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  • [Reality Check] "Critics Be Damned" or "Life After a Book Review"
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[Reality Check] "Critics Be Damned" or "Life After a Book Review"
Written by
Zetta Brown
July 2013
Written by
Zetta Brown
July 2013

“Critics! Appalled I ventured on the name.

Those cutthroat bandits in the paths of fame.”

—Robert Burns

Critics can be enlightened and insightful or as dim as the anal crevice they talk through when tearing your book a new one. But if a critic is being enlightened and insightful while tearing your book a new one...

Some people may think Jane Austen was a genius, while others may think the best thing she ever produced was feed for the maggots. However, Jane Austen is considered (rightly or wrongly) to be a literary luminary. Why? Because her writing and storytelling skill has been enjoyed for centuries by men and women around the world, and she is highly regarded for talent.

J. K. Rowling is reeling from being exposed as “first-time” author Robert Galbraith--one example of how hard it is to hide from fame. Poor J. K. will never know what critics really think of her crime fiction novel without taking her fame into account.

Juror B-37 discovered that the opposite is true when she revealed how she wanted to write a book about sitting on the Zimmerman case. She was roundly criticized for a book she had yet to write and publish...and now won't write at all, at least not now. Infamy is hard to shake too.

If you think I’m talking about lofty literary critics for The New Yorker or Kirkus Reviews, you’re wrong, because everybody is a critic. Many of us here write and publish book reviews, and I’m sure all of us have ranted or raved about a book by word of mouth.

Your work may not withstand the test of time like dear old dead Jane's, but you will have to live with it throughout your lifetime. Whomever first thought of the analogy of your book being your child was correct. You gave birth to it, and now it will follow you from its cradle to your grave, and beyond. Your book may bring you many accolades or be trashed like day-old bread. It may be quickly forgotten, overshadowed by your next work or by someone else’s work.

Developing a thick skin to withstand the abuse some may hurl upon your work (and you) takes time. Harsh criticism will sting like a blister, but in time it will callous over and you can slough it off. Then you can feel smug knowing that you survived it.

You can get a good idea of how you will handle criticism of your book in the way you react to criticism in other areas of your life. What happens when someone criticizes you at work or at home? How do you feel when criticism comes from a family member or a friend or a stranger? Some things you can shrug off as sour grapes, while at other times someone may say something so spiteful that seeing their blood outside their body is the only thing that would calm you down.

So what can you do to help ease the pain some critics may want you to feel? In my opinion, if you have a definitive answer to that, you must also know the cure to the common cold too.

You can adopt a mantra about sticks, stones, and breaking bones and become impervious to criticism. You can turn the critics into characters and do inhumane things to them. You can ignore it completely. Nowhere is it written that an author has to read—let alone accept—criticism. Some of us have participated in enough writing circles to know this fact.

You can fight back. However, I cannot recall a time when an author has lashed back at a critic and looked better for doing it. If you know of an example, please share. Perhaps we can learn something from it.

Have any tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.


©2013. Zetta Brown is editor-in-chief of LL-Publications and Logical-Lust Publications. She is the author of several published short stories and the novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. If you like this post, then stop by Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.

Got a [REALITY CHECK] about the publishing life to share? If you would like to be a guest on my blog, please friend me on She Writes with a message! :)

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  • I rant and rant to release the emotions and then I contemplate on if the criticism had any true value. I like to then ask myself, "What can I learn from this experience?"

  • Zetta Brown

    @Vivienne - I think there is a book featuring a collection either bad book reviews or rejection letters that either the author received or that other writers have received. I can't think of the title, but maybe someone out there knows. A rejection letter is a form of critique. Here's an author that created a blog sharing their rejection letters:


    Perhaps sharing is therapeutic after the sting dies away?

  • Vivienne Diane Neal

    Zetta, what a great article. Most of us have received bad reviews, including myself, and it can be hurtful but also a good learning experience. To ease the pain, you can write an article or a book titled, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Funniest Negative Reviews I Received From Critics. It may be very cathartic. Who knows, the book may end up being a big seller. What better way to exact revenge on those critics. :)