First I would like to start with, Are you an author or a brand? The answer is both. Everything you put out as an author reflects on all of your future and past work. Responding to criticism as an author is the kiss of death. See here. You not only represent your writing, but your platform. Regardless of what your subject matter, it all ties back to perception. In the wild west format of the internet, You need to defend what is most precious to you. Having said this, you are also representative to your current work and all other work you will put out.
There are tons of articles showing you what you should or shouldn’t do. Here, I am just going to tell you to remain faithful to your platform. If your platform is child abuse and sexual abuse, and someone decides to attack those topics, then you are free to respond in a non-threatening, conversation building way. If you respond with the heat and emotion the user comment created, you are now playing their game. Many of the internet trolls view it that way. They feel intellectually superior and will try to use that to draw you into a fight they have practiced endlessly. Do what you do best, investigate, research and digest the information.
If the comment or review of your book is filled with emotional keywords and curse words, remove those from their sentences and see what is left. Many times I have found small kernels of truth in what they are saying, though it is no way gives them the right to say them in that fashion.
If they are attacking you personally, remember they don’t know you at all. They formed their opinion from your bio, your topic, and most often your blurb. They didn’t spend time researching, reading, or thinking about what you wrote. They acted on a gut reaction to a single sentence, or to the fact that you are gay, or that you are a woman, the list goes on. Hate is most often curated from preconceived notions. If it is a personal attack, ALWAYS blow it off and forget about it. I know writers are a more sensitive bunch as a rule. We have enough self-doubt as it is. The last thing we need is anyone adding to it.
Now to the meat of the article. How do you get yourself prepared for the negative reviews, comments, etc… (Disclaimer: this is what worked for me, it may not work for you but it never hurts to try.) The two places I was guaranteed to be blasted, cursed, deal with negative responses for saying the sky is blue, and so on was playing games (Call of Duty and Battlefield) with my headphones turned on and chat open, and Reddit. I could post something you would think was universally accepted on Reddit only to see someone come up and leave a comment about ‘how stupid I was, and that comma was in the wrong place, and OMG how could you believe the grass is green all the time and everywhere in the world.’ You may have only said the grass is green but in their minds it became an all encompassing statement. (this argument actually happened when I was quoting a line from a movie) I tried every method to appeal to them. None of it worked.
I wrote a story about someone being addicted to crack online. I felt confident that everyone could agree the two basic takes from the story. Crack is bad for humans, and drug behaviour does not always make sense. I was very wrong. I had several trolls point out that not everyone on crack acted in exactly the same way as the character in my story and drug behaviour was perfectly understandable to anyone with half a brain. This was the point I decided to walk away from the keyboard and take a higher route.
I have also grown use to the eleven years old’s cursing, with their homophobic rants and general anger filled diatribes because I had a lower kill/death ration than them.
Both of these might begin to get you prepared for the negative responses to your book. If you dream of it being universally loved, don’t hold your breath. There isn’t an author, living or dead, that is universally loved. Both of these ways have taught me to have a bit of a thicker skin. I know my book isn’t perfect, nothing is. I know my book will incense people, even children’s picture books do that. I have instead chosen to find what (if any) truth there is to their claims minus the cursing and name calling and use it to build on my knowledge and ability for the next book.
At the end of the day, only you control you. As a writer it is your job to rise above and find what really didn’t resonate with people and do what you can to correct it for the next book.
Just for the record, I have received equal hate for being the top of the leader board on Battlefield. The argument then was, I was a show off and if I risked a few more deaths maybe our team would have won because my dying was directly related to my level of teamwork. Don’t even get me started on how much hate and misogyny female players have to deal with from the prepubescent hate mongers.
I am not perfect, some days a negative review will send me into a chocolate ice cream covered crying heap. I am better at dealing with it than I used to be, and that is the real point. Taking steps and learning to become a better person and a better writer.
I thought I would end with one of my favorite comics.