Authors have become a very common sighting. Not even a decade ago, you could have an opinion that authors are rare; authors are highly intelligent beings who are seldom found among commoners. Authors, to be frank, and candid too, were respected by those who think themselves as typical 9-5ers. However, in 2020 (thanks to Corona, on a lighter note, to provide many to be or not to be authors opportunities to pen their thoughts) authors have become a very friendly presence in the society; they live among us; they go to restaurants and shopping malls with their friends and family; you may not have to stand in the long queues to get their autographs; you can get a selfie with one of your favourite authors easily. Why? What happened in these 10 years? Why there are so many authors suddenly found stuffing social media with their books, thoughts and opinions’ posts? Do you have this question? First I will answer this one and then I will move to the objective of this article. Authors have become common because publishing has become very easy. Today, if an author is rejected by a giant in the publishing industry just out of ego, he or she can get published by paying a self-publishing company some money. And, who does not want to be published! So, ease of publishing has made authors a common sight in India (and the world, for that matter).
This article is for the authors who have to face criticism. And, believe me, every author has to face criticism. Criticism does not mean something that is totally bad or out of ill intention or derogatory. Criticism can also connote honest opinions about your writing style, theme or anything that relates to your writing. The question that might have brought you here was about the idea of criticism. Is criticism always bad? What do you do when someone criticises your debut book – fiction or non-fiction? How do you deal with critical reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or social media platforms? How do you react to it? Do you really need to react to it? What can you do when you don’t agree with a critical review of your book you come across on a literary website? SO, questions are many! It has to be this way if you are a debutant and you may have found yourself reflected in the questions I listed above. As a book critic or a book reviewer writing for one of India’s most respected and leading book reviews websites, I will share my opinions about book reviews, criticism about a book and what can authors do about it.
Criticism is not always bad!
Yes! Criticism is not only bad. It comes in various shades. For the starters, if you are a new author, embrace the fact that there will be many readers who will respond to your book differently than you might have fancied. This is natural. This is the way it happens. As an author, you can only control what you write and you cannot have a say in what readers feel or think about your book. So, it will be wiser if you come out of your fancies about the reception of the book; the early you embrace the fact that criticism may not be agreeable, the better you start thinking as an author! Criticism is NEVER bad if it is honest. You should rather thank your honest critics for the work they do for you – finding bugs in your codes that build your fiction! 🙂 However, reviews or opinions about your literature that is purely ill-intended or dishonest should be ignored and ignored for good.
If you write, readers will read. Accept the reviews humbly.
It is as simple as that! If you are writing a book, you MUST expect readers to read it if you play the cards of book marketing and book promotions wisely. Honest critical feedback about your writing is a blessing in black and white, not even in disguise. You need to pick the points highlighted by a critic and make those areas in your writing better. However, if you think that the critic is going overboard in your criticising your book or rubbishing your perspectives or ideas without any logical backing, you can discuss with that person and try to get confusions away (if it’s just that). However, at times, you cannot reach directly to the person who wrote a review or even the person who reviewed your book may deny getting in a discussion with you. In such cases, you can try putting a comment on the website where the review is posted. You can directly comment under a review on Goodreads or most of the websites. Nevertheless, if the review in on a literary website and the platform denies getting your comment live, you can put a disclaimer on your own website about such reviews and justify your case or refute the claims made by the book critic point by point (or any way you think it necessary without being abusive, self-centred or egoistic). In the end, always remember, in most of the cases, more critical feedback might also mean more and more readers who are taking interest in your book. If the reviews are honest, you will learn a lot!
Be humble if you want to stay in the writing industry for long; act in a dignified way with your honest critics and even dishonest ones.
Yes, that’s the last thing I would say to modern authors, debut writers and even unpublished novelists and poets in India. In India, most of the authors, I have seen, are often arrogant; they think (and almost demand) that everyone should respect whatever they have written. This is, to be honest, an act that would lead you nowhere in Indian literary industry today. There are thousands of authors who have already published their books with some self-publishing company in India even before you might start thinking about your publishing plan. So, you are getting into a tough intellectual competition with many authors instantly. Why should a reader read you? This should be the prime focus of your writing career – long or short depends upon how you react to criticism. As an author, a person should be concerned with what he writes. This is the legal, moral, literary as well as emotional right. However, when a person tries to control how others interpret a particular book written by him or her, this is not only unwise but also very alarming as one’s expectations might start to trigger negativity sooner or later. What is the idle way out? Read the final paragraph below and I am sure you will find yourself very much able to float in the Indian literary industry without any worry for those who offer your critical reviews or opinions.
The first thing is that honest criticism is not bad. Try to understand the points for which your book has been criticised by an able, honest, experienced and serious reader. Work on improving those highlighted shortcomings in your writing and it will also be a very positive step forward if you acknowledge the review and humbly accept the opinion of that particular critic. Good gestures always in the hearts! Learn to ignore dishonest criticism and forget about those. However, if you are worried about your image, you can try contacting those reviewers and clarify your points. Try posting your side either on the concerned website or your official author website and also on your social media profiles. It should send your version to your readers and they can make their opinions. And, at last, respect your readers! This is very important if you want to have a wonderful career as a writer who gets respect. All the best and I hope you unleash the writer in you so that Indian Book Critics will get the opportunity to review your book one day… in near future!
by Amit for Indian Book Critics