A Matter of Critical Opinion

I received one star out of five for The Depths of My Soul on a popular website for book lovers.

A reader wrote to me about his views on The Voices of South Central, told me bluntly he didn’t think it was ‘real’ enough for him.

Welcome to the world of being an author. I spent the past weekend engrossed in a subject that caught my eye while I was in the middle of researching another subject. Obviously, criticism is a topic that hits close to home and one I can definitely relate to. I posted this link on my Facebook timeline under “When keeping it real on a book review goes wrong..…”. Without giving too much away, it’s the true life story of a bestselling author’s family member responding to a criticism of the author’s novel. It’s considered a no-no in the writing industry to react to criticism of one’s work, but there are examples all over the web of well-known and up-and-coming authors who break this rule. When there is a retort over the criticism, it’s get your popcorn time.

In my earlier days, I would have responded to criticism by feeling my ears perk up and my temperature rise while keeping it professional and carrying a conversation defending my piece. That said, there are a million people with a million interpretations of how a novel, article or poem reaches them. When I spoke with the gentleman who criticized me about the Voices, I didn’t go off the handle at first (although I wanted to), but after a couple of days of reflection, it was expressed to him although I wished for a better result, I totally respected his opinion. That’s what it really is anyway, an opinion of the work, not the person writing it.

Oftentimes on social media, I see my contemporaries call out the ‘haters’, displaying their displeasure if someone has an issue with their book. True, not all reviewers on websites such as Amazon knows the nuances of writing a constructive analysis of a book they just bought and purchased, but they do have the right to express what they thought about it. As artists, we’re the ones writing to the public. We shouldn’t be surprised if the public doesn’t always agree with what we write, or the format of the book, the grammar, etc.

These days, I welcome criticism on the constructive side and if it makes sense. I reserve the right to know whether my technique, style or point of view didn’t catch on so we can discuss it. This is for face to face meetings only. On the online side, I don’t rather bother what responding. Why dispute a negative review only to see it blow up and posted on various websites? Once a copy of The Depths of My Soul or The Voices of South Central is in the hands of a buyer, my involvement with that copy is over. It’s not to say if I read a comment or hear a disparaging remark about the work I won’t react, I prefer to let it simmer for a while and just move on.

Authors who are skilled in handling criticism easily defuse the argument. They refuse to take it further and in the eyes of lurkers to their blog or website, is seen as a professional. In the link I read about this bestselling author, the family member’s retort caused a reviewer to change their rating of the author’s novel. Ouch! On the internet it is true of the statement, ‘the whole world is watching’. Much like the on-screen drama witnessed in chat rooms, reading about authors on the attack is just as interested, but unfortunate. As an author, It’s always best to remain focused on what makes one happy. Responding to a reader’s opinion of the book, definitely won’t and brings on more anguish than it needs to.

Charles Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra

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Posted on September 5, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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