Is fear of judgement holding you back?
I’ve lost count of the number of entrepreneurs and professionals who claim to have a good book in them, who know how powerful having a book could be, and who want the lead generation and positioning that being an author will bring. All those juicy benefits for themselves and their business.
But, of the ones I know, people who contact me to ask for advice, less than 10% of them get around to starting on their manuscript and only a tiny percentage of those actually finish – probably under 1%.
Of the reasons they give, most can be traced back to one thing -- simply put, but often disguised as something else, it's fear.
Procrastination, perfectionism, and lack of time all sound like commendable reasons for not 'getting around to the book'. I hear them all the time. But underneath there is more often an underlying fear. Fear of publication – and even fear of success.
It's totally normal
It's the reason why restaurateurs and hoteliers fear and sometimes loathe sites TripAdvisor. Despite the power of the user review, there is also fear of judgement. Despite the extra rooms and tables they could fill due to good reviews on TripAdvisor, they fear the power of a bad review to send business in the other direction.
And yes, there are definitely some people who take pleasure in criticism, and who will write a bad review just for the hell of it. They are (at best) being unreasonable; and (at worst) being intentionally harmful.
And for authors it's the same.
Your work isn't for everyone
You work hard, do your best, and hope that people will recognise your intentions behind the book. You aren't trying to meet everyone's (often unreasonable) expectations. You just want to put your work out into the world to help those people who are a right fit for you.
And then -- the worst can happen. Bad reviews pouring scorn on your life’s work. It’s unfair and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This is a reality for any author who achieves a modicum of success.
You're putting your work out there for the world to see and judge -- and it's not just your target audience, that magical group of people who want and will appreciate your work -- oh no, anyone can see it. And anyone can sit in judgement.
The people who don’t connect with you and your work are unlikely to love it.
It's like restaurants again. We don't want an expensive meal, then it's easy to criticise the restaurateur as a 'show-off' or the venue as 'over-priced'. Yet, this is the very reason why bad reviews don’t have to be feared. They are merely signposts to people who might not like your offering anyway of what it is that they should stay away from.
Restaurateurs and hoteliers have suffered at the hands of bad reviews on TripAdvisor; authors and publishers have suffered at the hands of bad reviews on Amazon. But many have gained far more than they will ever lose. Because bad reviews also tell your target audience what it is about your book that they will like.
'Simplistic' can also mean 'accessible'. 'Over-complicated' can mean 'interesting and thoughtful'. 'Populist guff' can mean 'a rip-roaring page-turner'.
Ultimately your reviews belong to your readers. They are there for them to understand what your book is about and who it is intended for. A reader's opinion may not match your opinion -- but you have to let it go.
Take pride in your work
If you publish, and you get some bad book reviews, be proud!
That's a sign that you have reached out beyond your inner circle of people who already love you. People who don't know you have bought -- and maybe not loved your work. That's simply a signpost to other new readers that will draw in the right people and put off the wrong people. You want that signpost because the last thing you want is more of the wrong readers!
Give your readers the benefit of having the intelligence to see through an honest (albeit poor) review. A vegetarian complaining about a steakhouse on TripAdvisor won’t put off meat eaters. A vegetarian complaining about the cleanliness of the place might be worth more attention though.
If your book is well researched, written, edited, and formatted your reviews will merely reflect the tastes of your readers rather than your book’s quality – so you have nothing to fear.
An experienced book strategist can help you not just turn your expertise into a book but help you over things like fear of bad reviews and expand your vision for what is possible.
It happens to everyone -- don't let it hold you back!
And if you're still not convinced then go to Amazon and browse the reviews of your favourite bestselling author.
J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steele, and all other top sellers have their fair share of 1-star reviews on Amazon. The 5-star reviews usually far outnumber them but the 140 1-star reviews on the first Harry Potter book (on Amazon.com) would probably sting J.K. Rowling (if she even looked at them...) until she added up the 8,388 5-star and 978 4-star reviews and then took a quick glance at her bank balance!
According to Kindle Sales Rank Calculator she is making something in the region of $8,000 every day from that one book. I’ll wager the 1-star reviews don’t cause her any loss of sleep.
Take a leaf from those who have been before you — put your work out there and let go of the public’s reaction to it.
This post was written by bestselling author, and course creator, Michelle Campbell-Scott.
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