How to Best Manage Negative Reviews and Pirated Copies of Your Books

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Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

I see many writers on social media complaining about negative reviews or variations of what they perceive as bad publicity.

Although no writer yearns for bad press, pirated copies of their books or harsh criticisms, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it.

In martial arts, the student learns that you don’t block a punch because that means you take the full impact of the thrown fist. What you do, is grab the fist and pull it through, following the forward momentum of the punch and throwing the attacker off guard so that they are the ones to fall into the mud, not you.

The same is true of negative publicity and reviews. Grab that review and follow it through. You will look stronger, better, more professional and—perhaps most importantly—like you are secure enough to not worry about the small details of one bad review. Done well, you’ll even show a sense of self-deprecating humor, which most people admire as a sign of confidence and strength.

For example, during a recent concert tour that landed him in Singapore, Bruno Mars found bootlegged copies of his work at a marketplace. What were his options? Report the vendor? Make a public debacle of the illegal copies? Or…follow the punch though. He chose the latter. He tweeted about it with a photo of him smiling and posing with copies he presumably purchased.

Brilliant. He knows he can’t stop every bootleg from occurring, so why not turn it into a PR event for himself? He shows confidence in his work and success and a sense of humor. What he is saying to the world: my work is great so one or two vendors selling bootlegged copies will only get my work out further and faster and be good for me in the end anyway.

Another example is writer and director Kevin Smith whose films include the controversial religious parody Dogma. When the film was released in his hometown, a religious protest was scheduled. He heard about it. What were his options? Go and protest the protesters? Defend his work through his social media platforms or traditional media sources? What did he do? He followed through on the punch and showed up to join in on the protest with homemade signs declaring: Dogma is Dogshit. Then he turned it into part of his lecture tour. This shows Smith’s confidence and his trademark sharp sense of humor.

What do you think people remember more? The bad reviews, protests, bootlegged copies? Or your response? If you manage it well, the old adage is true: there is no such thing as bad publicity. 

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