Dealing with criticism: the wonderful life of an indie author!



Hello dear constant reader, and a big shout out to all the aspiring authors out there!

My name is Luis Samways, and you may remember me from such books as Stasis and the Frank McKenzie mystery series, among many others (nearly 30 novels!).

I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long while now. And the one thing that I’ve learned from my time at the grindstone is that criticism will be a big part of your career.

It’s been a big part of mine… that’s for sure. 

Let me get one thing straight, first; writing books is difficult. Putting your work out there for others to read is one of the bravest things that anybody can do. Because we all know that when we create something, we made it with the intention of either entertaining somebody, or shining a light on our own personality through the characters in what we’ve just written.

And when somebody comes about and reads your book, then leaves an unfavorable review on Amazon, or any other book website, it can get you a little bit down. Trust me, I know from experience. I myself have received plenty of one-star reviews. Some of them the most scathing put-downs I’ve ever received. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it feels like I’m back in high school, and I’m the nerd kid that the popular kids use as a punchbag.

That’s what it feels like to get bad reviews. Well, that’s what it feels like at the start. You end up investing so much time in the characters in your books that you begin to lose sight of what really matters. Yes – it would be nice if people were a little bit more gentle when it came to the critical nuances of one’s work, but at the end of the day, all readers are different.

And all of their tastes vary significantly.

To quote that famous saying; one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. And I’m just grateful that my trash can sometimes be viewed as someone’s treasure. That’s the position that I take on critical reviews these days. Obviously, when a book receives an abundance of critical reviews, stating the same things, punctuation, spelling, grammar, or maybe the story wasn’t all that and was missing a few things, then one does need to take the steps to rectify one’s own writing so that it doesn’t occur again.

But then again, you cannot please everybody all of the time. And that’s one thing I have learned greatly from this journey of discovery that we call being a self-published writer in the modern age of the Internet. For a long time, I took all bad reviews to heart. And to be honest, I still do. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t read new reviews when they pop up. I tend to gloss over the good ones because it’s the bad ones that really get me thinking. But that’s normal. It’s normal to be a little neurotic when it comes to one’s own work.

After all, it’s our babies that we put out there into the universe. Our babies are precious to us. And when someone doesn’t like our babies, calls them ugly, stupid, useless and a waste of money, then it can affect our self-esteem. But I’m here to tell you that if I, Luis Samways, can survive the barrages of negativity that has come my way since starting this career of mine, then anybody can.

I’m probably what people would call a polarizing author. My books tend to split opinion down the middle. Some people love it, and some people hate it. But, and this is a big but, people are talking about my work. And that’s what counts. Because that’s half the battle when it comes to becoming a writer. Getting people to recognize you, your work, and what you stand for. Sure, I’d love to be universally loved and adored like George RR Martin, but at the end of the day, some things just aren’t meant to be.

So if I had any advice for you aspiring authors out there, it is this: grow a thick skin. Because you are going to need it. The world is a cold and unforgiving place. And the Internet is -100° of ice-cold digs, digs that get under your skin and make you question whether or not you are doing the right thing. But that’s a good thing. It’s good to always be kept on the tip of your toes.

I know plenty of indie authors that get better reviews than me, but they lag in the sales charts. Why? Because there are people out there that don’t feel strongly about their work. And feeling strongly about an author’s work doesn’t necessarily only mean that you like their work. To feel strongly about an author’s work in a negative light is also a good thing. Because it starts a conversation. A conversation between readers. A conversation that you are the subject of.

And there’s nothing better than seeing fans of your work defend you against your detractors. But also, there’s nothing better than seeing your detractors rip you to shreds, just to see your ever faithful readers assemble for the good fight, ready to defend your faults and flaws.

So, if I’m ever to give any advice other than just getting a thick skin to any authors out there, I’d like to also add this to the table: it’s a good idea to embrace what you are. Embrace your faults and your flaws. Embrace what people say about you. And learn from the mistakes that you make. That’s what I did, and that’s what many before me have done.

We don’t have to deal with rejection letters anymore from the publishers and gatekeepers. But, rejection still exists. And it exists within the bowels of Amazon’s review system. So one needs to come to terms with that fact. And once you do come to terms with the truth, then and only then can you enjoy your life as a writer.

Because it’s a tough one. And it can be a lonely one. But it’s also fulfilling one. It’s a life where you can bring joy and anger to a bunch of voracious readers on the Internet. And in return for that anger and that joy, you can get paid handsomely for your efforts. But it’s not only about the money. It’s about knowing that you tried your best, and made something that was worth making. Even if in the long run, a few people disagree with your creative decisions.

Keep on fighting the good fight people. Keep on following your dreams. And above all, keep on writing.

Luis out.

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