Five ways to cope with a bad review

Writers write so readers can read. But what happens when readers decide to do some writing of their own?

Reviews and ratings. The only type of feedback that’s available for everyone to see. And, of course, from time to time, someone writes a bad review and gives you a one star rating. The review may be a long, essay-like exposition on how bad your writing is, or just a one liner filled with spelling errors. A really bad review might be enough to make your heart throb inside your chest. Tears might be involved as well.

Well, I’m going to tell you some of the best ways to cope with bad reviews. All of them have been properly tested.

1. Sit down, count to three, relax, close your eyes. Think of something funny. Build a happy place inside your head where that bad person who gave you a one star review on Amazon can’t reach you.

2. Walk it off. Go for a stroll in the park. Take your dog with you. Don’t have one? Take your cat, your parrot, etc. Half an hour of aimless wandering can do miracles for your blood pressure.

3. Write a new story. Yeah, simple as that. Start something new, something better.

4. Go to the Amazon page of your favorite novel and read all the one star reviews that are there. Bad reviews are everywhere, and even a masterpiece has to have some really bad ones. No book has ever pleased everyone. As David Gaughran once said, great books tend to divide people.

5. Read your five star reviews. Read some fan mail.

What you DON’T want to do is:  reply. Never, ever do that. Not when you get a good review, because people will expect you to answer to all of your reviews, and especially not when you get a bad one. If a reader is confused as to what the hell where you trying to say in your story, don’t try to explain. Not even in a cheeky, cheery manner.

The thing is that, okay, you write a story. But from the moment someone buys that story, it’s theirs. And they can understand as much or as little as they want/can. They can love it or hate it. But your job’s done. You can’t possibly expect to be there when someone reads your story and explain all the bits that they didn’t understand.

Don’t try to denigrate the reviewer, don’t hire the mob to kill him.

Because bad reviews also lend credibility to your book. Having only five star reviews is a bit suspicious.

We’re all different. We all have different preferences when it comes to literature. So, maybe, just maybe, that person who gave you a bad review did so simply because he didn’t like the story, not because it wasn’t good. It just wasn’t his cup of tea. It happens.

The thing is that people tend to write reviews for the books they either loved or hated. To let others know that the book is worth reading or to let others know they should stay away from it.

So, relax and drink a beer or something.

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10 thoughts on “Five ways to cope with a bad review

  1. Great article! It is always so hard not to respond to negative feedback, and typically I do it in the heat of the moment without really thinking it through and later regret it. I need to learn, like you said, to just walk away and don’t respond at all.

  2. “Never fight a battle that you don’t have to win” has guided most of my adult life on a relaxed and generally happy course. Don’t like my work? Just because you don’t get it doesn’t make me a bad writer. I couldn’t agree with you more, Cristian, and to all the newbie authors who haven’t faced their first bad review yet, let me weigh in on behalf of your advice: Never, ever, respond to a bad review. It won’t make you feel better, and as a worst-case outcome, you might start a feud with a troll who’ll follow you to the end of your days for no other purpose than to make your life miserable. Cristain is as right as right can be here; shake it off and get on with your career!

  3. Reviews are subjective. A review is somebody’s opinion, birthed in the realm of their own reality. As the title of one of my posts on Sparkyjen throws out…”Not Your 🎥!”
    As mentioned here, you could possibly read all of the 1* quotes. If most or all have similar mentions, maybe there’s something to learn & grow from. If not, and you can’t resist casting blame, blame it on personal taste/opinion, and move on.
    After all, if you don’t feel there’s any truth to certain comments…There’s nothing to defend!

  4. I’ve only received one book review thus far. It was 3/5 and hardly gave me any feedback. I’m sure the day I get a negative review will be rough, but I’d like to believe it could make me more resilient.

  5. Yeah, hey, unless like Dave Eggers is bashing your work, personally, in a 1-star review on Amazon, there’s no need to pay attention. And, frankly, if Dave Eggers or someone equally qualified is publicly critiquing your work, well, that’s just basically a free lesson you’re getting.

  6. I was told that generally it’s good to thank people who left a review, because they took more of their time to write it than it takes for a mere “Thank you very much.” Yes, if a bad review is out of the blue, we should ignore it. If it looked as written with good intentions, from that reader’s point of view, which is radically different from ours, it is clear that our book wasn’t written for THAT audience, and they still deserve a brief and polite “Thank you for letting me know.” If written with spite, indeed, it needs to be ignored.

  7. I like that there are articles like these out there. I’m not a writer so maybe this post doesn’t particularly apply to me but as a reviewer and someone who hates giving negative opinions/criticism/feedback, it’s nice to know writers have a way of coping in case they ever read one of my 1 star reviews haha.

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