews are the ones I remember over the good ones. But I suspect it’s because the little girl inside of me; that one that aims to please, is rising up and waving her fist.
But I also think it’s because I’ve never been that kind of reviewer. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I used to have a blog where I reviewed the books I read. And I used it as a way to spread the word about books I loved. I never once wrote a scathing review of a book I hated.
The books I didn’t like, I simply didn’t share about.
And when I became an author I sort of thought every reader was like me. Boy was I surprised the first time I got a mean review. And, let me tell you, my first bad review was a mean one. The reviewer not only tore apart my book but she tore apart me as an author. Literally. Like she said mean things about me. I was floored. I didn’t know people did that, and I didn’t understand why someone would do that. If you love to read, don’t you love authors? Don’t you get that writing is subjective? That what you hate someone else might love?
But I had to move past it. To get thick skin. To realize that readers are entitled to their opinions, even if they’re mean. Now when I see a mean review, I turn the other way and remember that I can’t please everyone. That one bad review doesn’t make me a bad author. That for every bad review there are dozens of good ones.
This takes practice.
And I still will never understand someone’s need to tear down my books or me as an author. But it’s part of the deal, and I get that now. So I’m working on this. In truth, I mostly just don’t read my reviews much anymore. If I do, I try to stick to the five-star ones.
Years ago, I did the love languages study. I did it once with my husband and once with my kids. In it, I learned that my love language is “words of affirmation,” so it makes sense that reviews hold weight with me.
If you take anything from this post, it’s this: Don’t only share about the things you don’t like. Share about the things you love. Don’t only tell people when you’re upset. Tell people when you’re happy. I feel like there is so much negativity in our world. Let’s spread joy.
And when it comes to the books you read, review the ones you like. Share with others when you read a book you love. Let the author know what it meant to you, and leave an awesome, glowing review. We need them. We cherish them. We hold them close.
I’m not saying you can’t review the ones you don’t like, but I would challenge you to think of the author as a real person when you do write the review. I’ve had negative reviews that were well-thought out and helpful, and I’ve actually made some changes in my writing because of them. So you don’t have to be mean. You can give constructive criticism. Don’t be a reviewer that tears a book or author down. Be a helpful, kind reviewer.
Words hold weight. They have power.
Let’s be wise in how we use them.