First and foremost, you are your own first reader. Write for yourself. Write the stories you can’t find by anyone else. Write the stories you thought were okay, but could really be better with a whole different treatment. Write what you want to read.
After that, your peer readers, your mother and your best friend probably figure in there someplace. Every writer dreams of having at least one person who is their eternal, non-creepy number one fan, who’s in love with their fiction. However, a word of caution here. For your friends and lovers, ‘What did you think of my story’ is the equivalent of asking your boyfriend if these pants make you look fat. There may not be a good answer, and the terrified silence is bound to complicate your relationship.
Ahem. Anyway. After your work is published, whether self published or otherwise, it behooves you to remember the original question in this series of five. Who are you? Who is your best self? Make sure that when (not if, but when) negative reviews or comments come your way, you respond only with your best self. How you treat negative reviewers and commenters can make or break your career.
Every writer has them. You don’t have to engage with trolls at all – it’s deeply tempting, because everybody loves conflict and writers are no exception. But remember how you’re giving gifts of yourself whenever you offer anything on social media, in person, or on your blog? Those gifts should be broadcasts, statements of who you are, not pieces of your flesh torn off and handed to jerks who want nothing more than to consume you.
You’re not writing for those people. You’re writing for people who know how to accept gifts. Giving of yourself does not mean you must give to those who demand. It’s an offering, not the cost of doing business. And in the end, tearing your flesh to appease the trolls is only teaching them that feeding that way is right for them – no boon to the trolls either, on their unfortunate life paths.
Give true gifts… to your true readers.