A negative comment about the Flippo book I wrote—what? Yes, and I’m proud of how I handled it!
Last week, at Hot August Nights Plus Square Dance Weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a woman hung around my book table Saturday afternoon, especially looking at the table with the biography I wrote about Marshall Flippo. So, I walked over to see if she had bought his biography.
When asked if she bought it, she replied, “Yes.” Nothing more.
So I asked her eagerly, “What did you think?” I’ve had such a great response from readers in the square dance world, I wasn’t prepared.
“It wasn’t written very well.”
Surprised, I said, “I’m the author.” She stared at me, unblinking, like I was from another planet. That shocked me she didn’t know I wrote the book. My picture is on the book—I haven’t changed that much since 2020. I have an unusual name—come on! Her partner joined us and I asked him if he had bought a copy. He had helped me with information on one specific event in the book.
He said, “Not yet,” which surprised me.
I said, “Well, your partner has.”
Then he said, “I’ll read hers.”
As this conversation continued with no more reference about the Flippo book, I stayed calm and collected which is unusual for me. Usually, I react—get defensive, get angry— but I didn’t. I listened to my internal dialogue: “Look at the cover. Look at the book awards.” But then I realized I didn’t need to defend it. I watched her stand there, offering no explanation, so, I circled back to the book.
“So, what was wrong with Flippo’s biography?” I asked sincerely wanting her feedback.
“It was in pieces—scattered” is all she said—nothing more. I waited for her explanation. She looked away and had nothing else to say. We danced together for the rest of the weekend and I quickly forgot this incident. But on Tuesday morning, I retold it to my book coaching group, and it generated a lot of discussion. My book coach shared his wisdom, “Take neither the positive 5-star review or the negative 1-star review to heart. Stay somewhere in the middle.”
As a writer, I know not everyone will like my books. I’ve written six books in a variety of genres on less popular topics like country living, grief and losing your parents, surviving the pandemic and the biography of a square dance caller. These are not hot topics—no sex, drug and rock ‘n roll, yet I’m proud of each book.
A friend of ours told Lin I should write more steamy books and they’d sell better—sorry, folks! Not my topic!
So, the take away from this incident for me:
- I kept my composure when she made her comment and then asked a probing question to try to get clarifying information to help me as a writer.
- When I first released the Flippo book in 2020, someone emailed there were too many typo errors in it and she wouldn’t buy it. I had worked hard on it for three years. I had it professional edited, and this comment crushed me, so I didn’t respond. With some distance and time from it, I realized she probably had just thumbed through it and didn’t realize I had used Flippo’s Texas accent in his responses, so it would like look words were spelled incorrectly. But since then, I have lost her email, so I couldn’t explain or ask her any questions. I just reacted—hurt!
- I realized how blessed I’ve been over the last nine years to receive so much positive feedback about each of my books
Obviously, this isn’t the first negative I’ve gotten nor will it be the last, but I felt it worthy to write about.
For readers, I have some suggestions:
- Review any book you read and you don’t have to give every book a 5-star review
- Email the author with your thoughts about the positives and negatives so we can have a personal exchange and possibly grow from the experience
Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion. I love each of my books in a different way—they’re my babies—yet the Flippo biography has a special place in my heart. I felt it a privilege to spend the hours interviewing Flip and then felt proud of the job I did in writing it. By writing it, I recorded and honored his place in square dance history.
In fact, if you are one of the people who reviewed this book on Amazon, thanks so much. If you bought it and haven’t reviewed it, now is the time to do so!
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Pre-order my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming and Humorous Christmas Memoir, ahead of the Christmas rush. To be released in September for your early shopping pleasure!
Listen to my twenty-three minute interview on Masterfesto Media Podcast with Isabel Elias about my book Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6uRX60sDFWbejTg7rZAiLn
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