The thing about writing is that quality is subjective. The longer you’ve been publishing books and receiving feedback, the easier it is to remember this. But for newer writers, it’s not so easy. I was in a writing group recently where a significant number of authors felt like they had to apologize to readers for writing their books the way they did.
I have one question for you, the writer, when you’re confronted with a random person who didn’t like your book:
Do you love the book?
If so, keep the book as it is, and don’t apologize for writing it.
You are under no obligation to write a book just to please a certain kind of person. This is your book. You are the creator. You get the final say in what happens in it and what doesn’t happen in it. I am tired of watching writers berate themselves for writing stuff someone doesn’t like. So what if that person doesn’t like the book? It’s not their book. They didn’t write it. They can go find another book by another writer that they can enjoy instead. Or, if they are that picky, they can write their own book. There is no reason for you to rewrite your book to satisfy this person. Also, there is no reason to stop writing because of this person.
That person’s problem with your book is their problem. It is not your problem. You are not responsible for how someone feels when they read your book. What they think of the book says way more about them than it does you. Yes, I know that some readers are mean. They will nitpick at every little thing, and they don’t mind being vocal about their grievances. It hurts. I used to answer these readers’ comments, but in the end, it turned into a total waste of time. I never won anyone over by addressing their grievances. I never won anyone over by rewriting my book to satisfy them. (I did this back in 2011 or 2012.) I think all I did was embolden these particular group of readers to go around criticizing other writers. In my opinion, you’re better off ignoring these people. Would you let someone into your house who is criticizing you? No. Your email inbox, your social media page, and your blog/website are your personal “homes” on the internet. You have a right to only answer positive people.
“Oh, but Ruth, what if their complaint is valid?” you might be asking.
Their complaint is not valid IF you love the book the way it already is. Your opinion is the only one that matters. You’re the author. You’re the one invested in this book. You put in your time, your emotions, and your talent into this book. This other person contributed nothing to its creation. They didn’t pay for the cover. They didn’t pay for the editor. They didn’t format the thing for you. They didn’t publish it. They’re not taking the risk it won’t sell. Let the person’s opinion go. Focus on what you enjoy about the book instead. If you love the book, it has value.
The only reason you should change anything in your book is because YOU want to change something.
I don’t know if this post comes off as harsh. I know how badly writers (esp. new ones) want to please the reader. No one wants to be told their book is a piece of crap. No one wants to get that 1-star review. But if we were to write the book that made that particular person happy, it would be a totally different book. It wouldn’t be the book we love. Books have meaning to the people who create them. That meaning is more important than money, and it’s more important than someone’s approval.