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How to Handle Negative Reviews

A Writer's Musings

If you’re a writer, self-published or otherwise, sooner or later you will receive your very first negative review (*sigh* It’s a right of passage, all right!) You shouldn’t worry about it, or be discouraged by it, because no matter how great your novel is, it won’t be right for everyone. No novel is.

But it still hurts. It’s still painful to see that someone disliked, maybe even hated, this thing you spent such a long time perfecting! It’s inevitable and you need to accept that, but how do you prepare yourself?

Take a look at this:

negative-reviews-me

This is a review for Rise of the Sparrows. Of course I was disappointed to see it, but it doesn’t invalidate my 5-star reviews! Of course there’s someone out there who doesn’t like my book, and there’ll be a great many others, too. I’m okay with that, because they found my book! They wanted to read my book! It’s unfortunate that they didn’t enjoy it, but they tried it, and it’s not like our readers are under any obligation. If they pay for it, they have a right to be disappointed. The important thing is that they found it, and therefore others will, too. Some of those new readers will agree with the 2-star review, others will disagree.

And let’s just focus on the most important thing here – it’s two stars, not one. They didn’t hate everything.

*ahem* *awkward cough*

worst-author-ever

Knowing that you’ll get negative reviews and being ready for it, however, are two very different things. So what can you do if your endless mantras of It’s fine, it’s okay, not everyone can like what I do, it’s a big world aren’t enough?

Well, what’s your favourite book? Of all time? Go find it on Goodreads, and have a look through the reviews. Come back when you’re done.

*might as well make tea while I wait*

Are you back? Feels good, doesn’t it? My favourite reads this year – (also ever) – were The Name of the Wind and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. You can check out my reviews for them by clicking on the links if you want to see how much I really loved them (or I could spare you the trouble – I loved them a lot). But let’s have a look at what other people thought of them, shall we?

negative-reviews-the-name-of-the-wind

negative-reviews-the-name-of-the-wind-2

(That’s an impressive amount of hatred right there!)

negative-reviews-the-hundred-thousand-kingdoms

negative-reviews-the-hundred-thousand-kingdoms-2

parksandrec15

If people hated those books this much – books that I love so deeply – then isn’t it okay for other people to hate my book, too? Books like Harry Potter get negative reviews, too, and while I don’t in any way want to suggest that my books are similar to J. K’s genius, I want to make this clear, so the negative words don’t hurt you as badly:

Every book gets negative reviews. Every book has someone who hates it so much that they can’t even be bothered to write a full review, and will only say things like “This was terrible. Don’t pay money for this shit, it was that awful.”Β Every book has a review like that one, and your book won’t be an exception.

That’s fine. No novel, no matter how fantastic and brilliant you thought it was, is immune – and whether we’re talking about your own novel here or marvels like The Name of the Wind or The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms won’t make a difference.

we-all-suck

Here’s one other thing you can try: Over time, positive feedback will pile up, too, and you can keep it saved away in one, neat folder, so that you can read over all the reasons people loved your book when the negative reviews come rolling in. This could be feedback from your beta readers or favourite snippets from the 5-Star reviews you’ve received (oh gone on then – save the whole thing!) – it doesn’t matter, as long as you’ve got it handy when you need it.

So, to summarise: Yes, there’ll be negative reviews. Some people will dislike your novel, and some will hate it with an impressive passion. But other people will fall in love with the world you have created, the characters you’ve placed into it, and will eagerly await the sequel or new release – just because you‘ve written it. Negative reviews can ruin your day, but don’t forget that they aren’t all you’ve got.

It’s fine for people to hate your book. Others will love it, and will shout your name from the rooftops. And if that’s not enough-

Head on over to Goodreads, and look up your favourite books ever written. Their own negative reviews might help.

How do you cope with negative reviews? Make some tea, get a cookie, and share your methods in the comments! If you’re not sure how you’ll cope with receiving 1- and 2-Star reviews, get that cookie and stick around anyway – perhaps someone shares a tip that helps!

