Dealing with Negative Reviews

I thought I would write a short post on dealing with negative reviews. I realise that my view-point may be a little different to a lot of authors reading this as I have not yet published Tirfo Thuin. However, I do contribute regularly to review sites and obtain reviews of my work from the general writing community. Personally I have received very positive feedback and the constructive feedback I have received has actually helped me shape my book to be better than I could have hoped. However, some reviewers don’t exactly have a skill in constructive advice and it can sometimes feel like a personal attack. Ultimately, receiving a bad review hurts.

Isaac Asimov once said writers fall into two groups:

‘Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.’

The main point to note is that reviews are completely subjective and should not be taken as a personal attack. By putting your book out for review you are open to unkind feedback. You will always find people who love your book but, obviously, there will be those that don’t. The important thing to remember is it is their opinion.

A similar comparison is  Trip Advisor. I recently got married in Cuba and stayed at a great resort called Cayo Guillermo. The accommodation, food, service, surroundings and staff were top class. I would rate it 5* any day. However, before we went we read mixed reviews which worried us. Some people giving it 5*, some people giving it 1*. In our opinion we could not see how anyone could complain about this resort but they did. Obviously, they were looking for something different and it did not meet their expectations. It is the same with writing reviews.

Thinking along these lines I began looking at very successful published authors on Amazon and decided to read some of their reviews. Take Dan Brown, for example, and his book ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ I found this book entertaining and an easy read and would probably have given it 3*-4*. If you look at the reviews you will see a mixture with the majority of votes divided between 1* and 5* – a very large division in opinion. One reviewer went as far as stating ‘Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, at all, ever. Absolute twaddle.’

amazon reviews

I very much doubt Dan Brown sits there reading his 1* reviews thinking he should pack it all in because people don’t like his work. He realises that this book wasn’t for them and he carries on in the knowledge the right readers do exist for his work. I don’t like Marmite but they wouldn’t take offence and stop making it if I rated it 1*.

The other thing to think about is that, given an opportunity, some people will always find something to complain about. Also, some people are just idiots and provide what can feel like quite personal attacks in their feedback. Take this with a pinch of salt.

It is worth noting that one amazing review can overshadow a handful of bad reviews. All you need is for the right reader to love your book, give you 5*’s and some great feedback and the tables can turn. I know some authors who will actually not even read their 3* or less reviews and only focus on the good feedback.

The flip side of this is that honest feedback is the best feedback when you are at the stage I am – final edit before publish. There is no point in getting your family to review your book and shower you with praise. It is much better to let an editor, another author or an honest friend provide constructive feedback. Also, there is a difference between negative feedback and constructive feedback. If 5 people point out that your POV is slightly off in a certain section or that your sentences are too long then take this on board. They are not saying your book is rubbish. They are saying you might want to revise it slightly.

You do not need to bow to every bit of advice offered. Just because somebody thinks you should actually start your book at chapter 3 doesn’t mean you have to completely rework your opening scenes. If you are happy with your book and believe your readers will be happy then stick with your gut instinct. If 10 people pick up on it then maybe look into it further.

It is important to remember that critics are reviewing your work not you. Try not to get into a slanging match with a reviewer as this will only hurt your cause. They are reviewing your work for free and you do not want to appear unprofessional (take the comments on this page as an example – ). Keep your chin up and carry on. If you have a good end product it will obtain good reviews.

Please feel free to comment with your experiences of reviews and any advice you can offer the writing community on dealing with negative feedback.

Please also Tweet this article if you feel people might find it useful.


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