Dealing With Negative Reviews – brrrrrr & shudder

A negative review hits like a bullet straight to the heart.

One moment you are a self-confident author and the next you are a shaky, weepy blob of human being with your confidence smashed and a lump in your throat the size of your fist. Then your defenses kick in. Your brain child has been insulted for absolutely NO good reason. Some sadistic person has targeted your work unfairly, and you cannot understand how anyone can be so downright mean! Now you’re getting angry.

Okay, it’s time for a reality check here.

What does a negative review tell you, anyway? Really!?

Read it again…does it really say what your brain registered the first time around? Perhaps not. Perhaps the reader is saying more about him/herself than about your writing. Example: The reader complains that something was wrong with the formatting that made it difficult for him/her to “work” his/her way through the book. Rather than take the time to get through it, he/she gave up and gave you a 1-star hit.


But what does that really say? The reader put your book down after a few pages, so it really isn’t about your writing! There’s a problem with the formatting. This might be something you can fix. Unfortunately, you may not be able to tell what device the reader is using and may have to dig a little to find the problem, but this is probably something you can do something about, if you care enough about your work to do it.

If the reviewer says that he/she (okay, I give up…let’s call this dolt…uh, kind person a he)…he can’t take the changes in point of view.  Think about your work. Did you change POV within a paragraph, page or chapter? Never in a paragraph…a POV change can be okay within a page or chapter if you warned the reader first by setting it off with “***” or use some other device to communicate the change to the reader. If you know you use ye olde ***, then the issue is with the reader’s lack of familiarity with the method or inability to mentally switch speakers. Personally, I absolutely LOVE using *** to bring in the thoughts of someone else at the scene of a crime or investigation. So, once again you may have a reader issue, not a writer issue.

Read the review carefully and determine whether the problem is really with the reader or with your work. Your work can be fixed. The reader cannot.

A dear friend once told me of a tee-shirt illustration his wife showed him.

“Take your dog’s example…if you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and move on!”

So either play around with your work to fix the issue, swallow hard and take the warning or–well, don’t take it tooooo literally–just move on.

A review can be a wonderful thing and not all work is appreciated by all readers at all times. Your reader may have been having a bad day. He may be of low IQ–alright, scoff, but you never know. He may read one book every five years, so what does his opinion matter? Or, he just might be impatiently and frustratingly honest about a real problem, but uses the star count instead of his comments to let you know what he thinks.

 Reviewers Beware   A writer cannot get useful information about his writing from a star, only from the honest comments provided about specific issues. If you’re having a bad day, please wait to do the review!

Writers   Take a deep breath, read it again, do what you can, if you can…and move on!

And to that guy that gave me that recent 1 star without a single word…realllllly?


11 thoughts on “Dealing With Negative Reviews – brrrrrr & shudder

  1. Interesting post, love your take on it. I suppose as writers, we have a heightened sensitivity also. Writing is (or can be) a vulnerable experience also; putting your thoughts and feelings out there. I suppose that it’s a little to easy to criticize and there is little to lose for the reviewer. Anyway, thank you for giving this a voice!

    • Sally, I think that sometimes the reader forgets that there is a human being out there putting his or her heart right out in the open–an easy target. One good shot, without appreciation of what it took to get the product there in the first place, can be devastating to our tender artistic souls. As a writer, I’m having to learn to toughen up a bit. If thousands of people are reading my books and only one or two are being thoughtless to me, but honest to their own feelings, I must learn to give them the right to those feelings. I don’t have to own them myself. And, who knows, they might just have something to say from which I can learn. You just never know!

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