Firstly, let me say that the fact that you have written and published a book is absolutely wonderful. I’m sure you are proud for your hard work and the hours and love you poured into your art. Your family and friends are no doubt proud because you have fulfilled one of your dreams, and you have no doubt stared at the finished product a million times with excitement and trepidation.
I can therefore empathise with the hurt and pain you feel when people speak against your book. I can understand the fear you feel when bad reviews come through, which may or may not affect sales of your book. You worked hard to get to this point, the book is your baby and in your eyes it is perfection.
What you must remember however, is that you have written with the intention of your book being read. Publishing a book only for yourself doesn’t make sense. Otherwise you would have written the story and then tucked it away, never to see the light of day again. If you only want glowing reviews of your book, then only provide the story to your friends and family. Because you know that regardless of how good or bad your book is, they are going to support you and tell you it’s great.
If readers are telling you that your book is problematic, you need to listen to them. You need to look at things from their point of view. You need to research. Minorities are becoming more and more frustrated at poor representation. You therefore need to be aware that while they are voicing their anger towards you, they are also angry with the publishing business as a whole.
You need to empathise. Think about how you would feel if you were misrepresented, continually, in every art form. Think about the frustration you would feel and the anger. Anger at the fact that it doesn’t take much these days to research and to get people from minority groups to read your book and provide feedback. Think about how if you yourself are from a minority group, how frustrating it is to never see yourself being represented at all.
Don’t get defensive and put the blame back on your readers. Own up to your mistakes and promise that you will do better. No, that’s not going to make everything better, but it’s a start. If you really, really want to do right by your readers, pull the book off the market and fix it up (if that is possible obviously). Make your book diverse, don’t appropriate cultures/religions/races, steer away from words that are going to be linked to racism/ableism/homophobia.
Learn from this experience. We are constantly learning new things that are right and wrong. Turn this into a positive and give your reviewers credit where credit is due. Appreciate the fact that they are giving you an honest review for free. Appreciate your readers, whether they liked your book or not, they went out and bought the book and paid your wages.
You are in a position to change the world, to change hearts and minds. Exploit this position in a good way . Spread love, equality and fairness. Be the one who is educating others about right and wrong, but also take constructive criticism.
Us readers are a passionate bunch. We buy your books because we respect you and want to hear what you have to say. Please do the same for us.