Coping With Negative Reviews

It had to happen. This is a subject I’ve been thinking about creating a post on for awhile but I’ve been avoiding it but recent communications with some authors I know have shown me that I need to just do it. There are a lot of articles and chapters in books on writing in regards to this. The fact is, it is a subject that ALL authors must face sooner or later so you might as well face it now.
First of all, for those of you who haven’t received a negative review yet and are concerned about getting them, I don’t blame you. No matter how much positive feedback you’ve gotten, it sucks royally to watch as someone rips your work apart (and some can be extremely vicious). I’ve opened my email many times to see a message from a reviewer and my heart rate jumps up as I open it, only to breathe a sigh of relief when the review is a positive one.

I also remember the first email I opened from a reviewer who hated my book. It was one of the most scathing emails I’ve ever received in my life. This reviewer was genuinely angry at me for writing what I wrote and didn’t have a single good thing to say about it. Then I got my first posted negative review. Yes, it sucked to read that. So again, I feel your pain. I understand the fear. I understand being hurt when that review finally comes (and it will).

Now, it’s time to clear your head. In my case, I have received a lot of good reviews. I had a blogger actually write that she wanted to buy the book for everyone because she loved it so much. I’ve had numerous positive reviews indicate opinions of the same aspects that the negative ones did, but only they were diametrically opposite. Funny enough, I received a “neutral” review from a blogger who liked the story but hated my writing style whereas a radio host specifically said that she felt my writing was so polished it was like reading a book from a major publisher.

So, why am I mentioning the parts of the marketing process that I would love to just forget? Because when I tell people to “suck it up cupcake”, I want it understood that I am not trying to be harsh or mean. Us authors are usually quite attached to our writing and it is easy to take it personally when someone doesn’t like it. Now granted, sometimes reviews end up being personal attacks on an author, which is ridiculous but it does happen. But, the reality is, people are entitled to review a book and they are entitled to their opinion. If your book sees anything even close to the distribution level you probably want, you WILL get some negative reviews. It’s inevitable. If you don’t want a negative review, don’t publish. It’s that simple.

If you don’t believe me, just go into Amazon and check out some of the top selling books out there. For instance, Twilight. Of the top 3 reviews, two of them are 1 star reviews (at least they were the last time I saw it). Actually, there are literally hundreds of negative reviews, some questioning the integrity of society for ascending the book to popularity. Yet, all four of these volumes have sold millions of copies throughout the world and have been translated into dozens of languages. Even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, at the time of this writing, has 76 one star reviews. No one can please everyone.

Keeping all of the above in mind, when I see an author start throwing accusations against other authors out there for fowl play and the like, simply because they received mostly negative or no reviews and the other authors received mostly good reviews, I just have to shake my head. It’s kind of like that author who posted a multi-page response to a negative review on a blog, which subsequently went viral and caused a massive boycott of her writing. This is real life. No one cares if you’re insulted by a review. That’s not insensitive, it’s true. If I wrote a whining blog about the negative reviews I’ve gotten, people would probably boycott my writing too.

The fact is, if you’ve written a halfway decent book (it doesn’t even have to be super great), you’ll probably get some good reviews. And let’s be realistic. If you have beta readers and an editor and you actually take their advice, you’ll probably be fine. If you just jump in pig-headed and think your rough draft is worthy of print, you will probably be one of these people who gets slammed constantly. That’s not the fault of successful authors.

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26 thoughts on “Coping With Negative Reviews

  1. I’ve had some fairly good reviews and I’ve also had some blinding bad ones. If someone doesn’t rate my work then that’s his/her opinion but if another critic goes out of their way to be insulting and negative I usually ignore it, especially if they don’t bother to tell me why and specifically which parts of the book they don’t like.

    • Exactly Roger. I know when I am shopping for books (or anything), and I see a negative review that is just insulting, I ignore it or sometimes I comment that it would be nice to actually see some reason why the review was given. “This sucks” does not constitute a review.

