Why You Should Ask For a Slap in The Face

Why You Should Ask For a Slap in The Face

I’ve written this sci-fi space opera called Attack Planet. To get some early reviews, I’ve approached some reviewers on Goodreads who liked similar books. I found a couple of readers who were interested. The few that actually FINISHED my book gave me rock-solid 4-5 stars, which was awesome.

And then one reviewer showed up, and it wasn’t.

Let’s call him Jason.
Jason slashed my book apart, using the lines of the famous movie “The good, the bad, and the ugly.”
And boy, did he find lots of ugly. He discovered many writing mistakes, was confused by the weird tech slang in the beginning and scolded me for mixing X with Y chromosomes (he’s a biologist), which is only one stupid joke in the whole book. I swallowed and sweated salt reading the review.
Every new paragraph oozed more criticism.

E for egoburn.

Here I was in the cave of creativity, hammering my keyboard like I stole it, believing I was crafting THE sci-fi story of the year and then receiving backlash per excellence. I of course replied the guy, which I will reveal later down the post.

But the story didn’t stop there.

Checking out my Amazon sales profile, I saw a space opera that was listed next to mine, launched at a similar date but gathering wayyyy more reviews and sales. So what did I do? I checked the author’s Goodread’s profile and asked him for the secret sauce of his success, since it was his first book and he was an unknown like me. Well, he said he’d check out my book description and Goodread’s presence to see what I was doing wrong, if anything at all.

Warning: burn imminent.

He sent me the email the length of a page and ripped me apart like a raptor on steroids. First of all he ‘politely’ derided me for my cartoon profile on Goodreads—it’s the same I use for Twitter and everything else.
He said,
“Which pro author would use a comic picture? Unacceptable.”
Then he took apart my wannabe-cool anime and manga quotes in the Goodreads author profile, saying they made me sound like a freaking teenager.
He couldn’t believe how I was considering a pro author career with a childish presence like that.
He thought I was joking…

Mmmm.

I’m not gonna lie, the message did hurt, and I had to wait a few days for the reply so my ego burn could cool off. After five days, he replied and eased his voice, saying sorry for being so blunt.

No, sir.

I thanked him for his brutal honesty. I even agreed with almost every point he made and changed my Goodreads profile accordingly, for the better, I want to believe. I used a real photograph for my author avatar, told my life story and got rid of my wannabe-funny paragraphs, including the crappy one-liners.

Conclusion

Remember the first biologist reviewer who found the good, the bad and the mostly ugly? Well, I TOO thanked him for his honesty. He actually wrote me a message a week later, excusing himself for his brunt review. I told him I was grateful, since he was speaking from his heart with fairness (he still gave me 3 stars). I’m currently reediting the novel based on the errors he found.
It gets better—the biologist offered to be a beta reader for my next book since he liked the story and wanted me to improve it—for free!
Ya-hoo.
Lesson? Our egos are frail and don’t want to get slapped, but if you take your craft seriously and you want to improve and make more sales, that’s exactly what you need: ask for a big, fat slap.

Ask for a review. Ask for an honest opinion. Ask for improvement.

The answer will hurt your ego, but if the critic is constructive, and the people I mentioned above all were, then they can help you reach a level others only dream of being.

If you found this post useful, share it with the writers and creators in your network.

  • http://www.artofbreakingout.com/ Art of Breaking Out

    Hey Mars,

    Thanks for this. I too think a little “ego burn” is good for you, as it forces you to question why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you can make it better for the audience you serve.

    I ask for constructive reviews and get them, especially with my new Art of Breaking Out project… my ego is as frail as yours, but without honest criticism how are you going to improve?

    Love the post. Thanks for your honesty.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Craig, I always want to be believe I have a good, strong ego, but whenever I receive criticism like the one mentioned above, my skin crawls up. But I tell you what–I’m thankful for the people who took the time to criticize me constructively. It has been the single biggest growing factor in my career over the past years.

  • Xavier

    I think this is great advice for new writers too. I’m sure a lot of new writers are afraid to publish their first work in fear people won’t like it, but your post might put it in perspective: If people don’t like it, you can still learn and grow from that. :)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      yes, I still consider myself a new writer, so the feedback was very helpful, no matter how it frustrated me at first. I think the fear of negative feedback/reviews is one of the biggest fears new writers have, and the reason why they procrastinate with publishing it.

  • http://www.homepreneurhelper.com/ Sabra Kay

    Holy cow, way to take a licking and keep on ticking! I would have cried, seriously. But yes, getting honest, no-holds barred criticism can make you better. At the beginning of the post, when you mentioned that you had responded to the reviewer, I cringed at first, thinking maybe you lost your cool and argued with him about it! Good for you for thanking your critics, and opening up a door for further communication.

    Of course, these reviewer’s opinions are just that, and it’s all subjective. Not everyone is going to “get” you, or your work. That doesn’t always mean changing is the best way to respond. Of course you should fix errors and take opinions into consideration, especially if you want to broaden your audience. But, you gotta be you. I think your illustrations and unique writing style are what sets you apart, and I look forward to hearing/seeing more from you.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Don’t worry, I’m working on my style, I don’t want to sacrifice that for anything in the world. And although the writing does deter (some) people, I’ve found enough folks who loved that, together with the storytelling. My next books are (hopefully) much better than my previous and ooze with Mars Dorian-ness. I just have to be vigilant about the errors, and honest reviewers keep one’s creative ego in check;)

  • http://takisathanassiou.com/ Takis Athanassiou

    Excellent approach Dorian! I think “deconstruction” (if I interpret you correctly that is!) might be a difficult situation to handle, more than an honest feedback! But it is something that can you make better and after all you always wanted to know what your readers, thought of you (your ideas, your writings, etc!!!)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanks Takis, it was indeed difficult, because even though everyone says how vital criticism is, no one really wants to hear. It’s still bitter, bitter medicine.

      • http://takisathanassiou.com/ Takis Athanassiou

        Yes, I tend to agree Dorian, but, as trivial as it is, it is still the best method for improve yourself and your work!

  • Eric Westfall

    Ever read Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? He talks about things that gain, instead of lose, from resistance, randomness, and destruction. Your approach here seems antifragile.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      A friend of mine recommended the book to me. It’s all about getting stronger through stress/pushing, kind of like a muscle, right? Thinking about buying the book. Can you recommend it?

      • Eric Westfall

        Ya, it’s sort of about that. The way you write it makes it seem like he recommends an unpleasant process to be stronger, but he’s more talking about “when unpleasantness happens, does your system weaken, or strengthen?” A visit from your hyperactive nephew is detrimental to your fragile China set, but beneficial to your antifragile Product Safety Lab.

        I’d definitely recommend the book. Taleb has a way of challenging the status quo, with good ideas and occasional wit.

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Your strength is demonstrated clearly in how you reviewed what happened, reviewed yourself, and were unbending in your goals while willing to step outside your point of view and do what great people do, which is care about others. Keep up the greatness.

Join my insider book list

Get notified about my new sci-fi book releases, free advance copies, and cover sneak peeks.