Handling Bad Reviews

disapprove-149251_1280Okay, so I feel compelled to write this after I read an article by a reviewer who received some very unprofessional feedback from an unhappy author. Aside from being a reviewer, this lady is a super-rad librarian and book lover, and what happened to her is totally uncool. So, in response, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on what not to do when you get a negative review.

*Pats knee* “Come on over, Jimmy. I think it’s time we had the talk.”

*Jimmy looks at me, puzzlement painted across his face* “I’m twenty-eight, I don’t need the talk. Also, my name’s Bob, not Jimmy, and I’m not really sure who you are.”

“Nonsense, Jimmy, of course you know me. Also, it’s not that talk we need to have, it’s time for the How to Handle Bad Reviews Talk.”

Okay, here’s the thing writerly folks, at some point you’re going to unleash your word child upon the world, and although you love your word baby like an actual baby, not everyone is going to be so smitten. What?!?!? No, you say, surely not my book. Why it’s the best part of every great book ever written. I’ll be hailed as the next Tolkien, you boast. Sadly, that’s probably not the case. Some people aren’t going to like your book—heck, even a lot of people might not like your book. A few might even hate it; they’ll say you should never write another book again for fear your terrible prose may inadvertently usher in the word-apocalypse: Wordocalypse. That’s just one of the hard truths of publishing, and here’s my sage advice on how to handle those reviews.

1.It’s okay for it to hurt.

I’m gonna shoot straight with you: bad reviews hurt, especially as a brand new author. If you’ve written a book, you’ve spent countless hours pouring yourself into that book. I get it. You’ve spent months or even years crafting this thing and then someone comes along, and in two poorly spelled sentences, rips apart all your hard work. Those reviews will hurt and if you don’t have thick skin, then here’s my advice: just don’t read them. I’m at a place now where I can read bad reviews—mostly because I know I have fans who appreciate my work—but in the beginning I just couldn’t do it. Every one star review was like a knife to my soul. If that describes you, then seriously, DON’T READ THEM.

2. It’s okay to rant a little …

It’s okay to rant, but don’t do it publically. Your spouse, significant other, or even a close group of writer peers is a good place to air your frustration over a negative review, especially if you feel the review is really unwarranted. But don’t ever air your opinion in a public forum. Don’t respond to the reviewer. Don’t email them or send them hate mail. Don’t even mention it in passing on your social media. It’s unprofessional and a generally terrible way to respond as an author.

3. Shrug off the ridiculous ones …

Some bad reviews aren’t worth getting upset over. If the reviewer insults you directly, then your book is not the issue, the reviewer is. Probably, they have some other issue that is the root of their hostility, and your book is just an innocent bystander caught in the crosshairs of their emotional turmoil. Either that, or they’re trolls, looking to provoke you. In either case, just shrug off these reviews—and again don’t respond.

4. Learn from the bad reviews

If you are at a place where reading your bad reviews isn’t going to crush the urge to live from your slumped-back writerly body, then you can learn a thing or two. If someone offers a well articulated and thoughtful critique of your book in the course of a review, it can definitely be beneficial to take their advice to heart. Now bear in mind, not every book is for every person, and that reviewer may not be your target audience—which is totally cool—but their insights might prove useful for future books.

5. Don’t Respond Ever:

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Whatever you decide to do, responding should never be an option. At the end of the day, reviews aren’t really even for you. They’re for other readers. When you write a book, you’re making art. When you publish a book, it becomes a product—a product no different from a vacuum or a blender. If someone buys your blender/book, they have the right to say they didn’t like it. If I buy a blender and it sucks, I’m not going to think, Gee, I bet the folks who designed and built this blender really put a lot of effort into it, and that should influence my review. Nope. I’m gonna think, This blender is terrible, I’m going to tell other potential blender buyers why this product wasn’t for me. Please, be a professional and don’t respond. It’s not a smart move and it’s only going to draw additional attention to the bad review, which is exactly what you don’t want.

“Good talk, Jimmy. Good talk.”

“My name’s still Bob, and my lawyer will be in touch. You have a restraining order coming your way, pal.”

If you have any comments please feel free to leave them. How do you handle bad reviews?