Monday’s Friend: Carolyn Evans-Dean

Today I am pleased to welcome writer Carolyn Evans-Dean to the blog.

“Excuse me for saying so, but your baby is ugly.”
By Carolyn Evans-Dean

“Which one is yours?”

A grin spread across my face. “It’s the one in the center.”

Bystander CoverHe leaned forward and adjusted his glasses. “Excuse me for saying so, but your baby is ugly.”

I began to sputter as the man pointed to my creation.

“It’s absolutely hideous!” Out of nowhere a little old lady with a walking cane had materialized to voice her opinion.

We’d been peering through a window at the little blessings that resided within. It was inconceivable that someone would say those words to a woman in such an emotional state! I’d just given birth to something most wonderful and was not under the influence of any drugs to dull the pain inflicted by rude comments. My perfectly-formatted bundle of joy was featured prominently in the display window of a well-known bookstore.  While I struggled to assemble a scathing reply, I glanced down and realized that with the exception of a pair of tennis shoes, I was naked. Then I woke up.

Variations of that scenario played out in my head for months as I edited my first work of fiction.  The process was labor intensive and fraught with tension. What if no one bought it? What if no one liked it? What if someone thought that my brainchild was ugly? I’d already spent more time cultivating the story in my mind than a human mama spends nurturing a child in the womb. How do authors send their books out into the literary world for others to critique?

Fear of rejection keeps a lot of fiction authors from sharing their talents with the world. They’re always willing to accept the accolades, but not everyone is mentally prepared to receive their first negative critique. A bad review can actually be a blessing and should trigger a few moments of reflection. This blog post is focused on works of fiction, but much of it could be applied to non-fiction, too.  Below, you’ll find a series of questions that can assist in evaluating a negative book review.

Did the reviewer bother to read the book?

This is usually a knee-jerk reaction to a bad review and may or may not be productive. It is important to examine whether or not you set up an unreasonable expectation in the reader’s mind, though.  If your book is listed in a genre that doesn’t quite fit, then the reader might have been expecting something a bit more mainstream within the genre. If the blurb or book description neglected to provide enough information, then that could be problematic, too. Experience has taught some readers to expect a certain outcome in the storyline. If your story deviates from the norm, it can be helpful to mention that without giving the plot away.

Accept the fact that your book will not appeal to every reader. In fact, I can’t think of a solitary writer that is enjoyed by everyone. It is important to identify your potential audience and market to them, rather than attempt to sell your book to the wrong crowd. Many bad reviews stem from attracting the wrong customer through poor marketing. Marketing 101 teaches that an unhappy customer is far more likely to leave a review than a happy one.

Is there any truth to the criticism?

This is a question that you ask yourself once you’ve calmed down. Compare the review to your manuscript.  If you’re not a very good speller or you struggle to find an appropriate adjective to describe a scene, then this might be an appropriate time for you to assess your abilities and create a path to improve your skills or hire a professional to perform those functions. In the digital age of e-books, you may even have an opportunity to make corrections and resubmit the book in just a few steps.

Is there something that you should have done differently?

Of course! Hindsight is always 20/20 and we will always discover things that can be improved upon. A negative review can highlight flaws in your writing process. If story continuity is an issue, then creating an outline can help to ensure that the plot is advanced in a logical manner, without backtracking and lapses.  For a complex storyline with lots of characters, creating your own wiki can be helpful. I like to write an entire background biography for each character. Characters should be “real” to their creators and invade everyday thoughts as though they were old friends and well known foes. Ask yourself, “What would he/she do in this situation?”

Can you shake off the criticism and write again?

If the majority of the reviews are positive and you have a few blighting comments, then learn what you can from the critics…and move on.

Be honest in your assessment. Does the majority of your work receive scathing reviews?  Then it might be prudent to scale back. If you are writing because you fancy yourself to be the next great novelist, you might want to reconsider your career ambitions or redouble your efforts to improve your skill.

If you are writing simply because you enjoy writing, then you should continue to do so. Your only fans might be family members who receive a copy of your latest book as a holiday gift. They are still eagerly awaiting the next publication from their relative, the writer.

So, when do you stop writing? It is only acceptable to stop writing if it brings no personal joy or if it interferes with something that is more important in your life.

Did the reviewer even bother to read the <censored> book?!?!

I thought that I’d already covered this one, but find that there is more to say on the subject. Disgruntled readers aside, there are some people that are just mean-spirited. They will kick puppies and take candy from toddlers. They will also tell you that your baby is ugly. Not because it is true, but because they can. I imagine that they find reasons to complain about many things. Don’t take it personally. Some reviewers make it obvious that they never read the book and that they generally hate everything good in life…including your book!

Sooo… How do you handle negative book reviews?

Carolyn Evans-Dean Headshot-1

About the Author

Born in the snowbelt of NY State, Carolyn Evans-Dean was raised in a small town where being prepared for emergencies was a way of life. After moving to the city, she shed her preparedness mindset and embraced the easy access lifestyle of 24 hour grocery stores and fast food…until a regional disaster caused her to re-examine her choices and high-tail it back to the sanity and security of preparedness.

Along the way, she decided to share the sensible preparedness and homesteading mindset with other women in the form of a series of novels about a small town that is floundering after devastating terrorist attacks rock the United States.

Bystander: A Tale of the End of the World as SHE Knew It! and the sequel Christmas In Bystander are both available at or on her own website

She enjoys channeling the voices in her head to bring a unique and diverse cast of characters to her readers.

Connect with Carolyn:

Twitter: @BystanderBooks




2 comments so far

  1. Theresa Franklin on

    I loved the comparison to an ugly baby. The questions were very helpful in dealing with less than positive reviews. Thanks for sharing.

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