Learning how to handle criticism is an important step for every author. No matter how good a book is, not everyone is going to like it, and no work is ever going to receive five-star reviews across the board. But trust me, I understand that your first book is your baby, and once it's finally out there for the world to read, receiving anything less than glowing feedback can be downright painful.

I recently met a former TV anchor named Pallas Hupe Cotter who now specializes in helping professionals in many industries deal with challenges. She and I agree that criticism can make you stronger if you have the right attitude about it. Here are her tips for first-time authors:

1) Be prepared: Be aware that you are vulnerable when you share your words. They do reveal a vulnerable part of you and you need to ready yourself for an inevitable reaction.

2) Take a step back: The closer you feel to your work, the harder it is to separate yourself from the work itself. Remember, criticism of your words isn't a rejection of you as a person.

3) Don't let emotion rule your reaction: Everyone has emotional reactions to criticism. Allow yourself to feel the emotion but then move through it.


4) Process and take action: A writer's job isn't just to write, but to edit. That requires feedback. Scan criticism to see how it can improve your work, and then act on it.

5) Take responsibility: When someone gives feedback, drill deeper -
 ask questions. Even if it's positive and someone says "I loved it," ask why. Find out specifics that will help you improve.

6) Consider the source: Remember, a critic's job is to stir the pot and spark a reaction. One bad review out of 100 positive ones can get under your skin. Ask yourself, "Is this voice really more important than the others?" Put criticism in perspective.

I know firsthand that it's never going to be easy to listen to criticism, but Pallas is right. If you set your ego aside and learn to approach feedback as an opportunity to improve your writing, your next book (or draft) will be better.



Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, Chocolate for Two, and Cassidy Lane. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on May 9, 2014 at 8:56am

It takes so much courage to put our words out there in the first place, isn't it? So, choosing the right beta-readers is such an important part of the process. Once the trust it there, it isn't easy to let go and listen to less than glowing praise objectively, but I agree with the step in asking questions, as a form of owning my ms as a work-in-progress, and using others' perspectives as a way to make my own work shine.

Yes, this is so hard. One member of a writer's group I belonged to suggested that I split my children's picture book MS into two. I did take her advice. Now I have more than one direction to go with each.  Thank you for this very valuable reminder, Maria!

Comment by RYCJ on May 6, 2014 at 2:39pm

I tease quite a bit about critics and criticism, but really this is good, clear, concise advice. It might sound odd, but even more honestly, I more often than not enjoy criticism... so thrilled now that I think about it in fact, that I think I'm going to do up a blog post on some of it.

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