By now, you’ve probably seen the epic meltdown from the owners of Amy’s Baking Company that’s been making the rounds. It’s certainly one of the best exercises in Schadenfreude I’ve ever seen, so I highly recommend it. I am not much of a TV watcher (I especially am not interested in these quasi-cooking-reality-shows), but I watched this episode and afterwards joked that there should be a similar show called Book Nightmares, where an experienced industry pro with an awesome accent and short temper coaches a new author through the process of publishing their book.
I’d watch it.
Most people probably wouldn’t, but it did get me thinking that there are some lessons to be learned from that episode. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on YouTube (Part 1 | Part 2). There are a lot of cringe-worthy moments in there, but some good lessons:
Take Criticism: This hit home for me, because while I handle it better than Amy does, I don’t like it. At all. My first instinct is to get up on my hind legs and defend my work. If you want to improve in your craft, though, you have to be able to hear it and apply it. Sometimes it will be nice and sweet and make you think man that is really good advice and other times, short and terse and make you want to cry. Suck it up and listen. Don’t defer blame, don’t make excuses, listen and apply it.
Don’t Read the Comments: This whole thing started because Amy convinced herself bloggers and reviewers were out to get her. While it’s good to know what people are saying about your book (see above), it’s bad to get caught up in what every single review has to say. Some people will hate it (and others love it) for the stupidest of reasons- ignore them. Especially ignore the one-star rants about how horrible your book is (unless that’s all you get; then you have a much larger problem). So while you should pay attention to what will help you improve, don’t get caught up in the static that come with reader reviews.
Never Use Social Media Angry: We’ve all been there, writer or not. You’re mad about something and you just want to shout it to the world and oh look what a convenient platform. Don’t do it. Seriously. No one wants to read it, and while you’re friends will probably have sympathy, it’s not going to encourage any positive feedback. Lashing out will only encourage worse feedback (look at how many one-star reviews came after the show, based purely on it, written by people who had previously never heard of them).
Do What you Do Best: Apparently, she makes some fantastic desserts. Dinners… not so much. Or at least not well. Obviously, it’s very good to branch out and try new things, but when it comes to a product people are paying money for, make sure you’re giving them your best. Likewise, Ramsay criticizes the fact that they offer sixty-five menu items, in a space about the size of a deli. An excellent limited menu is better than an expansive poor one. Again, nothing wrong with branching out, but don’t get cute. More options aren’t always better, and shoehorning too much into a story, or writing stories in areas you aren’t good at can feel forced and trite- the literary equivalents of too dry and undercooked.