  2. I’ve had bad reviews–on books published by a “Big Six” publisher, for which I had a top-notch editor and copyeditor. Nobody’s immune.

    I think when an author throws out accusations because all of their reviews are bad and other authors are getting good reviews, it’s because they simply can’t accept the possibility (fact?) that what they’ve put out there is simply that bad. It has to be someone else’s fault–in their eyes, anyway.

    As much as I would hate to give a bad review to someone I know and like personally, it’s risky for any author to give a good review to a bad book. Our readers look to us to make recommendations. If they like our books, they assume they will also like any we endorse. I made the mistake–once–of giving a good review, albeit brief, to a poorly-written book because I liked the author personally. For the record, I did retract that review. It was a good thing I did. When I got a handful of emails stating variations of “I bought that piece of crap because you said it was good,” I realized this was something I could never do again.

    • Very true Norma. If I don’t feel like I can give something a good review, I just don’t review it (with the exception of an anti-virus program I got through Amazon Vine that almost wrecked my computer).

  3. You can’t please everyone. And there are always those nitpickers who will find something wrong with anything. I think as long as the book is selling and you are getting good reviews, you are doing something right.

  4. Everyone will get bad reviews at one point or another, like you say. It’s impossible to please every reader. Still, if we can take something positive away from a negative review rather then dwell on it, we’re better off as writers and as people for it.

  5. Definitely the most important thing for writers to remember…that no one can please everyone. That’s why I think it’s so important for writers to make sure that above all, they’re happy with their own work. Nothing is more frustrating than trying so hard to please someone that you force yourself out of your comfort zone only to find that they still don’t like you. But if you stay true to yourself, then you can learn to be happy with yourself even when someone else doesn’t like it.

    • Yes. Writing is an art form, an expression of the artist. We need to write for us. We publish to share it with others but the reason to write should come from within.

  6. …oh, and what William said…it’s important to learn from criticism if you can.
    But the outright haters…it’s best just to put them out of your mind. Go back and read some good reviews to boost your spirits.

    • That’s actually very good advice. Especially after you’ve had several good reviews, it’s a good idea to go back and refer to them before beating yourself up over a bad one.

  7. Interesting post considering I went to a reading the other day fully equipped to buy and endorse. I listened and wanted so much to love the writing but alas, I couldn’t even get myself to like one sentence. My husband walked out. I continued being tortured and as soon as it was over I bolted for the door. Hope this never happens to me.

    • I understand that. Though I typically don’t post negative reviews, there have been a couple of times I have had to tell an author that I couldn’t even finish the book. It’s rough because I know I wouldn’t want it done to me but I also can’t go recommending books that I can’t even finish myself.

  8. We all need to be aware of the fact that this is an inevitable thing that no one is immune to. All of us will, at one time or another, get a bad review. It is heart-wrenching to know that someone doesn’t like our “baby”….but, you’re never going to please everyone. I dislike mysteries…some people who don’t understand or like the pararnormal or fantasy genres, might not like my books. It’s all in our likes and dislikes….

    • Exactly, and even fans of certain genres are not going to like everything written in that genre. I am a huge science fiction and fantasy fan, and there was a book that was actually quite popular that gave me a headache just trying to get past page 20.

    • If you’re getting mixed reviews, it’s because some reviewers will find fault with your work if they simply don’t like the genre. But if NOBODY likes it, better start thinking rewrite.

      • Exactly Norma. I met an author whose only positive reviews were from friends and it was quite obvious that they were his friends. Matter of fact, one I think was from him under a different name. That author’s book’s sales rank is now above 6,000,000. Honesty with our own reviews and sending out to legitimate reviewers is also important. It’s okay for a friend who genuinely likes your book to review it but it should not be the majority of your reviews.

  9. Pingback: Idiot Reviewers of the Week « Writers of Mass Distraction

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