Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How NOT to Deal with Negative Reviews

There’s been a lot of talk recently about writers and their relationships with reviewers and it reminded me of a blog that was so infamous as to have become viral. In it, a reviewer wrote an even-handed description of a novel he read, including both the good and not-so-good parts of it.

The novelist’s response? “Fuck off!” *

Let’s be honest. Anyone who has ever written a book has a less-than-glowing review of that book out there somewhere. And yeah, it’s quite possible that your first instinct on reading that review is to say “fuck off.” But professional writers might say it to an empty room or over drinks with some friends, not typed on a public blog. Three times.

Negative reviews hurt. I won’t deny that I’ve been reduced to tears once or twice because not everyone in the world thought my book was the most fantastic thing they’ve ever read. I had a little pity party for myself and did my best to get over it. In fact, I’ve often (after the sting has worn off) gone back to read the review again for any critical insight I can take from it. I’ve learned a couple of things that I’m incorporating into my next book this way.

Are there reviews that an author can’t find the positive in at all? Sure, but the vast majority of reviewers will offer a fair and balanced accounting of a book. Rarely, a reviewer will attack a book like a possessed howler monkey with a personal grudge. In those cases, the novelist has to learn to turn off the web browser and walk away. Silently.

A reviewer isn’t a genius when he grants you a glowing review and an idiot when he gives you one star. He is a person who has his own opinions, feelings, experiences, and yes, bad days, just like you. No one person’s opinion, good or bad, should weigh so heavily on any writer.

The author has since removed her comments from the blog.


  1. Well said, Jennifer. I am all ears as I just published my first novel and reviews from people who don't know me are coming in. Restraint is the byword.

  2. If you go on Goodreads and look up your favorite novel, you'll see lots of people who agree with you, but also people who loathe the book. (Who doesn't love Outlander??? But those crazy people do exist!) Taste is subjective. The only thing you can completely control is your level of professionalism.

    Best of luck on your first novel, Gale!

  3. Ohhh, great post, Jennifer! Am sharing this!