Ever wanted to know how to deal with feedback – both positive and negative? Help me welcome back Oliver Rhodes as he leads us through the winding path of good vs evil feedback. (Please note Oliver is on GMT – check back later today or tomorrow for his responses to your posts!)
Every author loves positive feedback – the five star ratings, the glowing reviews, your agent or editor raving about your latest book.
But what about the one star rating? Or the rejected manuscripts?
With something as personal as writing, that kind of feedback can hurt. Sometimes it can seem easier to put your hands over your ears… “la, la, la, I’m not listening…”
But here’s the thing…
For those working in creative industries – where there is no right or wrong answer – feedback is crucial. Authors aren’t alone in that.
Designers, musicians, journalists, artists – even marketers – all have to live with criticism.
We’ve all seen the X Factor or American Idol contestant on stage singing their hearts out, only to be brought thudding down to earth by the judges’ comments.
The ones that take that criticism on board and redouble their efforts are the contestants that improve, who we take to our hearts, and who go on to do great things.
Constructive feedback is what we learn most from and can improve your work. It is valuable, and you need to treat it that way.
Don’t view negative feedback as a personal slight – but as an opportunity to learn. In fact, ask for more feedback. It will make you a better author – and engage your audience.
Here are 4 tips on getting the most out of feedback:
1) Don’t be disheartened by negative responses
The fact that someone has spent the time to read your work and to respond is awesome. You are clearly doing something right!
Negative feedback is very rarely meant personally. It’s the view of one person, and is part and parcel of sharing your work.
Agents, Editors, and even readers rarely all like the same thing – if one person doesn’t like your writing, there are hundreds and maybe even thousands out there that will.
Can’t convince an Agent or Editor to take a chance on you? Prove them wrong. Amanda Hocking and John Locke both became bestsellers whilst self-publishing and went on to big-money traditional book deals. In today’s era of digital publishing, readers will have the final say.
Finally, keep a list of positive feedback that you’ve had. Look at those comments when you need a reminder of what people love about your work.
2) Figure out WHO to listen to
An Editor or honest critique partner will provide constructive criticism that‘s invaluable in honing your story before sharing with a wider audience. But even more important are readers.
As a writer, you need to know your audience (or ‘target market’). Who are the people that will invest their money and time in your books? Get into their heads the same way as you would a character you’re writing.
You can build up a profile of them – perhaps you’re targeting 20-40 year old women who are big fans of HOT paranormal romance. They could be based anywhere in the world, but you know they’ll be fans of JR Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Whilst they like their books dark, dangerous and sexy, they also want a HEA and it’s important that you create a world they can completely lose themselves in.
The great thing about online retailers and social networks is that you can check readers against your profile. Get a bad review on Amazon or Goodreads? Look at that person’s review history and work out whether they’re part of your target group.
You can’t appeal to everyone – so stop trying. Concentrate on what those in your target audience think. And use reviews to teach you more about the type of person that loves your writing.
Your social media connections will give you even more information about readers – those who follow you represent some of your most loyal fans.
If someone in your target audience, especially a loyal reader, tells you that they didn’t like your latest plotline or book cover – take it seriously. Readers are hard to get – you need to do everything you can to keep them. And bear in mind that for every person who bothers to tell you, there are probably 10 who thought it.
Finally, when readers tell you what they love about your writing – make a note of it. Start to see a pattern? That’s what your author brand means to people.
3) Encourage feedback
Being open to feedback is the first step. But I think you can go further than that. Proactively seeking feedback will reward you with more of it – and make sure that you’re hearing what you need to.
There are more ways than ever before to get feedback from readers. Of course scouring reviews is one way.
But the simplest – ask people. And do it regularly.
Why not put a note in the end of every book with your e-mail? Have a feedback page on your website? Ask your twitter followers?
One great way to get constructive feedback is to build up an e-mail list of loyal readers. E-mail makes it easier for people to share things that they might not feel comfortable bringing up in a public forum.
Feeling clever? Put together a quick survey using a free online tool such as Survey Monkey. Bear in mind that the more information that you ask for, the less people will complete the survey.
And always remember to thank people for their input.
Feedback can be retrospective – what did you think of my last book? Was there anything that could have improved it?
But why not look forward? Share a couple of options for your next cover design. Ask readers which secondary character they’d like to see have their own story told.
Feedback can also be a little more interactive and fun. Why not create a Pinterest board for your series, allowing readers to pin pictures of who they’d like to play your main characters in a film?
If one of your loyal readers didn’t enjoy your latest book, would you rather he/she:
a) Silently added you to her ‘never-read-again’ list OR;
b) E-mailed you to tell you what they didn’t like about it.
Equally, if your readers are dying for you to write a sequel, wouldn’t you like to know?
Feedback lets you know how well you’re meeting reader expectations. But it can also do a lot more:
• Asking the reader’s opinions and responding to negative feedback shows that you care what they think and can increase loyalty.
• You’ll learn more about your readers – and improve your creative decision-making.
• Using social media for feedback will create conversations and help you to pick up new followers.
• Getting other’s creative input can help spark ideas.
• Collaborating with readers – for example on your next cover design – can create ready made brand-ambassadors for your work.
4) Remember – you are in control
Feedback is just feedback. It doesn’t compel you to change who you are or what you do.
Yes – listen. Yes – consider. But YOU decide what to take on board. After all, your creative control is what makes you the author you are.
So here’s my own feedback request.
I’m going to be writing a series of posts for RU. I’d love to hear what you think so far and, more importantly, what you’d find useful going forward.
I’m happy to talk about marketing, branding, cover design, web design, social media or publishing in general. Let me know what you’d like to see featured, either in the comments section below or via twitter: www.twitter.com/ollyrhodes
RU Writers, how do you handle negative feedback? Can you turn it into a positive?
Join us on Friday for Handsome Hansel and his post Valentine Schmalentine!
Oliver Rhodes is the Founder of Bookouture – a digital publisher of romance and women’s fiction. Recently picked by The Bookseller as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ of 2012, he’s passionate about building global author brands.
Formerly Marketing Controller at Harlequin UK, Oliver has worked in publishing for over 12 years. Some of his highlights from his time at Harlequin include launching Mills & Boon’s New Voices online writing competition and rapidly growing it’s MIRA imprint – establishing authors such Debbie Macomber, Diane Chamberlain, Susan Wiggs and Alex Kava in the UK market.
- Oliver Rhodes: How to be a more successful author by doing less
- Your Author Brand – How to Make the Most of It with Oliver Rhodes
- Why Goodreads is Now an Essential Part of Author’s Social Media Plans by Oliver Rhodes
- New RU Columnist Oliver Rhodes: Do I need an author website? And what should I put on it?
- How to choose the right publishing option for YOU by Oliver Rhodes