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Coping With Negative Reviews of Your Book

Rosa Marchisella is the author of the gripping "Touch of Insanity" series and the bone-chilling novella "The Greatest of Books."

Take a deep breath. It's going to be okay.

Take a deep breath. It's going to be okay.

All Authors Dread Bad Reviews

Recently, a fellow author brought to my attention a topic that many writers deal with almost daily: the dreaded “bad review.” How do you cope when you receive such a review?

This particular author received a review on GoodReads marked DNF ("did not finish") and complained about it in a few writing groups in which we both participate. Normally, I'd link to the review so you could read it for yourself, but I'd like to protect the author's name, book title, and any description of the contents of her book, so as not to publicly embarrass her.

This is the beginning of the DNF review the author responded poorly to.

This is the beginning of the DNF review the author responded poorly to.

The Review in Question

When reading the review in question, a few really important things jumped out at me:

  1. The author gave the reader an advanced copy of her book and asked for an honest review to be posted publicly.
  2. It wasn’t a negative review. The reviewer had an issue with some of the events in the book that made her lose interest. She simply stated her personal opinion as to why she couldn't bring herself to finish it: "Note: I personally couldn't finish another book by this author. When she had the female lead gang-raped, I had to skip past that chunk of the book. However, when that character then decided she needed to screw the next handsome, dangerous dude she came across mere hours after being raped, I was done. Period. I couldn't open the book without feeling sick."
  3. By marking the book as DNF (did not finish), the reviewer was actually protecting the author’s rating score on GoodReads.
  4. The reviewer praised the things she liked about it, saying things like, "The story was original, and the writing was really nice".
This is the portion of the review in which the reader praised what she liked about the book.

This is the portion of the review in which the reader praised what she liked about the book.

As both an author and a reviewer, I can confidently say that this woman is a really good reviewer and gave a reasonable, objective review. She shared her opinion and discussed the things about a book she didn’t like. Plus, she pointed out the good things she found, leaving it to the reader to decide if this was a book they wanted to take on. I was impressed. Personally, this is the balance and class I strive for when I write a review for something I didn’t enjoy.

The Author's Response

The author, on the other hand, was neither classy nor fair in her response. She made a public deal about what was, in her opinion, a “bad” review, calling the reviewer a “f*ckwit” and “c*nt” in various writer's groups.

This, of course, inspired her friends and followers to demean the reviewer’s opinion, mock her comprehension of and ability to write in English (which is not her first language), and question her ability to write reviews—both in groups and, to my horror, directly to the lady in the comment section of her review.

This is one of the extremely unprofessional and demeaning comments made on facebook by one of the author's associates.

This is one of the extremely unprofessional and demeaning comments made on facebook by one of the author's associates.

The Proper Response

The author could have done one of two professional things instead of acting out of anger. She could have...

  • been gracious and thanked the reviewer for her time and thoughts, then moved on, or,
  • ignored the review and focused instead on the positive reviews she received.

Author Raphael Merriman summed it up perfectly with his reply to this situation:

“A review is just one person’s opinion of your work, but your response to that review is an indication of your personality and character.”

“A review is just one person’s opinion of your work, but your response to that review is an indication of your personality and character.” —Raphael Merriman

“A review is just one person’s opinion of your work, but your response to that review is an indication of your personality and character.” —Raphael Merriman

Part of why I was so appalled by the author's response is that, as an author myself, I would never abuse my readers like this. Without readers—even those that don't dig what I write—I could not be a professional author. I'd be a hobbyist, scribbling thoughts to myself.

And, as a reviewer, I've been under public attack much like this lady has been. That is part of the reason why many readers choose not to leave reviews at all. So, to this fellow author and those who will undoubtedly be in her shoes at some point, don't be a jerk to the courageous readers who actually leave you a review.

Accept Others' Opinions

Writing, like every other art, is subjective. Not everyone has the same tastes. Write to the best of your ability and learn from the feedback you get. If you're too thin-skinned to handle bad reviews, either get a job where your tender soul isn't exposed to the vicious teeth of critics or have someone else read your work and give you an author-friendly version.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Rosa Marchisella

Comments

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on June 14, 2021:

Very interesting analysis. Good that you updated it. I got a chance to go through and appreciate it. Blessings.