About negative book reviews

22 Jul

There is no author who has never received a bad review. Even better – the more popular the book is, the more negative reviews you can find for it.

A bad review feels like a punch in the gut, when you no longer can breathe and all the motivation and inspiration drop far below zero. It remains like a sticky note somewhere in a corner of your brain, tarnishing your day. It hurts worse than a rejection it sort of is.

Every fiction author is an artist, and artists are sensitive souls. Moreover, while creating starsfiction we often reveal much more personal things than are necessary for nonfiction books. That’s one of the reasons why for some authors it takes a lot of courage to dare put their book out there for others to read. Our creations feel like our beloved children and knowing that someone hates them feels awful. And even on a more basic level, every normal human being wants to be loved, and it hurts to know it’s not the case.

How to deal with poor reviews

1. Here is the rule of thumb: “Grow your crocodile skin”

Every person is different and it is impossible to be loved by everyone. Be prepared that there will be readers who will absolutely love your book, and others who will just hate it. Sometimes it’s not because of your writing skills or of the bad story. Sometimes a person just hates it all with all his/her being “just because”.

2. Take a deep breath, relax, and ask yourself whether there is something constructive and useful in the bad review

Often a negative review points out some mistakes that need to be corrected (that was the case of my book – several people pointed out editorial drawbacks in their reviews, and I’m actually thankful for that because I was able to make the corrections).

However, if the review attacks the author himself/herself or has some horrible things that are not exactly related to the work, there is no need to agonize over them. Just go back to the point 1.

3. Be Polite

NEVER respond to mean reviews, or if you for some reason you feel like you have to, do not be mean in response!!! It’s not professional! A written word can’t be erased, and your impulsive rudeness can go a long way tarnishing your image.

Remember that:

  • Poor reviews make your work more legitimate: if you only have 4- and 5-star reviews, people might think that those are from family and friends, which is slightly undermining their credibility.
  • Bad reviews are not really stopping the potential readers from buying your book. Other factors like cover, description and price have more power over the buying decision.
  • Some marketers believe that there is no bad advertising – no matter bad or good are the things it says, it still creates an awareness and triggers some sort of curiosity. And believe it or not, some people will actually buy things that people they are opposed to hate. It is easy to find examples of a very bad critique that became the reason of a huge success.
  • Stay true to yourself and do not allow to manipulate your emotions. Let them speak – you wrote your book, your beloved creation, for those who have similar tastes, for those who like it. Why would you care for those who hate it? If there is one person out there who likes your story, then it was worth the effort.

I absolutely love the way Robin Hobb, one of my favorite fiction writers, put it:

I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star ‘I liked it’ rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It’s a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means, yes, I liked the book, and I’d loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it. A 3 star means that I’ve ignored friends to finish it and my sink is full of dirty dishes. A 4 star means I’m probably in trouble with my editor for missing a deadline because I was reading this book. But I want you to know . . . I don’t finish books I don’t like. There’s too many good ones out there waiting to be found.”

Good luck!

Kateryna Kei, Author of Raven Boy, adventure and romance young-adult saga



Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Author Resources


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4 responses to “About negative book reviews

  1. Mili_Fay

    July 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Great post. 🙂 My sister laughs at me because every time she gives me a negative response to my work, I go a bit mental; like a little child acting out and saying stuff they do not mean because they are hurt. After I had some time to filter out the emotions and can think rationally I usually go back and make changes she suggested.

    Constructive criticism is wonderful, destructive should be ignored, because it is worthless.

    My acting for animators teacher said something that stuck with me. He said that there are people who like everything, people who hate everything, and most of us are in the middle. The ones in the middle are the truest critics. 🙂

    Personally, I’m in the middle, but closer to the I like everything group. The one thing I cannot get over is poor animation, especially when it is done by big studios like Disney.


  2. Gayle Mullen Pace

    July 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I have a problem with one star reviews when that’s all there is. One star. No review. How does one deal with THAT negativism when there’s no clue how they felt? As a reader, I ignore them. If it was that bad, they should have the wherewithal to write something.


  3. katerynakei

    July 26, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Thanks for the comments! I totally agree – as long as the review has nothing constructive it is better to simply ignore it.


  4. katerynakei

    July 26, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Mili, that’s so true! I guess I’m in the middle too 😉



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