Surviving a Bad Review

So you’ve written a book, and you’re published. You’re on cloud nine dancing barefoot with the pixies. I mean, you should be, it’s a big accomplishment. Your book receives glowing reviews. Friends stop you on the street to tell you how amazing they think your book is. Some thank you for being the awesome writer you are. Everyone is happy, they’re up on that cloud with you bouncing around to “Oh happy day,” and it’s a glorious feeling. They love you… I mean your book. Those months of sweat and toil were worth it. You’re going to be all right.

 

But then the unthinkable happens. You’re googling your book one evening, stroking that ego a bit more, trying to uncover even more people who love you…I mean your book. You see your book mentioned and you click the link.  Bam! You’re hit with a hard blow to the ego. Someone you don’t know has written a review. They hate you…I mean your book. This can’t be. Surely they didn’t understand the deeper meanings, or appreciate all the intricate plot threads. They couldn’t have. Just look at that! While summarizing the book, they wrote the facts wrong. Were they even paying attention? What the heck, your main character was a boy, not a girl, they lived in the city, not the freaking country. I mean, how credible can this reviewer be? Did they skim over the most amazing parts? If only you had them here. Let them tell you to your face they don’t like you…I mean your book.

 

I don’t care who you, if you’ve written a book and sold any amount of copies, someone  out there is going to be less than enthusiastic about it. While having everyone rave about your book is absolutely divine,if you think everyone who reads it is going to love it you need to get in the real world. I know, I know, you already know that. And if you’re lucky those who don’t like it won’t rate it on Goodreads or write a review. While all that may sound good in theory it’s not all that practical unless you don’t venture out onto the Internet.  Eventually, a book you write is going to get a one or two star rating, or an unfavourable review. That’s when you’re faced with the reality of it all, it’s right before your eyes. No denying it. Someone doesn’t like you…I mean your book. Worst of all they told the whole world.

 

So how’s an author to get past a bad rating or review, you might ask? Here are a few suggestions I have.

 

 

  1. Accept the fact that this is bound to happen. I’m not talking about accepting it on an intellectual level, but accept it in your heart. Hoping and wishing everyone will love your book won’t change the facts. People have different tastes. You do. Why wouldn’t someone else?
  2. Learn not to take these things personally. The person rating your book probably doesn’t know you from Adam. They’ve got nothing vested in you. You’re a name. That’s it. Remember, they aren’t saying they don’t like you. They’re saying they don’t like what you’ve written. There is a difference.
  3. Spend time on Goodreads. Check out your favourite authors. Read the reviews of books you absolutely love. What you’ll find is your favourite authors all wrote books that someone didn’t like. You might think these reviewers are nuts, but it doesn’t change the facts…or the rating.
  4. Be the first to write a bad review for your book. Don’t let someone else beat you to it. Print it out and post it where you can see it during the early days of publication. This will help absorb the shock when the real thing comes along. Remember not to be too nasty or obnoxious.
  5. Weigh the good reviews with the bad. Which one outweighs the other? If you receive 100 poor reviews or ratings and only three good ones (all from close friends) maybe this is telling you something. Otherwise, blow it off. One bad review, or two or three isn’t the end of the world.

 

Hopefully, these suggestions will help cushion the blow of that first bad review. I say, take comfort in knowing that you’re in good company.

 

Has a bad review ever set you in a tailspin? How did you deal with it? If you’re on Goodreads have you ever given a bad rating or review? If so, did you give any thought as to whether the author would read your review or see the rating?

 

 

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28 Comments

  1. No, not a book review, but as a college design professor I’ve given my share of critical reviews/critiques. As a design student years ago I swallowed my share of negative (I mean constructive ) comments. Is a learning process… separating your self from your self (I mean art). I like your post… filled with good humor and good advice. :-)

    Reply
    • You make an excellent point,Laura. We encounter negativity in many areaa. It all amounts to the same. It all has the ability to hurt us if we take it personally. Glad you enjoyed the post. :) Humour usually helps to soften life’s hard truths. :)

      Reply
  2. Cool. So someone doesn’t appreciate you… I mean your book. I wonder if this person knows that you probably, or at least maybe, don’t like him or her… I mean his or her review much either. Frankly, as a friend of the author and one that liked the book she wrote, I wouldnt like reading a bad review about it either. I have to say that if I wrote a book that was published and received a number of good reviews, I’d still feel rejected by a bad reviewer… I mean review. Your plan to soften the blow, in that case, would be helpful. Blessings to you, Laura…

