More on Reviews, bad reviews…

Every Wednesday I share some of the things I have found that worked well for me and some that didn’t work so well on my journey to publication, marketing and publishing again.  The sort of stuff I wish somebody would have told me back then…

Writing Wednesday

Typewriter Pink

Last week I wrote, How To Get Reviews for your Book

You can read that post here:

I first wrote this post for David Abram’s, The Quivering Pen and this week I wanted to share it with you. The first time my book received a bad review…

There it was; that one yellow star shining like a fiery beacon shot straight out of every author’s private hell. I felt dizzy, nauseous and had trouble focusing on the words that followed that one lonely star. I held my breath and began to read my first-ever one-star review. Star yellow As I read the words, a hard, dry lump formed in my throat and my eyes filled with tears, making it that much harder to read.  It said something to the effect of, I was a psycho and should not be trusted with children, my book was full of grammatical errors and more…ouch and ouch.  What on earth did me being a psycho have to do with my story, anyway?  And of course, I am not a psycho, I hope.  “Grammatical errors, seriously,” I shouted at my computer monitor.  I spent hours upon hours working with an editor and then many more hours with my publisher’s editor and then a conceptual editor.  I knew the book was NOT full of grammatical errors, but still those words stung. My first instinct was to comment on the review, typing in all caps, calling the bully a liar and many other choice words.  I was however, strongly urged to keep my revenge-happy typing fingers to myself. sword pen My writer friends shared their own review horror stories with me, and they all agreed, I must not respond. I hated that advice but they were right. While writing that first book I never thought about people reviewing it, especially the murderers and their families, the ones I wrote about. I did have the dream all authors have of a great New York Times review. New York Times Book Review I had no idea how much weight reviews carried, How many people wrote them and certainly had no idea how much anxiety they caused and how sharply they could attack and damage our sensitive writer egos.

Once I had taken all the good advice to heart, and was ready to put it all behind me and move on, I had to read the words one more time.  Yep, they were still there with that damn one star shining brighter than ever.  I noticed there were comments after the review.  I was filled with anxiety all over again, but as I read those comments, I was overcome with relief and so grateful.  People who actually read the book took the time to come to my defense.

I now read and write reviews for everything from restaurants, toys, cars, doctors and pet products.  If I bought it, used it or read it, chances are I am reviewing.

My marketing rep told me great sales figures will trump any review, good or bad, every time. One day, I would love to say that bad reviews do not bother me but I doubt that will ever be true.  I am human and I am sensitive writer.

I will continue to work at fine-tuning my writing and hope the good reviews will always outnumber the bad ones.

Happy Writing,


Quote writer quote about haters

22 Responses to “More on Reviews, bad reviews…”

  • I’ve only gotten one 1-star rating so far, but I don’t feel too bad about it. It’s my best friend’s brother-in-law, who told her he didn’t even read the book. Still, I’m not exactly pleased by that.

    I think actual critical reviews are helpful, even if they are negative. You can look at them and decide if it’s a problem with the writing, or if it’s a personal issue.

    This was a great article on handling that. 🙂

  • I am kind of terrified of the day when I start getting bad reviews. Everyone gets them, yet I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I’m glad your readers defended you!

  • I haven’t met an author yet who hasn’t lived through your experience. Even as I type this I can feel the sharp intake of breath and the aching pain in the middle of the chest that follows. I think that’s why I don’t write as many reviews as I should. I would not want to inflict that horrendous feeling upon anyone. I’m glad you outgrew it, though. It almost feels like a rite of passage surviving a cruel and unnecessary book review. Thanks for visiting my blog, Doreen. Sorry I’m late. I got stuck with the 36 hour flu. It’s harder to recoup as I get older.

  • I really really like that you review everything as often as possible. It is something that I should do more often and we should list our reviews on our websites too when we are passionate about something! I hope to be in a situation where I get book reviews soon… good ones I hope!

  • Helene Cohen Bludman:

    I can imagine how devastating that bad review was. Our books are like our children, and we certainly don’t want anyone bad mouthing our children. Everyone tells me you need a thick skin in this business and I think they are right.

  • Aaack! I’m in the process of requesting reviews for my new novel and I am so dreading the reviews. I suspect most of them will be at least okay. I’ve already gotten one pretty decent one. But I know I’m going to crumble into tiny little pieces with the hater swings by. I’ll hold onto your advice for when that time comes.

  • I no longer read reviews on my book, even thought most are positive and quite nice. It only takes one, to get you reeling. And it is the one we always remember. The purpose of reviews are to give an opinion NOT to trash someone else’s. I’m with you on this. Moving on is the best revenge!

  • I have actually developed a system for using Bad reviews as a reader: I find a reviewer (critic) that I disagree with, and anytime that reviewer says anything (positive or negative) I do the opposite. Works like a charm!

  • Any given book is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea–I hated The Goldfinch but it got good reviews and prizes. I just don’t think you can expect everyone to love every book. I even have a blog post coming out about this!

  • Since I’ve only published a children’s book I haven’t had any bad reviews. I don’t think people give kids books a bad review. I know I would be crushed if I got one for anything I wrote!
    But, have to tell you about a Yelp review incident recently…
    Our dog groomers in Queen Village were horribly reviewed by a girl who took a 10 sec. video, out of context, and posted it on Yelp calling it dog abuse. It was not. Then she asked her friends from all over the country to write a bad review. They did! Lots of them!None of those people had ever stepped foot in the place! She also got the local Fox station to go there to see what was going on. He discovered they were closed and was trying to ask the owners daughter, through the blinds, what happened. She tried to explain, but you couldn’t really hear her. I was furious!
    We’ve used 3 groomers here in Cape May and none are very good. One cut Sydney’s vagina with a wire brush, for crying out loud! So I’ve been missing the ladies at QV groomers! So I went on Yelp and told them I’ve been a customer for 15 years, with 4 different dogs who LOVED the ladies there! I explained how the other girl had used Yelp to ruin someone’s livelihood and that was despicable! Another friend joined me in defending them, and finally Yelp removed their posts. BUT, the shop is closing anyway. It’s a damn shame!
    I believe reviews should be written with the intent of helping the person, not for vengeance. There are other ways to fight a wrong!
    Didn’t mean to go off, Doreen. But this was fresh in my addled brain. 😉

    • It does seem that the newest way to bully is to do attack reviews. The best way to stop these attacks is to support the victims and do positive reviews for them.
      I refuse to do negative reviews. If I don’t like something I just don’t review it.
      Sydney has had a very tough year, poor girl.

  • Dorothy Stacy:

    I really enjoyed your blog post. I remember my first “bad” review. It was a 3 star one but critical all the way. I felt just like you did as I am a sensitive person too. No matter how many great reviews I get, that one still bothers me at times. Thanks for sharing.

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