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Dealing with Rejection and Negative Feedback as an Author

And Using it to Make Yourself a Better Writer

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One of the toughest things about being an author is dealing with negative feedback. Mostly, these come in the form of the dreaded one-star reviews, but however they end up in your life, it’s crucial you learn how to deal with them.

And it’s tough. You’ve just bared your soul to the public, and now some anonymous stranger can rip you to shreds in thirty seconds.

The good news is, everyone gets bad reviews. Everyone will get the occasional damning email (I was once accused of being a sociopath by someone I’ve never met – that was a fun day).

So, you’re not alone. Dealing with rejection, negative comments, and bad reviews is an essential skill. At first, you’ll take everything personally. One bad review will negate dozens of great ones. It’ll make you doubt yourself. It might even make you want to give up.

But, like any other skill, dealing with bad reviews, criticism, and negative feedback can be taught and it can be learned. And, eventually, you’ll see how it can actually help you become a better writer.

Today, we’re hearing from Thomas Behr with three actionable tips you can use to arm yourself against that unavoidable downside of being an author.

Enjoy…

Dealing with Rejection and Negative Feedback as a Writer

By Thomas Behr, Ph.D.

Author of The Tao of Sales: The Easy Way to Sell in Tough Tones, Blood Brothers: Courage and Treachery on the Shores of Tripoli, The Life and Times of Miller Bugliari (America’s Most Successful H.S. Soccer Coach), and The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age.

Here’s the good news:

The continuously expanding, evolving market of self-publishing, combined with the emergence of easily-accessible expert resources like “Your First 10,000 Readers,” has dramatically and irrevocably changed the book business.

A world of people who only dreamed of becoming authors can now get published.

What’s the bad news? If you want to become a published author, you’re going to have to learn to live with rejection and negative feedback. And that’s especially true if your goal is to use your writing to launch a profitable, growing, and sustainable business. If you’re selling, rejection comes with the territory.

In this article I’ll share 3 critical skills about how to deal with inevitable rejection and negative feedback.

 

 

Let’s Face It:

Negative feedback and rejection hurts. It’s not “just business.” Criticism is personal. Deeply personal. It’s like someone looks at your kid and says, “Wow! What an ugly, badly-behaved child! It must be terribly embarrassing to take him out in public!”

I ran my own very successful sales, marketing, and leadership consulting practice for 35 years. Our clients included Fortune 500 global corporations and small entrepreneurial companies at all stages of the business enterprise life cycle. That’s decades of pitches and sales calls.

I can’t imagine trying to count up the number of times potential clients said “No thanks” – if they bothered to respond at all.

I’ve published four well-reviewed books to date – two conventionally published, two self-published –am finishing my fifth and planning my sixth. My first book, published in 1997, The Tao of Sales, was rejected by over 30 literary agents before it finally got picked up and sold to Penguin Books. One of the first Amazon reader reviewers gave the book a single star and wrote: “Another variation on the same old theme. Has this man ever spoken to a customer?”

“The rejection slip is very hard to take on an empty stomach and there are times when I would sit at that old wooden table and read one of those cold slips that had been attached to a story I had loved and worked on very hard and believed in, and I couldn’t help crying.” Ernest Hemingway

So how do you build the inner strength to need as a published author/entrepreneur?

 

 

1. Don’t run from rejection or pretend you don’t care. Embrace it.

It’s counterintuitive — or just plain weird — to embrace what you fear. It’s also essential. “Fear” is the subconscious mind’s underhanded trick to keep us from exposing ourselves to emotional hurt. It shows up in our conscious minds as “reasonable” excuses to procrastinate, to spend time on safer, non-essential “busy work” (“I’m really busy today; I’ll get back to writing tomorrow”), to defer tough decisions (“I need to think more about this”), and especially, to give up (“Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a writer”).

The best alternative to fear is disciplined work. “OK. I’m feeling a little frustrated and unloved right now. But my job today is to write another 1,000 words.”

When it comes to discipline, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. There are lots of good strategies available on lIne–for example, right here on this blog.

