15 Steps For Dealing With A Bad Book Review

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

It was only a matter of time. One cannot enjoy 4- and 5-star reviews indefinitely. Yep, I gotta a two-er. A big, fat, stinky two-er.

I debated to even blog about this. The moment I mention the stinker, you’ll all scurry over to find it, and I’d prefer to keep the shame top-secret, not to mention I’d like to remain professional. But the title of my blog isn’t The Write Transition because I pontificate about ponies. It’s because I share my writing journey with others who travel the same path. And that means sharing the pretty and the ugly.

Welcome to my ugly.

Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

For all you writers out there, here are my 15 STEPS for dealing with a bad review. If you’re not a writer, feel free to enjoy my pain anyway.

Step 1: Feel heart leap into throat and gut sink to knees the second you spot the review. Taste a coppery sickness in your mouth.

Step 2: Refresh the page in case you’re mistaken.

Step 3: Experience a rush of despair when you discover the reviewer gave away the plot twist by dumping a truckload of spoilers.

Step 4: Remind yourself that a bad review was inevitable, and in fact, probably makes a book more credible.

Step 5: Get back to the novel-in-progress you were working on before you took the regretful Internet break.

Step 6: Allow review to fester in your psyche while you write. In doing so, tell yourself you’re a fool for thinking you can write at all. Cap this off with, “Who do you think you’re kidding?”

Step 7: Go back to review and click on the reviewer’s profile. Feel some relief when you note he has three pages of one- and two-star reviews. But feel sad again that he said you’ve lost all ‘grip on reality.’

Step 8: Remind yourself everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and you can’t please everyone.

Step 9: Seek out a handful of M&Ms for solace.

Step 10: Return to your novel-in-progress, write a few lines, and tell yourself the work is crap.

Step 11: Visit another review site and perk up when you see a new four-star review from a stranger who uses the words “can’t put it down” and “very realistic.”

Step 12: Pull up your big-kid pants and remind yourself it’s one review out of many.

Step 13: Hike those pants even higher and remember you once helped care for post-op kids in the ICU who’d just undergone open-heart surgery. Know that maintaining their blood pressure merited much greater worry than living with a bad review.

Step 14: Tell yourself that bad reviews are just as helpful as good reviews—maybe even more so—and learn from what was said. Pat yourself on the back for being an adult.

Step 15: Go to bed that night and sleep soundly. Well, kind of.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


321 Responses to “15 Steps For Dealing With A Bad Book Review”

  1. Jonathan

    I can see where you are coming from at least as far as _fiction_ writing goes.

    When writing fact more is at stake. A bad review reflects on the author’s expertise, and not just the book, which they may rely on for other work.

    So what does an author do when confronted with not just an unfavourable review of their non-fiction book, but an unfavourable review that contains erroneous statements (falsehoods) about ones work.

    I recently had such a review of one of my books. It was in a professional related publication too and so my core market in my home country saw it. Alas, after thinking about it for a while, I decided all I could do is point out the reviewers falsehoods, and this — for what it is worth and since you ask — is what I did…
    http://www.science-com.concatenation.org/reviews/antoinette_mannion_reading.html

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, I can see where that would be highly frustrating for a nonfiction piece of work. Sorry you had to experience that. Even for fiction, false statements can get under one’s skin, especially if the author has researched it or experienced the passage in question personally. Thank you for the link. Very interesting. And thank you for reading and commenting!

      Like

  2. List of X

    I actually watched Sixth Sense for the first time already knowing the plot twist. I watched it together with my wife who didn’t – and it was like we were watching two different movies.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s true. I watched it a second time, and once I knew the twist, I was looking for other things. Such a good movie. Too bad it all went downhill for M. Night Shyamalan after that…

      Like

  3. happinessisnotadisease

    The two things I can’t stand are people who can’t take a joke and PEOPLE WHO GIVE OUT SPOILERS! And WITH NO WARNINGS! Ugh. That person sounds awful. It’s not always “bad” to have a bad review but that one seems like a really bitter author who can’t understand Fiction (here, I’m assuming what you wrote is Fiction, tee-hee).

