Behind every good book is a gracious author.
There have been a number of horror stories going around lately about author meltdowns when bad reviews come in. Who doesn't love a good internet meltdown, right? As one of those Indie authors working hard to be discovered, though, I can say that every time one author throws a "Why-don't-you-get-me?" hissy fit, it makes everything a little bit harder for the rest of us. It goes beyond mere unprofessionalism, too: it's just plain rude.
1. Reviewers are our Friends. If you're an indie or self-published author, you should sure as hell know how important reviews are to your success. Follow the logic train with me here...this means reviewers are important to your success. These days, reviewers can and often do put more effort into their job than simply posting a few stars on Amazon or Goodreads. Lots of them are bloggers, too, and they are offering more exposure to the authors they list. There's no way around it: reviewers are a major part of our dream, too.
2. Reviewers are Volunteers. Every reviewer I've ever dealt with has volunteered to read my work. No one is paying them for their time. They do this because they like to read, and they recognize that indie authors especially need readers to spread the word. Take a minute and think about how long it takes you to read a book the length of one of your own. With my schedule, I'm lucky to carve out half an hour of my own free time to enjoy a book, and that's without committing myself to anyone. Reviewers invest time in our books, and they don't have to. They choose to. So when they take time to invest themselves in your book, remember what that means.
3. Reviewers Have Minds of Their Own. And opinions, too. And they're allowed to have them. Reviewers may volunteer to read a book, but that doesn't obligate them to like it. They are allowed to form their own thoughts about it. If you picked up a new book in the store, would you feel obligated to cater your opinion to the feelings of the author? Do you hold your tongue if you read something you really don't like? If you don't, or if you don't expect other readers to do so, don't expect reviewers to do it either. They are allowed to have opinions.
4. Authors are Not Entitled to Praise. Go look up your absolute favorite book. It's got some bad reviews, believe me. All books do. Even the best authors in the world—the ones making millions—are not universally loved. Why would anyone be? Any author who can't live with that is living in a fantasy, and definitely not ready to be publishing. And that isn't the fault of the reviewer.
5. When an Author Abuses a Reviewer, They Abuse Us All. I am always saddened when I see a reviewer comment that they won't review Indie or Self-pub because too many authors throw tantrums over honest reviews. That is a shame on so many levels. I can't blame them, though: if they've been harassed by a disgruntled author for the crime of expressing their honest opinions, it's no wonder they feel abused. Then they start losing joy in what they've volunteered to do, and stop volunteering. Then other authors lose out on the chance to share with them.
It's never fun to receive a bad review, and believe me, I've been there. I've received the painful review that pointed out every weakness in my baby, and some weaknesses I very much disagreed with. I've had reviewers start off their critiques by saying they never liked vampires or romance to begin with and I've wondered why they'd ask to volunteer my work at all. I've had criticism that I failed to capture the setting of feudal Japan when the book wasn't set in feudal Japan in the first place. I've had my frustrations with reviews that didn't seem to be fair and ones that exposed my deepest insecurities for everyone to see.
It's part of being a writer. Part of being a good writer, a gracious writer, is holding your tongue when you might want to argue or complain, because you have the humility and maturity to understand not every opinion is going to go in your favor—and that's okay.
I call upon indie and self-pubbed writers: respect your reviewers, no matter how many stars they give you. Remember to honor their time and their opinion, without letting hurt feelings make you forget your decorum. There are many, many ways to learn to cope with bad reviews and frustrating views. You surely have a friend or two, to whom you can vent your honest feelings without fear, and that's okay. When it comes to your professional response, however, practice grace and temperance, and remember reviewers are more than one or two poor reviews...they are part of our industry, some of our biggest fans, and one of the most powerful supporters we have, in our profession.
So remember to always be gracious and kind, and thankful for the time and investment they put in, regardless whether they give us praise in the end. Reviewers are part of the lifeblood of the indie and self-publishing worlds, and deserve the same liberties to love, hate, and give their honest feelings on our works.