bad book reviews

How to Handle Bad Book Reviews

Ann O'Brien

August 4, 2022

Writers are known to be a hearty bunch as they learn to listen to their inner voice, capture concepts and stories to use in their work, and work tirelessly on crafting engaging stories for others to enjoy. But one thing that sets writers apart from other professionals is that they spend real time with their work in ways that others don’t. They craft characters with painstaking detail, agonize over word choice and phrasing, and think endlessly about how their book’s story or structure is designed. In a way, authors are intimately connected to what they write. So when negative book reviews pop up, it’s easy for a writer to take them personally. Instead of letting bad book reviews ruin your outlook or sour your taste for writing, let’s look at a few ways to survive those inevitable negative reviews and come out stronger and more resilient on the other side.

Remember That Everyone Gets Them (No, Really, They Do)

Books are like ice cream: there is no way to predict what flavor you might fall in love with or the ones that you just don’t really like. When authors are on the receiving end of bad book reviews, remember that even the most accomplished authors get them, too. The venerable Chicago Tribune once disparaged Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as “no more than an improbable anecdote,” but the renowned tome has gone on to become a beloved book that still captures the hearts of readers to this day. While not every author will reach the level of fame that Fitzgerald’s book enjoys, the reality is that there is always someone that won’t find your writing their cup of tea, Knowing you are in good company might reduce the sting a little bit.

Let Your Emotions Out

Being emotionally invested in your writing is natural, so feeling strong emotions when bad reviews happen can be unavoidable for most writers. Before dealing with the reviews, let yourself feel the sadness, anger, surprise, or other emotions fully instead of suppressing them only to have them surface later. Cry into your pillow, confide in a friend, or drown your sorrows in an endless pot of coffee – whatever helps you to feel all the feelings. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and then prepare to deal with the aftermath in a constructive, meaningful way.

Stay Professional

Above all, remember that writing is your work whether it is your full-time job or closer to a labor of love hobby. Keeping your responses and actions on a professional level means not responding directly to a reviewer in a negative way. Once you have tweeted, responded on a book reviewing site, or hit send on an email, your words and actions are forever captured in the cyberworld. You might have some fellow fans who support your response, but odds are that many others will end up siding with the reviewer and feel your response was a personal attack or unprofessional at the least. Not responding at all is usually the best course of action, because readers know that not everyone likes every author’s work all of the time.

Look for the Positive

While bad book reviews may not appear to be helpful, one way to cope with them is to look for the positive nuggets inside of (some of) them. Not every negative review has an upside of containing potentially helpful content, but some do. Authors can look for the thread of truth woven through a bad review and use that information in some way.

  • Constructive Criticism. A bad review may contain unpleasant or unfair descriptions of your writing. But sometimes this type of negative feedback may also include concrete, workable ideas you can apply to your writing or style. This type of constructive criticism might be difficult to suss out of a bad review, but finding something helpful in an otherwise unenthusiastic assessment of your work can help you turn a potentially upsetting situation into one you can learn from.
  • Is there any truth to it? Instead of dismissing bad reviews as baseless or unfounded, honestly evaluate if there is even a small shred of truth to the negative comment. The reviewer may not have a kind way of expressing that something could have been done differently, but their honest (if critical) assessment might be able to help you hone your craft in some way.

Is This a Keyboard Warrior or an Army?

One bad review might sting a little but what if a whole host of negative reviews show up? Authors who have received a few bad reviews may want to see if there is a common comment or topic shared among negative reviews. When one reviewer mentions some aspect of your writing they didn’t like, it’s easy to chalk that up to personal preference or a stylistic concern expressed by a lone keyboard warrior. And it is easier to dismiss the singular reviewer’s concern. But when a whole army jumps on the same bandwagon, authors are wise to take an honest look at what the reviewers have to say.

Laugh It Off

When all else fails, taking a lighthearted view of bad reviews may be the way to go. Not every book reviewer has a logical train of thought or makes insightful points about what they have read. As a writer, choosing to simply not worry about those kinds of reviews can be good for the soul and provide a hearty laugh as well.

Get Back on the Horse That Bucked You Off (Keep Writing)

Don’t let one (or many) bad reviews keep you from doing what you love. Feeling paralyzed by a poor review of your work should only be temporary at best. Because the realization that not everyone loves all types of writing rings true for famous, experienced authors as well as for you. So jumping right back onto the bucking bronco by continuing a writing project, finishing an ongoing project, or planning for the next book is a great way to put aside any negative feelings generated from a bad book review.

Plan for the Future

When you are on the receiving end of less-than-stellar reviews, one of the best ways to cope with the unexpected critiques is to plan how you will respond to any bad reviews or commentary that comes your way again. Planning for how you will respond to a negative review can help you deal with a bad review without letting it derail your confidence or your writing momentum.

1 Remind yourself to let your writing go when it is published. Once you have sent your final draft off to the printer, no more changes can be made even if you wanted to make them or if a reviewer didn’t like something in your book. Decide to be content with your finished book.

2 Decide if you want to look at future reviews (or not). Some authors simply don’t read reviews as it causes them too much stress or anxiety. Deciding ahead of time if you will read reviews can calm your anxieties. Even having a friend or family member read reviews and let you know when they see one you might like or need to know about might work for some writers, too.

3 Consider how you can see reviews as constructive in the future. Having a growth mindset instead of being disgruntled when reading negative commentary about your writing can be freeing for even the most seasoned of writers. Decide how you will look for the good in bad reviews before they happen so you will be prepared to learn from them.

4 See opinions for what they are. When a reader just doesn’t like your writing style, decide ahead of time to not take it personally.

Get Started on Your Next Book

Once you have put a bad review behind you, it’s time to begin working on your next writing project. Partner with a trusted printing company like Publishing Xpress so you won’t have to worry about the quality of your book as the focus of a negative review. Next, engage the services of an expert cover designer so your upcoming book will stand out from all the rest. Choose the best binding option for your project and consider hiring a professional editor to catch the details that keep a good book from being a great one. Once you have completed the final draft, be confident that your love of writing and your professional approach to book writing will shine through and result in a fantastic book that you can be proud of.

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