    Reply
    • Carol Ann, you’re right. It’s difficult not to take a bad review personally, especially when that review is for a friend’s book. I dream of a world where all negative comments dissolve away to nothing. Life should be about building each other up, not knocking each other down… Thanks for visiting.. I know you’re busy these days… Blessings to you as well.. :)

      Reply
  3. I like how you stressed our personal connection with what we write. If someone doesn’t like it it’s personal to us; they don’t like us. But that is probably not true, it’s just that it’s hard to be on the outside of what we have lived in for the duration of that creative period.
    Of course I know of what I speak … ;)
    Great post, Laura.

    Reply
    • I meant to add, I have given a not entirely positive review, giving 2 stars of the coveted 5. What I noticed is that I wasn’t the only one who did that for that particular book.

      I would not take it well should I .. I mean my book .. be judged similarly. *sigh* Perhaps the day will come when I am afraid to read reviews, when I finally have something out there being judged in that way. Hopefully I will handle it sensibly .. after several days of hiding and sniffling.

      Reply
      • Reviews of our work, something we’ve spent months or years working on, has the ability to tug at our emotions. It happens. Truthfully, you harden into it as time goes by. You have to or else end up writing altogether. I say use it as a test to your commitment to being a writer. If a nasty review doesn’t stop you in your tracks nothing will. There is usually a positive spin to be put on most everything if we look closely enough.. :)

        Reply
  4. It’s very hard not to take it personally. I mean, I know the reviewer doesn’t hate ME, but my work is an important part of me. Still, I know everyone has an opinion, and no reader likes every book they pick up.

    However, I truly don’t understand the mean-spirited reviews. I guess you might be pissed if you spent a lot of money for the book, but still, some people go way too far in tearing down a book. And I know of devastating reviews of books the reader got for FREE. Come on.

    To be honest, I don’t understand ever rating a book 1-star. I’ve picked up some badly written books, but if it was good enough for me to read the whole thing, then it certainly doesn’t deserve 1-star. And if it’s so bad, I can’t read more than a few pages, I’m not sure I have the right to voice an opinion on a book I didn’t actually read. And if a book is not badly written, but it just isn’t your cup of tea, you definitely shouldn’t give that book a bad review.

    Yep, you touched a nerve here, Laura. But your suggestions are great. :-)

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Linda. We can pretend we’re tough and put on a good face but it stings. A few years back I discovered a review someone had written of Bitter, Sweet. It wasn’t totally horrible but it was obvious the reviewer didn’t care for it. Fair enough…but when she summarized the book she did have some of the facts wrong as well as some grammar issues..Hard to take it serious and yet…

      This post was prompted by a two star rating my book recently received on Goodreads, but honestly..it didn’t throw me this time. I’d just seen to many books I personally loved receive one and two stars, famous award-winning writers. Why should I think my experience would be any different?

      Anyone can review books these days..it’s the way of the industry. As professionals we do need to accept it.It’s all we can do.. And the more we publish, the more our work is ot there, we’ll discover people out there who don’t like the story we’ve written.. I wish it wasn’t so..

      Reply
      • It might sound odd, but I actually get affronted when I read a bad review of a book I thought was great! And vice-versa, if I think something is terrible, I just don’t get the good reviews. Kind of like 50 shades that we mentioned, Linda….
        We all know that all books get bad reviews, but I think it takes time to build up that tough skin. Good for you Laura, that you’re there!

        Reply
        • It certainly does take time to build that tough skin..We also have to look at how many bad ratings or reviews verses the good. Should I get a whole bunch of poor ratings I’m sure it will bring my insecurities back to life.

  5. Good advice, Laura.

    Reply
  6. Very timely post. I did happen upon a bad review. Well, more of a tough review. Three stars. She did say that I showed talent and readers should be on the lookout for future novels. I’m actually okay about it, which is weird.

    Reply
  7. Perhaps it is because I’ve listened to too many ‘professionals’ give movie reviews that were totally the opposite of what I thought that I don’t put too much stock in book reviews. They are one person’s opinion, nothing more. You’re not going to please everyone. What surprises me is when I see a positive review for a book I thought was horrible. I’m in awe of the praise, always thinking about what drink they had in their hand while reading the book.

    I haven’t received a terrible review, yet, but I’m sure there are readers out there who haven’t enjoyed one of my stories as much as others. I can’t help that.

