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My first book is finally out. While it is getting mostly favorable feedback, there are a few readers who gave it very negative reviews. I understand that my book is not an apple pie, and it couldn't and wouldn't be liked by all. If the reader explains what and why s/he doesn't like about the book, I am absolutely content with that. I also have no problems with a reader giving my book 1 star — not to their taste, it happens. But the statements like "it is a senseless crap" really hurt me. How does one get through such feedback?

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    Related: writing.stackexchange.com/q/17731/23927
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 9 at 10:09
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    My suggestion would be to resist the temptation to look at unfiltered feedback yourself. Have a friend filter out constructive feedback and positive feedback, and only read that.
    – towr
    Jun 9 at 11:18
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    “The only things that have a chance of pleasing twenty-five to fifty million different people are those that carefully avoid giving any occasion for offence. Anything that will add spice or flavour will offend someone and lose.” [Isaac Asimov, The Tragedy Of The Moon]
    – gidds
    Jun 9 at 22:07
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    For the record, I don't like apple pie ;)
    – Josh Part
    Jun 9 at 22:14

4 Answers 4

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You just have to change your mindset; that can take some time and diligence.

First, the world is full of rude jerks, is there any reason to believe them or their criticism? Especially if they provide no details. If I don't like something, I am most likely going to tell you and tell you where I started having problems. A generalizing like "senseless crap" requires explanation. Maybe your plot or character reactions are unrealistic, or contrived -- Or maybe the reader just doesn't like a realistic scenario. Maybe they don't think a woman scientist is "realistic", or an inter-racial marriage is "realistic", or a gay war hero is realistic. Without more information, their opinion is useless, and obviously intentionally rude.

Typically when people ARE intentionally rude, they just have a chunk of toxic sadism stuck in their brain that likes hurting people. It gives them a little thrill. It can be part of an inferiority complex; they want to take people down a peg to be at their level. Hurting people is the point, it makes them feel better about themselves.

Don't respond to the rude and hurtful, if you let that bother you, that is their reward.

On the other hand, people that are honest and tell you they don't like it, or couldn't finish it, can be providing you feedback, and indirectly the lessons you need to improve.

I'm happy if people tell me "I got bored and skipped ahead in that train scene."

Okay, I wrote something I thought was good, but it doesn't have enough conflict or action to make it interesting. That is something I need to fix, and recognize so I don't need a reader to point it out to me.

It doesn't have to be "constructive criticism" or have any suggestions attached. Just their reactions is fine.

"I got really uncomfortable with the sex scenes."

Alright, I need to get better at that, or cut it out.

"I got lost in this fight, I couldn't tell who was doing what."

I've work to do.

"I don't understand why Mary finally gives in to David, that did not make any sense, and then the story seemed kind of fake."

I may need a rewrite of Mary for "giving in" to make sense, or if I love Mary as she is, maybe that really is out of character and unjustifiable. Maybe I took a plot shortcut I shouldn't have.

And so on. If it is possible, look at negative feedback as an opportunity to get better.

If it is not possible, just remember there are cruel sadists in the world that enjoy hurting people, and learn to dismiss them. It isn't you or your writing, at the least bit of displeasure or personal disagreement they pick up the Howitzer and start blasting. Don't let them hurt you. Don't give them what they want.

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    This is good advice. I'd just like to add that it's possible to get used to getting negative feedback. You can do this in writers groups. But you can also do it more generally by engaging with other people in different things, such as discussing issues and debating people, or even posting on StackExchange and reading your replies. Any engagement with the wider public helps identify the assholes and learn how to ignore them.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 14 at 13:02
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Excellent question. Keep in mind: there will always be someone who likes your book, and there will always be someone who dislikes your book. This is an unfortunate fact. The best way to deal with it is to remind yourself why you wrote the book. Remember that it is more important to have finished it to have satisfied everyone with it.

Another thing to think about: Only two out of a hundred books is actually published in some form or other. The fact that you were one of the two is something never to forget. Pat yourself on the back--you finished a whole book!

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Don't take it too seriously. If possible, don't read the comments. It is quite normal that a work of art is liked by some, but not all, no matter how good it is.

I myself am a great fan of Franz Kafka, and his writings belong to world literature. Yet some of my friends (educated people who like reading) would say that his works are crap. For them, his works are too dark and obscure.

On the other hand, I once read a novel by Peter Handke and couldn't make any sense of the text. For me, it was pure nonsense, and I haven't read anything else by him since then. But in 2019, he got a nobel prize for his works.

It's the same in other arts. Some people like twelve-tone music; for others, it is simply noise. Some people like abstract paintings, others prefer realistic works.

You have already received a lot. You have published your first book, and there are people who like it. That's a lot, and it tells you that your book can't be too bad.

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Unfortunately some people are rude and have completely unrealistic expectations of the world. Or have zero understanding of the hard work and effort you've put in. Or see everything that doesn't suit their taste as rubbish.

A good rule of thumb is to give reader feedback exactly as much weight as the effort they've put into providing it to you. One liners can be safely ignored for the most part.

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