Sometimes, subconscious fear works really hard to keep us from stepping outside our comfort zone. If this is an issue for you, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence still provides the best complex answer for mastering irrational fear. For simpler, easier, and very helpful insights, Cody Smith has a new book coming out shortly, Getting COMFY: Your Morning Guide to Daily Happiness. Look for it when it comes out. For a deeper dive, try The Principle of Onness, by Russell Gibbs.

Bottom line: Writing is like running a marathon. You know before you start that you will run into pain. You will hit the wall. But you keep running anyway.

 

 

2. Never stop working to become a better writer.

The antidote to rejection is approval. But real approval has to be earned. If your writing is amateurishly sloppy, disorganized, self-indulgent, or just plain trivial, people aren’t going to like it. If they comment at all on your writing–if they even read your book — they’ll let you know they don’t like it.

There’s a huge payoff to developing the skills of a good writer: more readers, more sales, accelerated business growth, and increased self-confidence. The self-confidence that comes from becoming a competent writer is your best defense against the fear of rejection.

Becoming the best writer you can be is a lifelong commitment towards a goal you’ll never reach. Writing is both a craft and an art. My favorite resource on writing tips is Donald Maass: http://maassagency.com/books-on-writing/ and also the free tips over at the blog of NY Book Editors.

Also, if you’re writing genre fiction, like Nick does, his approach and guidelines are as good as you’ll ever need. Follow their recommendations. Here are mine:

Learn how to write concise declarative sentences. Write what you know about ( and keep learning so you always have more to write about). Write what you care passionately about. Keep it conversational and simple. Keep it honest: a writer’s job is to communicate his or her truth. Write with a flowing pen; edit with a scalpel.

No matter what kind of book you write, plan it out before you start writing. The sources I’ve listed above lay out ways to do that.

Start with yourself. Before you write each day, edit what you’ve done previously–at least the past two to three day’s work. Every week, I run each manuscript I’m working on through the free version of Grammerly.com. Every two weeks I go back to the beginning with fresh eyes, read word by word, and tighten, tighten, tighten.

Invest money in a good editor. The longer you work on a book, the more blind you will become to its flaws.

Assemble a small team of beta readers. They should be people you trust. Empower them to be explicitly, relentlessly truthful. But wait to engage beta readers until you have written something worth the effort and love you expect from them.

Join and contribute to networks of writers. Your network can include experts in related fields. If you go that route, remember that being a valued member of a community is all about sharing. Give more to the people whose support you seek — that has value to them — than you ask for in return. Always.

 

 

3. Treat feedback as feedback, not personal criticism

Some of us are born and grow up with a strong sense of self-confidence; others with more destructive self-doubt and subconscious fear. Wherever you are is where you start. But confidence is a learnable skill. How do you know you need to get tough with your own lack of self-confidence? When you get angry — or discouraged — about negative feedback. “How can they say that about me?” That’s the wrong question.

Do you have a little voice inside you that whispers, “I want people to like me?” That thought, by itself, is poison to a writer.

Replace it with “I want to create as much value for readers as possible.” Shift the focus from yourself to your readers.

Feedback is a statement by one person about your writing; it’s not a character assessment of you unless you make it that. Use the feedback you think helpful; discard the feedback that isn’t helpful. Key question: not “What did he or she say about my writing?” but “How can I use this insight to make myself a better writer?”

And notice the really cool paradox. The more skill you develop and the better writer you become, the easier it is to ask “What can I change to make this even better writing?”

Some people just won’t respond to what you write. Some people are just “haters.” That’s OK. That’s who they are; not who you are. Remember the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: “The people who mind (who you are and what you do) don’t matter. The people who matter don’t mind.”

Tom Behr is the Author of The Tao of Sales: The Easy Way to Sell in Tough Times, Blood Brothers: Courage and Treachery on the Shores of Tripoli, The Life and Times of Miller Bugliari (America’s Most Successful H.S. Soccer Coach), and The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age. Find out more here.

 

 

 

And now we want to hear from you: Have you ever had to deal with rejection? Do you have any tips for getting past it? Leave a comment!

 

 

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