    Have I given bad reviews? I don’t think so. I just started reviewing books on my blog, and my comments explain why I liked this or why I didn’t like that. I don’t have a problem telling others and the author how I felt when I read the book; it’s personal to me. Others will feel differently.

    However, I don’t think reviews that simply state, “This book sucked! I hated it!” tells readers or the writer anthing. I just skim over those as if I didn’t see them. I instead read reviews that tell me WHY they didn’t like the book; it may be just the reason I will enjoy it.

    Reply
    • Diane, you have the very best attitude ever! As writers, we really do need to develope a thick skin. In the beginning it might feel personal, but it isn’t. I kind of think that people who rate our books don’t ever think that we’re going to see it. In a way, it should be that way. Everyone has the right to express their opinions whethere we agree with them or not.

      Reply
  8. “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

    We can’t please everybody, so we write to please ourselves (and our editors:) I’ll be in touch next time I’m out your way.

    Reply
    • No, you’re right, Jan. We certainly can’t please everyone. What I hope is to write stories that I’m proud to have my family and friends read. Hopefully they’ll like it.

      Next week I’m close to home, so no long drives to work. I’ll have an extra hour and a half in each day.. Yes, let me know when you’re out.. I’m SO anxious to hear about your publishing news… Yay!!

      Reply
  9. Great post Laura. I remember in the first few golden days of receiving feedback after “The Year Mrs. Montague” came out I was scared to death of the BAD review. Just like anything else we put out there we take the risk that someone is not going to like it. Great advice on how to get over the bad review.

    Reply
    • It is scary in the beginning, isn’t it? Your book is marvelous and I hope you never encounter a negative review or rating. I know some writers to take a bad review as a rite of passage..

      Reply
  10. Angela Wilson

     /  July 5, 2012

    You want to know the book that I despise the most? The Bible. So many discrepancies there. And some people criticize me and make comments that hurt but I just suck it up and laugh it off because they don’t know the true gem that I am. The ONES THAT MATTER do though. And that’s all that counts and matters. WE know what WE like. We must satisfy ourselves first. Screw the rest! Just sayin’.

    Reply
    • All we can do about negative feedback is suck it up or spend our days with our heads in a sock. I think as we age,our attitudes change. We learn that hurt feelings aren’t the end of the world.. Yes, you are a gem…Hoping we get to connect again sometime in the future.. :)

      Reply
  11. Angela Wilson

     /  July 5, 2012

    I also want to add that there have been movies that I have watched and loved; whereas, others have not liked those same movies but they failed to get the underlying meaning or see the great acting skills that were present. A certain “intelligent” acquintance of mine would watch any movie that Reese Witherspoon was in, regardless of the acting or content. May as well watch silent movies. Ha ha That’s what makes us all different in our views and perspectives I guess.

    Reply
  12. Judi

     /  July 6, 2012

    Very interesting!!!!! I recently put a quilt together (down at the house in the Forties). I layed it piece by piece out on the living room floor so I could see how to piece it together to look the best and flow with the colours. I put it together the way I thought it looked the best, and then people from the kitchen soon realized what I was doing and they came one by one and everyone of them had a different idea as to how to piece it together. You talk about bad reviewers…..LOL But I did like “some” of their ideas so I did what they said and then when they were all back out in the kitchen, I put it back they way I had it in the first place. Does this sound kinda like a bad review???? I didn’t put the quilt together the way the people wanted so therefore, I will get a “bad” review…..
    I like your idea on how to handle it though, maybe Dad’s old saying ” take it like water off of a ducks back”. That wasy none of the bad reviews will sink in. Love ya, Laura….

    Reply
    • Hey Judi! Glad you were able to relate to this writing post.. Whether it’s writing or any other creative venue, similarities are there. Cool of you to figure it out! Not only that, you made a very valid point, people can give their opinions but we can choose to ignore it, especially when we don’t agree. I say you get and “A” for sticking to your guns and not allowing others to steer you in a different direction. It’s you’re quilt. You made the right choice. :)

      PS: Sending the love back at ya!

      Reply
  13. I don’t put much stock in reviews . For example the recent movie John Carter(of Mars) was really trashed but I was absolutely thrilled with it. I read every Edgar Rice Burroughs book in the series(11 I think) when I was 12 years old and it was just wonderful to see my visions on the screen 50 years later,

    Reply

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