Let me say this first if you are an author, and you’re reading this. Do not read your reviews. And, if you ignore that, listen to this instead — never, ever, EVEEEEEERRRR respond, especially to a bad one.
I Learnt the Hard Way
One thing I have been asked a lot during my writing career is how do I cope with reviews … the bad ones. I remember getting my first 1-star review, and it hurt as if the person had spat in my face, stomped on my foot and punched me in the gut for good measure. It was soul-destroying.
I wanted to message that person and ask them why. I wanted to yell at them. I wanted to chew a whole pack of gum and then stick it in their hair. Damn you, pesky reviewer. *Rattles fist*
I am sorry to say, in my early writing and publishing days, I did feed my bad reviewers to my fans like a good old Roman feeding the Christians to the lions.
I beg forgiveness; I have since learnt my lesson.
Don’t Read Them
If anyone asks me about dealing with the bad reviews now, I tell them I don’t read them. It’s that simple. Now, I am a well-behaved author. Besides … who has the time to read reviews?
One thing I did to get my head out of my sorry, sulking author pity-party was read the bad reviews on my favourite author’s books. So, I trawled Stephen King’s books, Kelley Armstrong’s, Dean Koontz, and so many more. I looked at all their bad reviews. And you know what? They had hundreds of them.
Do you know Stephen King has more negative reviews than I do? Of course, he has more readers than me … but that isn’t the point here. I mean, people must hate his work more than they hate mine … right? Yes? Nod. Please.
I am kidding when I say this, by the way.
They’re Still Buying Your Book
My point is, bad reviews, pointless reviews, reviews that don’t make an ounce of sense … if you have people buying your books regularly, then you’re going to get the bad reviews.
Perhaps this is a good thing
If a book has 1,000 5-star reviews, and not a single negative one, how long before people started saying it was a fix? Or the reviews must be fake? You know it would happen. I think having different review numbers shows an author has readers, and yeah, not everyone is going to like your book, your characters, your writing style. So, what? Suck it up buttercup and carry on.
I have not read any of my reviews on Goodreads in years now. Not unless someone sends me them, and even then, I creep into them like a lone teenager at night, whispering who’s there when really, they should be running out the door before they’re handed their final milk and cookies.
I see authors sharing their negative reviews. I see them shaming the readers and the person who left that review. I want to ask why. What do you think it is going to achieve?
To me, it doesn’t encourage me to read their book. Honestly, it puts me off. It makes them come across as childish and unprofessional. “Oh, look at her … that reviewer. Doesn’t know what an Oxford comma is … blah, blah, blah … ”
Read that in a hold-your-nose-sulky mimic voice for the best effect.
You get what I am saying, right? I know nowadays the authors interact more with readers and fans, but does that mean we should shame then because they happen to have an opinion we don’t like? Even if they are unknown to us. Even if they left us a 1-star review that made us curl in a corner and cry, should an author share that?
Put your toys back in your pram and move on.
Do Not Shame Reviewers Online
I have never seen anything good come from an author sharing negative reviews on social media.
But here’s the other thing. Authors should not reply to positive reviews either. Maybe that sounds nuts. But as a reader, doesn’t knowing the author is lurking, watching you like a bookworm spy feel kind of creepy? I mean, if you wanted the author to know your thoughts, you’d send them directly.
I think perhaps a good way to deal with negative reviews is to make a note of the name of the person and use it as a victim in your next story … just saying.
Learn From Them
Honestly, if you are going to read your reviews, use them as a learning tool. The negative ones, are they saying the same thing? I have my first book with a few bad reives, and almost all of them say the book was too short. That’s not really a negative thing. It means they wanted more of the story, more of the characters. I can build on that. I can write more of that story and make it bigger.
If you get several reviews stating spelling errors, or grammar mistakes, it means you may need an editor and using an editor can only help you develop.
Any situation can be taken as an opportunity to learn.