It happens to EVERY writer and it hurts you to see someone talk like that about your baby, err novel… At first, you just sit there, stunned. Unable to believe anyone would take such offense. Schock. Anger… Don’t panic. Negative book reviews, especially those that are potentially malicious, are near the top list of nightmare scenarios for every writer. You have been putting your heart and soul into pursuing your passion. So it is understandable when you would like to act first in the face of negativity and have regrets later. Please don’t! Hold your tongue.
It makes no difference if you won the Pulitzer Price, or if you teach English in high school classes, or how many books you have sold. Check it out, many negative reviews show up on Bestseller books pages online too! In most cases this reviewer would never tell you the same directly in person. But the anonymity of the internet makes for a different mindset. Sometimes – or often – the review has nothing to do with the actual book:
- The reviewer expected a different content
- The reviewer regrets the purchase
- The reviewer thinks there is too much violence or sex in the content
- The reviewer could have a bad day
- The reviewer could even be a competitor
- The reviewer is jealous of your success
How to Deal with Bad Reviews?
It is difficult to be thick-skinned when it comes to someone reading your work. Writers tend to be quite emotional people, that’s what makes them good at what they do, but it also means that they are likely to take a bad review to heart. Before you plan a strategy for addressing criticism, you need to determine if the review is true. Investigate before taking action. The best way to deal with bad reviews is to ignore them. If they really hurt, talk with your writer colleagues or friends about it. They can go to your books page and choose the “fair” reviews, and click on: Helpful. This way the helpful reviews climb up to the top and the negative review is not as visible anymore. Many readers don’t even know how to write a review. Try to get as many professional reviews as possible, such as Midwest Reviews, Armchair Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, Kirkus Reviews etc. They are trained and know how to write a fair review. Any review, good or bad, is better than no review. Readers who like the genre you write in will give you a better quality review, whether it’s a good review or a so-so review.
Never have any sort of contact with a reviewer. There’s no point in doing so. Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid to the person who has them.
As Stephen King famously wrote: “You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”
Funny, Negative Reviews
Bestseller author Rayne Hall blogged about negative, but funny reviews she received, some are really hilarious. Read her article, sampling some of the stupidities for her highly popular novel Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel). “This book is too long. I had to spend many hours reading it. I’m busy and have other things to do.” “The character of Queen Matilda is not believable”. There’s no Queen Matilda in the book.
Digital Book World listed snippets from Bestseller reviews:
“It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read.” —review of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Not nearly enough consistency and far to [sic] little plot.”—review of Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
“If I were you, I’d peruse it briefly at your neighborhood library before putting hard-earned money out.” —review of children’s classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
“I find myself saying to myself as I read it ‘bla bla bla’ as that is what the author seems to be saying.” —review of National Book Award Winner Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
If the Review is Factually Incorrect:
If a statement made is untrue (not just an opinion you disagree with), you have the right to ask for the comment to be removed or retracted. You would have to provide conclusive supporting evidence which shows the comment is factually incorrect. If you can’t provide proof, the sad truth is you won’t get anywhere asking for removal.
You’ve done your best; you can’t change the book, other than a misspelled word or comma in an e-book. Life is too short to worry about what anyone thinks of your work. You shouldn’t be reading your reviews at all. And here are the good news: Consumers are smart enough to sniff out and ignore one odd-ball negative review in a sea of positive ones. Hopefully you worked hard on getting lots of reviews, so that few bad ones diminish in a sea of brilliant reviews. Read a list of bestseller authors that got hundreds of 1-star reviews. And not only bestseller reviews. Almost all books have a huge variety of reviews, from 5-star to 1-star reviews. Hope that helps. What Else Can You Do to Increase Your Books’ Success is described in this blog post.
What other advice do you have for handling negative book reviews? Let us know in the comments below.
More About How to Get Professional Reviews
Huffington Post Collection of Articles Regarding Bad Reviews
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