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28 Comments

  1. I loved your book, and you’re right, one book can’t be right for everyone. As readers, just as individuals, we have our own tastes. That being said, there should be tact when writing reviews, and I cannot abide author shaming or book flogging in pure spite. If someone gave me one star, I want valid reasons and also the reasoning behind the one star. At least one positive wouldn’t go amiss.

    I had someone say they didnt want to continue reading my book because they couldn’t rate it over 3*. Umm, I’m happy with 3*, give me the three stars!!! haha. Instead, they just DNF it and didn’t rate it. I’m not sure how I feel abou that one. πŸ˜‰

    • I completely agree! Whether you loved a book or hated it, manners should still be present. There’s no need to be rude, and ultimately reviews like the second one I shared for The Name of the Wind aren’t helpful. The writer won’t know why the reader hated the book, and other potential readers are none the wiser, either. I always find it hard to believe that someone hated every single aspect of a novel.

      I’d be very happy with 3 stars, too! I’d rather have 3 stars than no stars! This is clearly a picky reader, so 3 stars from him or her likely still mean a decent review.

      The reviews that really irritate me are the ones that say things like ‘The character development and world building was terrible, I couldn’t get past a third before I gave up.’ How do they know how the characters or the world develop when they didn’t even read half of it?

      • Exactly. That is why I always finish a book. I want to be able to give a well rounded, informed review.

        I’ve given 2* reviews before, but they have hopefully been constructive and always includes something I like. There is honesty, and then there is brutality.

      • That’s what I do, I always finish the books I read and I always include something I liked about it in my reviews. I’ve never read a book where I hated everything, and quite often I enjoy the second half more than the first since things usually speed up then.
        I haven’t given a 2 star review yet, but I’m sure it will happen. What can I say? I’ve chosen well this year! πŸ™‚

  2. Kathryn Evans Kathryn Evans

    Best way – don’t read them. Do Not Read them. But good way to feel better is to find a book you loved on Goodreads and read the negative reviews for that book – go read the 1 star reviews for Harry Potter – oh yeah, there are THOUSANDS of them x

    • That would be best! My curiosity tends to get the better of me, but just not reading them in the first place would be the way to go πŸ˜› I don’t write for the people who hate my books, I write for myself and those who love my writing!

  3. Fabulous post. I too check out super famous successful books and reassure myself of exactly what you’ve pointed out… No one is immune. It is hard tho to read some of the rather nasty comments. If you don’t like it that’s fine , its not necessary to make it a personal attack on an author. I think that’s when it becomes hard for authors. I’m making tea and having a biscuit with you πŸ˜ŠπŸ’™

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚ I agree, it’s not necessary to be rude. Just say it wasn’t for you, say why to help other readers figure out if the issues you had would bother them, and leave it at that. I don’t understand why people feel they need to write the reviews I posted above (not including mine, I have yet to have a truly nasty one)
      Tea and biscuits are always nicer when you can share them with a fellow bookworm ^-^

  4. I loved this post and absolutely agree with everything you said. Not everyone is going to love your books. Yes it stings and can cut you to the core but hey, there are people who hate Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird. People are gonna like what they like and hate what they don’t.
    I’m not sure how I’ll handle a bad review. I’d like to think I’d be a grown up professional…you know, after the tears and uncontrollable rage subside :p — but I don’t know :p
    The most important thing to know is, your book is freaking awesome!!! I loved it so SOOO much!!! And really, isn’t that the only opinion that matters? ;p
    Great post!!

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚ I posted it to Pinterest as well since I’m trying to be more consistent over there.
      Oh absolutely! A bit of rage is allowed – I’d be lying if I said that the examples I posted above didn’t make me a little angry, I mean who hates The Name of the Wind? Did we read two different books? – but if it feels like too much let me know and I’ll make you tea πŸ™‚
      Thank you, Mollie, it still makes me happy to hear it ^-^

  5. I’m no author, but the idea of people not liking my work is not strange. We all have different writing styles, opinions, personalities and likings. And that’s not a bad thing. some reviews maybe negative, rude or hurtful but you can’t please everyone. Look at the people who DID like your book, and not the ones who didn’t because You win some and you lose some.

    P.S Can i have some more cookies?

    • I completely agree! But I know that there are a lot of people who want to write but are paralysed from the idea that someone will hate their book. It will happen, and that’s normal. It’s no reason to not write, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of! Every book is hated by someone.

