3 Types of Bad Reviews & What to Do About Them #AuthorTips
Some authors say you shouldn’t read your book reviews. Just ignore them entirely, and focus your energy on writing. Others say you should read the good ones and disregard the bad ones. One thing everyone seems to agree on is you should never respond to a bad review. Don’t fight back by writing to the reviewer to justify your work, or worse, insult the reviewer. I agree. Responding only makes you sound negative, and your goal as an author is to market yourself in a positive manner.
I do think, however, that reading some bad reviews can be helpful. Here are three types of bad reviews, and what you can do about them.
The Helpful Bad Review. While it’s uplifting to read that someone loved your book, your writing can sometimes be informed and improved by reading critical feedback. If someone takes the time to write a balanced review stating what I did well and what I could do better, I take note. I’m serious about improving my craft and I recognize that I need to continue learning. I also realize that not everyone is going to love my writing style, and that’s okay. Although I’d prefer a five star review, a thoughtful bad review can help me strengthen my writing for the next book.
The Less Than Helpful Bad Review. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, a reader feels the need to write a negative review, but has nothing helpful to offer. They don’t provide a reason why they didn’t like the book, and there’s not enough content in the review for me to figure it out. An example: one reviewer said she didn’t like the book, but “maybe it’s because I have a headache.” My thought? I’m sorry she was suffering, but perhaps writing a review while not feeling well isn’t a just practice. Maybe it’s because I’m an author, but if I’m going to write a review, I’m going to take it seriously. I know that a review affects an author’s ratings and influences potential buyers, so I would never be flippant about writing a review. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do with a review like this is to disregard it and move on. I appreciate reviews that offer substance and ignore the ones that don’t.
The Just Plain Mean Review. Finally, there are reviews that are downright nasty, personally attacking an author. I recently read a review of my first book which said, among other things, “This is proof that any hack can get published.” Ouch. If I were a first-time author, that would sting.
I’m not though—I’ve written other books since my debut, and I know I’ve matured as a writer (although I still have a lot to learn). I now have enough distance from that first book to have thought about what I would do differently if I had the ability to go back in time. I suspect, as I look back at each of my books, I’ll see elements that could be stronger.
Honestly, my first reaction to reading this review was to laugh. What else could I do? It was so hostile, it said more about the reviewer than about me as a person, and it offered zero feedback to help me grow as a writer.
I took consolation in that fact that I won two awards for the book in question, so clearly other people have a different opinion of my work. When you get a review this bad, it helps to step away and put things in perspective, reflecting on evidence that you don’t actually suck.
The blow was also cushioned by a wonderful note I’d gotten from a reader earlier that day. This woman took the time to tell me how much she enjoyed my work, and that my writing was inspiring her own. She’s currently taking a college class on writing.
If you receive a negative review that has nothing to offer you, ignore it. Celebrate helpful critical feedback and positive reviews, but don’t waste your time on mean people. Or, if taking the high road doesn’t work, you can always stick them in your next novel, where they will be eaten alive by dragons. Just be sure you change their names.