Monday, February 27, 2017

Dealing with Negative Feedback

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Rejection letters are part of a writing career as is negative feedback from readers. You have to learn to deal with them.

          Thoughtful criticism is always helpful, if difficult, to read. Nasty comments, not so much. However, some of them are unintentionally funny.

          Even as the Assistant Editor and then Editor of a family-friendly magazine, I have seen my share of negative feedback:

We used to receive a postcard from a retired English teacher with a list of all the mistakes in each issue. She prefaced the first one with “You are the best written publication in town; however, there are still errors.” The Editor and I comforted ourselves that they all fit on a postcard and not in a letter. We also learned from her notes.

          However, the comments I really remember are the funny ones.

          A veteran wrote us when another veteran appeared on the cover. “I usually don’t read your magazine. I use it for kindling. But this cover caught my eye so I read the article and I’d like you to introduce me to that veteran.” Hmm…an insult followed by a request for a favor. Of course, we did let the veteran on the cover know about the request and they met.

There is a section in the magazine where residents can email in photos and captions about positive things like awards won, promotions, new business openings, making the Dean’s List, fundraising events, and cute kids doing fun things. Generally, there are three or four items that all fit on one page. One month, there were six items so we jumped the section to another page. A woman called me up to say the News Bit on page 8 was complete and did not jump to page 10. I explained that the section jumped to page 10. Exact wording: News Bits continued on page 10. She was not amused. I wondered how stress-free her life must be to call up and complain about that?

          A message left in voicemail: “How dare you put a criminal on the cover of the magazine! I can tell by his teeth.”

          I picked up the office phone only to hear an angry man telling me that he was reporting the magazine to the Post Office for mailing porn to his house. Stunned, I asked him why he was doing this. He was upset by a spa ad. (This ad had also appeared in three other local publications.) Not sure what a porn charge would entail, I called the magazine owner, who laughed. She called the Post Office to ask what would happen if the charge was made. The Postal clerks couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t know what would’ve happened, but the man never showed up.

          Dealing with the public can be challenging, aggravating, and hilarious. Learn what you can from the serious comments and learn to laugh at the rest—then continue writing and publishing.

Please note: If someone is really upset, diffuse the situation by asking them what they would like done to rectify the problem. Most people are not prepared for that question which stops the tirade and moves the conversation on to taking positive steps.

Word count for Feb. 19-25 was 5,198.

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