      And yes, always. Help yourself πŸ˜‰

  6. Not impressed by that style of negative review. Didn’t tell me anything about the books. Poor reviewers (I notched up 400+ reviews on Amazon, I feel qualified to comment).

    • 400+! You’re a star!
      I’m not either. If you didn’t like a book that’s fine, but there’s no reason for author shaming and it doesn’t help other people figure out whether they’d like it or not.

      • Thanks……Retired from the reviewing business now (lol), tried to be constructive and informative.
        I used to reserve my bad (accusatory) reviews for DC & Marvel comics when I felt they weren’t trying very hard with their story lines or when my paths crossed with race or religious hate books (Yep Amazon let some slither through!)
        Otherwise, author-shaming is just juvenile drivel and more likely to make me buy the book!

  7. I treat reviews like editing comments. They’re outside opinions that I weigh up, learn what I can from, and move on. Yes the negative ones can certainly sting, but if I can learn something from them I will. If not, oh well, such is life. πŸ™‚

    • That’s a very commendable and responsible attitude towards reviews! πŸ™‚

  8. I had to stop reading reviews. While I told myself everything you posted in this entry, it still hurts like hell to get that first ‘negative’ review. I know not everyone will love it, I get that, but still I want them too. LOL I want to be that exception (not really). When I first published my book, I was excited for every new review until that first bad one hit, then it seemed like there were a string of them (not really, just in my head there were), so I stopped reading them, good or bad. I even went so far as to have my hand at the top of my screen when I first went to Goodreads so I couldn’t see the rating at the top. I’m very happy they’ve changed the layout there. πŸ™‚

    I’m happier now not knowing. I also don’t check my accounts to see if I’ve had any returns, because those stink too. LOL Been there done that and boy I think that hurt more than the bad review. They found my book, but gave it back. Talk about an ouch, but that’s for another post. πŸ™‚

    • Negative reviews come with the job, I’m afraid. Not looking at them sounds like a healthy thing to do πŸ™‚ Don’t let them ruin this for you. Don’t forget you received great reviews, too! The people who would love your story won’t be able to if you don’t continue to put it out there! It’s daunting, but writing books is a learning curve and if you take constructive feedback on board then your writing can only improve with every book you write! Keep at it, Meka! I know I enjoyed your book πŸ™‚

  9. Great post Sarina! And fantastic topic to broach! Negative reviews definitely can hurt, but we have to accept that everyone’s tastes are unique. And sometimes the criticism comes with constructive points that we can build off of and take into consideration.
    I’ve always been afraid of putting myself out there in the past because I didn’t want to feel rejected. But then I realized I was only rejecting myself. My favourite authors have been criticized, but they’ve also been adore and I won’t get anywhere sitting in fear of negative feedback.
    That being said, I know I love your story and the world you created! It’s one I’m excited to return to!
    Thanks for an insightful post πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚
      Negative but constructive can be helpful, but giving feedback seems to be an art form. It’s certainly a skill that can be learned. Simply saying ‘I hated this, it was awful’ isn’t as helpful as some people seem to think πŸ˜›
      I for one love the bits of your writing I’ve read already and can’t wait to hold your first published novel in my hands ^-^
      Thank you, Faith, that is wonderful to hear! <3 Keep an eye out this Friday πŸ˜‰
      You're welcome! I hoped it'd be encouraging πŸ™‚

  10. Completely agree with you- this is the best way to look at it- not everyone likes the same things so it makes sense that no matter how much you like a book someone else is bound not to. But for the record I did not think your book was rushed or that Rachael was whiny- I liked it πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! ^-^ I do agree that Rachael is a wee bit whiny, but throwing everything I did at her and let her reaction be ‘Ah well, this is my life now! Let’s get on with it!’ wouldn’t have been realistic.

      • Ahh well I didn’t think so- I’ve read too many whiny characters to think that (America singer from the selection series springs to mind…) Plus as you said she wouldn’t exactly have been mellow given the situation

      • Ah, see, I haven’t read many whiny characters so I can’t compare it as well as you can! ^-^

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