    Glad you’re over it already and I’m sure, the good reviews outnumber all the bad ones. 🙂 You’ve been real honest here, too. Anyone who creates something and had their work insulted, stomped at, and spat with acid could really relate to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, I can’t deny it stung when I saw it, but I’m all over it now, especially since he has since added a spoiler alert warning to the review. As others have said, a bad review means it’s a ‘real’ book now. And yes, it’s fiction. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. twistingthreads

    I’m glad to see the reviewer put up a spoiler alert. I can see why that would trouble you, not the least because Amazon explicitly states in its comment terms that reviewers HAVE to include that information.

    Yes, I hopped right over to read the review, although I did not engage the writer of said review. As crappy as getting such a review is, I don’t think the way it was written will hold a whole lot of water with potential readers. I don’t know about others, but while I do read the negative and middling reviews when considering a book, I also keep in mind how the review is written (poor spelling and grammar is definitely a drawback when considering a review), whether or not it contains any useful commentary or just says “sucks”, and whether or not the reviewer even bothered to read the synopsis (being angry that a medical type thriller novel has a sci-fi component that they find unbelievable when the type of novel is specified in the description is well…why did they read it if they knew it probably wouldn’t be their cup of tea?). Nothing that person said will put off anyone who likes that type of work, it will only put off people who would have purchased and not cared for the genre anyway. You might think about what they said and whether you can endeavor to make that type of reader happier in the future, but I don’t think their review will have a lot of merit for the majority, and it might actually encourage people to buy your book.

    I guess my point is, don’t worry. It was an excellent first novel, with engaging pacing and lovely characters. You have nothing to worry about; you’ll only become a better writer with time.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment! What a wonderful response to find. And I’m all good with the review now, especially since he added the spoiler alert (I didn’t know Amazon specified that that should be done, but it certainly makes sense). And as I mentioned in the post, I do think bad reviews give a book more credibility. Most of the books I’ve read have a wide array of ratings. I think it’s just hard to see that first one, especially when one doesn’t have 300 reviews like some of the bigwigs.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

      Like

  5. Fathead Follies

    I think it’s sad that the internet is so full of people who just sit behind the safety of their computers and spread nastiness. He probably wasn’t hugged enough as a child.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Maybe so…

      I don’t have a problem with a bad review, but it’s the way some are done that’s frustrating. One can state their displeasure for a book without being mean about it. 🙂

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrea

    WHAT?! No way. Lemme at him. Gave away plot points? Isn’t that grounds for you to send a complaint to the admin? Can’t you flag the comment as spam citing not that he isn’t entitled to his opinion, but that he deliberately ruined the plot for others? That’s it… lemme at him. I hate people like that. Useless!

    That being said…very funny post. Poor thing.

    Like

  7. Leighta Bennett

    I found my first 1 star review today. It’s awful and it’s taken me all day to hold back the tears but I’m trying to find solace in the fact that my book elicited such an emotional response. My book’s only been out a week and a bit so having one so early on and with still only a few really good reviews is a bit hard to take. I’m just hoping the future reviews err on the side of the good rather than the bad and the balance doesn’t tip. And yes, I’m doing all the same steps as you 🙂 And I only read it the once but I’m pretty sure there were spoilers there too.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It definitely stings, doesn’t it? But I like what an earlier commenter said: His wife is an author, and when she gets a bad book review, she says, ” Well, it’s a real book now,” and I think there’s some truth to that. Reviews of all types make a book more credible, I think. But spoilers are not cool on any level.

      Sorry you’re facing this. It stinks, I know. But it helps when we know we’re not alone. Thanks so much for the comment.

      Like

  8. valleygirl96

    There’s no accounting for some people’s taste. I love your steps for coping, though. I tend to cycle through many of those whenever I write – even without a bad review. (Especially the one about telling yourself how much you suck and the handful of M&M’s!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, M&Ms go nicely with self doubt, don’t they? 😉

      I’m feeling much better about it now, especially since he added a spoiler alert. Thanks for dropping by! Good to see you. (Well, see in the online sense, anyway…)

      Like

      • valleygirl96

        Yes, I’ve been busy…and doing the whole “your writing really sucks” thing, so I’ve been out of the game for a bit. But we had an incident this morning and I was giving a test today, so I couldn’t resist posting (finally)!

        Like

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