You Can’t Avoid Criticism

I know a retired pastor who continues to be active in his church and teach or preach whenever he is invited to do so. He recently was criticized quite severely by a member of his church for:

  • Preaching without notes.
  • Being able to quote passages from the Bible without reading them.
  • Drawing large crowds whenever he teaches.
  • Speaking the truth (because truth makes people uncomfortable).

You Can't Avoid Criticism

Wow. These are all things one would usually commend someone for. Instead, someone criticized this retired pastor for these things.

Why? I don’t think we will know the answer this side of eternity, and it really is not important. What I believe this scenario illustrates is that we will always have critics.

If you do anything publicly—author a book, speak to a group, write a blog post or article, post on social media—someone is going to disagree with you. There is always someone in a crowd who is a naysayer.

What does this mean for authors? It means that you should be prepared to receive criticism and know how to handle it.

1. Expect criticism.

Don’t get upset or irritated when it comes. Know that you will receive criticism.

Every author receives criticism at some point. Famous authors are criticized. An article written about Mark Twain in 1910 said of him:

“But Mark Twain was neither a poet nor a playwright nor an historian. he was hardly a novelist, either, for his share in ‘The Gilded Age’ does not seriously count, and his work in the form of fiction is not remarkable as story-telling pure and simple.”

2. Evaluate the criticism.

Don’t just throw it out. Evaluate it. Ask yourself:

  • Is it given in a spirit of love or condemnation?
  • Is any part of it true?
  • What can you learn from this?

If you are still struggling with what was said, then run it by a trusted friend. Ask this person to help you ferret out what is really about you and what is not. Be sure that you ask someone you trust who can be honest with you.

Whatever you do, don’t repay criticism with criticism. If an answer is expected, respond with respect and love. Remember Dale Carnegie’s advice from his book How to Win Friends and Influence People:

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”

3. Pray about it.

Ask God to show you what is true in the criticism and what you should pay attention to. Ask Him to guide you in knowing what to accept and what to throw away.

Whatever you do, don’t let criticism stop you. Learn from it, but keep doing that which God has called you to do. If He has called you to write and publish, keep doing that. Learn the craft, learn the ropes of the industry, and continue to put your best effort into all you do—working at it as for the Lord, not for man. For your reward is in heaven.

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Are You Following the Rules?

Authors hate negative reviews of their books. Criticism is hard to swallow, especially when we feel it is not deserved.

authors hate negative reviews

Since reviews are simply opinions, some authors choose to not read reviews. What they don’t read can’t hurt their feelings.

Other authors tend to get their undies in a bunch over negative reviews. They want reviewers to change their opinions. These authors tend to be concerned that a few negative reviews will ruin their sales.

In an effort to get their book to “look better” these authors will ask readers to make their review nicer. Whether the author does this in a polite or rude manner, reviewers can end up feeling threatened.

I recently stumbled across this tweet on Twitter:

tweet on book review

This reader was seriously concerned. In fact, she was so worried, that she ended up deleting her review.

Authors, do not forget that you are influential simply because you have penned a book. This influence is a sacred privilege. Don’t abuse it.

In fact, Goodreads recognizes that authors wield a tremendous amount of influence. The community’s Author Guidelines state:

 

  • Don’t engage with people who negatively rate or review your books.We cannot stress this enough. Goodreads is a community for all readers to express their honest opinions about the books they choose to read and shelve. Engaging with people who don’t like your book will not win you any new readers. Remember that Goodreads is a public space; other readers will see a reaction from the author and interpret it as hostile regardless of how carefully the response was crafted.
    • If you feel a review is in violation of our Review Guidelines, please flag it to our team’s attention rather than responding. To flag, click the gray flag icon next to the content in question and follow the prompts.
    • Remember that not every reader will love your book. It is unrealistic to expect that your book will only get four and five star reviews. Bestselling authors get one star reviews too.

Goodreads also posts the following note on their website:

Goodreads policy

If you are an author who gets upset over negative reviews, I suggest that you follow Goodreads guidelines for authors—not just for reviews on Goodreads—but also for reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online stores that sell your book.

Christian authors, I urge you to never forget who is in charge of your book reaching the people who need its message the most. If God has called you to write and publish your book, then He is responsible for helping those individuals who need your book’s message to buy it in spite of a few negative reviews mixed in with the positive ones.

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Photo courtesy of Sebastian Herrmann.