I hate shrimp. And lobster. And fish. And crab. And well, basically anything that comes from the sea. And I have absolutely no reason for hating it.
-I’m not allergic to seafood (not really, once I got black spots on my tongue after accidentally eating shrimp, but I was fine).
-I never gorged on it as a kid and puked, thus being unable to eat it since.
-My dad wasn’t a fisherman who missed my whole childhood because he was off on a boat somewhere sailing the deep blue sea.
-I have never been attacked by a fish, pinched by a crab, or duped by a shrimp.
I just don’t like seafood. That’s all. I have no excuse. It’s just never been my thing. I can’t even watch somebody else eat it. I have to avert my eyes.
So…why am I telling you this. Because, there are books out there that are seafood. There are books out there that somebody will dip in clarified butter, relish, be thought of as the most wonderful book ever, and yet, that very same book will cause a gag reaction in others.
Here’s what I’ve learned this past year. Sometimes my book is going to be seafood. Sometimes it’s going to be loved and sometimes it’s going to cause a gag reaction (though, wow, I hope not literally). And, I’m actually okay with that, though I did have to become okay with that. It wasn’t automatic. Before my first negative review, I thought, Pppshaw, no problem. Not gonna let a bad review get me down, no way, not gonna get me down . . . But then, I’m not going to lie, when it happened it kind of stung. I think most of us are kidding ourselves if we think it’s not going to. And even though the easy solution might have been not to read reviews at all, I did. So, I had to think about how exactly I was going to feel about negative reviews. Because it’s easy to instantly be hurt/feel embarrassed/feel misunderstood/get angry when somebody doesn’t like your book, but you have to realize it’s okay. It really is. And it’s actually not personal. Even if they say your characters are morons and they don’t understand what the hell you were thinking when you wrote this. This is just how some people express themselves. Unless they’ve met you personally and hung out with you long enough to determine they hate your guts, what people say in reviews can’t really be taken personally.
I know it’s hard not to take it personally, but that would be like a fish being pissed because I don’t want to feast on him.
Or wait, not quite. More like a chef getting pissed because a customer didn’t like his dish. Yeah, let’s run with that one (this is extra fun if you picture The Muppets Swedish Chef from this point on). A chef who has worked years and years and years trying to perfect his culinary skills. Who went out and caught the fish. Who grew the herbs to season it. Who picked those herbs. Who took every care he could possibly take in preparing it. Who sharpened his knives . . . who . . . well, you get my point. And then, after all that, put it in front of someone who hates seafood.
It’s not the chef’s fault. He just woke up that day and knew he had to prepare this fish this way and when someone asked for the chef’s special, this is what they got. And some people liked it. Some loved it. And some even got the fish on a deep and personal level in a way the chef had only dreamed of.
But some people just didn’t like the fish. And of those, some will go home, write up a review and say the fish wasn’t for them and that’s all. Others might be super pissed because they thought they were getting chicken. They might even write things like they wonder if the chef was jacked up on speed and wish the chef dead (I don’t really get this but hey, um, okay. Some people are extreme). The point is, there’s just no way this fish (your book) is going to be for everyone. People have different tastes.
So, I had to realize that my book might be a seafood hater’s lobster, their sushi, their shrimp po’boy sandwich. It happens. To me, to you, to every single author out there. It will probably even be served to a vegan having a very, very, bad day. It’s okay. Make peace with it. You’ll be okay.