Handling Negative Reviews

Guest Post by Ryan Hill, Author of Dead New World

The rule of thumb for writers is to avoid reviews at any cost. Just don’t look at them. If you’re Gillian Flynn or JK Rowling and get thousands of them, it’s easy to do that. For those of us who haven’t sold a few million books, reviews can be important. They help get the word out about your work, exposing it to people who otherwise wouldn’t be aware of it. This is HUGE. On Amazon, if a book gets enough reviews, it gets bumped into an algorithm that exposes it to more people. Reviews can be great. Sadly, they can also be negative.

Negative reviews can hurt. A lot. A writer spends so much time slaving over a manuscript, making sure it’s ready to submit out to agents or publishers. If accepted, the writer then is faced with several more months of editing. When it’s all said and done, a writer may spend almost two years working to get just one novel published. It’s hard to put that kind of commitment into something, and then read a review where someone says “This is drivel. Terrible writing. This stinks. Blah blah blah.” To dismiss something as if it were nothing hurts. A lot. At least, it can hurt.

Negative reviews are a fact of life. People are going to know a writer’s work for an infinite number of reasons. Maybe they’re jealous. Maybe the book touched a nerve in the reviewer that made them uncomfortable. Or, maybe they genuinely disliked the book. It happens. And it’s not up to a writer to worry about it. Most writers can be insecure (myself included), which makes a bad review that much more difficult to get over. But it can be done.

When I get a negative review, the first thing I do is laugh. Period. I laugh at the review. Sometimes, if I think it’s an especially ridiculous review, I’ll copy and paste snippets to my friends, so they can share in the laughter. Then, I put it out of my mind. What’s one bad review among, say, ten? That means 90% of the people who read your book really liked it. That’s a pretty good number, don’t you think?

Also, to even get to a point where your work is published, a writer has to go through an endless amount of rejection. Agents, publishers, contests, etc. will have all told a writer no several times before they reach that elusive yes. Even Harry Potter got rejected 32 times (or so. Too lazy to look it up.). So, as a writer, you should be used to rejection. Yes, it’s a little different, since this is the public trashing your novel, so more people see it, but the principle remains the same. Even during edits with a publisher, a writer will have to deal with criticism (at least constructive criticism). It’s okay. And here’s why:

  • People can say whatever they want about a book you wrote. They’ll NEVER be able to take away the fact that YOU WROTE SOMETHING A PERSON LIKED ENOUGH TO PUBLISH. That is a massive achievement!
  • Some people may leave a negative review without reading the entire book. This is extremely bad form, and not worth anyone’s time, especially the writer’s. The others… well, on the bright side, THEY READ YOUR ENTIRE BOOK. That’s a good thing!
  • Haters gonna hate. That’s what they do. It’s a part of life, accept it, and move on. Nobody needs to dwell on negativity in their life.
  • So… smile! While you’re working on getting another book published, that person is working on another negative review. Ask yourself this: which person would you rather be?

About the Author

Author Ryan HillGrowing up, Ryan Hill used to spend his time reading and writing instead of doing homework. This resulted in an obsession with becoming a writer, but also a gross incompetence in the fields of science and mathematics. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Ryan has been a film critic for over five years. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his dog/shadow Maggie. Ryan also feels strange about referring to himself in the third person.
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Filed under Guest Post, Writing Business

2 Responses to Handling Negative Reviews

  1. Felita

    This is a wonderful post Ryan. I’ve shared it on a couple of Facebook writing/author groups. Some find the marketing of their books one of the most difficult aspects of being an author.

  2. Great advice. I think our first impulse is often to respond but restraint is definitely the better response, and laughter, as you point out, the best solution.