Riding the Review Rollercoaster, by Karen Witemeyer

Despite two RITA® finals and a spot on the CBA best-seller
list, Karen Witemeyer still has to dig out her heart armor every time a new
release hits the shelves. Her newest book with Bethany House, Short-Straw Bride, will be releasing
later this month, so she’s banging out old dents and preparing herself for the
upcoming barrage.
Riding
the Review Rollercoaster

One of the biggest adjustments for me as I transitioned from
unpublished to published author came in learning how to handle reviews.
Listening to a critique of your work is never easy. Anyone who has entered a
writing contest and received feedback can attest to that. But when your book is
published and available for public consumption, your feedback no longer comes
to you in the privacy of an email. No. Now it comes in public forums for the
whole world to see. 
So how do you handle the ups and downs of books reviews?
Option
1 – Avoid the rollercoaster all together

Some authors have wonderful self-control and simply elect
not to read reviews. Positive or negative. If you can resist the curiosity
burning in your brain, this is a wise option. The good reviews won’t puff you
up with false pride and the bad reviews won’t destroy your confidence with
their stinging criticism.
Option
2 – Stay on the kiddie coaster

You don’t want to get discouraged, so you opt to read only
the 4-5 star reviews on Amazon and the blog reviews that are written by people
you know. While this option offers a lot of encouragement and warm fuzzies, I
would caution against it because it’s too easy to start believing your own
press. When you read gushing, glowing reviews claiming you are the best writer
to have ever put words on a page, pretty soon you start to feel like you’ve
arrived. You’ve mastered the craft. This attitude can be destructive in its own
way to an author’s career. If you’re not constantly growing and seeking to
improve, you become stagnant and predictable and lose the spark that earned
those glowing reviews in the first place.
Option
3 – Hang on and enjoy the ride

This is option I prefer, though the ride can get pretty
bumpy. The highs are breathtaking and glorious, but the lows are just around
the corner. The key to enjoying the review rollercoaster is to face it with as
much objectivity as possible and to armor your heart in advance. No matter how
fabulous your characters, how action-packed your plot, or how stellar your
craft, there will be readers who don’t like your book. Accept that fact now and
gird your loins for the reviews those readers will write. Yes, they will still
hurt. But if you’ve prepared in advance you can read them with enough
objectivity to look for nuggets of truth that will help you improve your
writing in your next novel. 
Did the reader fail to connect with your heroine? Look for
ways to deepen your characterization or make your heroine more likeable. Did
she complain that the pace was sluggish? Look for ways to add more action to
future plots. Did he lose interest in the story? Look for ways to infuse more
conflict and employ more hooks.
Don’t dwell on harsh words or spiteful attacks that can
steal your passion, but sift through the negativity to see if there is anything
of value to take away. And if a shot penetrates your armor, reread some of your
gushing 5 star comments to stop the bleeding, then get back to work on your
next project.

One other note I will mention about reviews, NEVER respond
to a negative review. No matter how careful you are, it almost always comes
across as defensive or as a case of sour grapes. If you need to commiserate with
someone, so do in private with a critique partner or a trusted friend, but
train yourself in first aid so you can bandage the wound and move on. The more
you prepare in advance, the thicker your armor will be. Who knows, maybe you’ll
laugh with your writing friends and brag about finally getting your first 1
star review as an author’s right of passage. 
So how do you handle criticism when it comes to your
writing? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of
the soon-to-be-released, Short-Straw
Bride.
U.S. residents only, please.

SHORT-STRAW
BRIDE

No one steps on Archer land. Not if
they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn
the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take
the risk.
Fourteen years of constant vigilance
hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the
same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can’t bring
himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and
her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue
once again.
Four brothers. Four straws. One
bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith
once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that
threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her
merely as a short-straw bride?