Getting a horrible review can feel truly dreadful and is one of the things that writers fear the most. It is one thing receiving rejections from agents and publishers - we expect these, but they only either ignore us or write a couple of lines saying ‘thanks but no thanks.’
A bad review, however, is something quite different.
A bad review means that someone has not only read your work but has such a strongly negative opinion of it that they feel it is their duty to share that with the world to protect them from the horror of your writing! That hurts.
Bad reviews can have a devastating effect on the writer. They not only upset us but can really knock our confidence and put us off writing altogether. It can also put other readers off buying our books too!
So, if you do receive a bad review, how do you make sure you handle well? Here are some options to try:
Don’t take it personally
Remember a bad review isn’t a personal attack on you (even though it may feel like it). Writing is your work, your business - and you aren’t going to have a 100% success rate. Not everyone can like what you do so don’t take it personally - it’s not meant to be,
Look to the greats
There are practically no successful books that have had nothing but positive reviews. Even the most famous of them cannot please everyone. Here are a few examples:
"This is actually a horribly written boring piece of literature. It took me 2 days just to get past the horrible first chapter because there was nothing going on to keep me reading. And I figured if it is already this slow and boring then I have to stop. Stay away from this disgustingly overrated book and disgustingly bad writer." Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
"Maybe it has a deep meaning that I didn't get, but honestly, no! It's just not worth the read." - Review of Carrie by Stephen King
- "This collection of books is really, really terrible and boring, and I wouldn't wish the task of reading it on my worst enemy." - Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Whatever you do, do not respond to anyone who writes you a bad review. You’ll come across as petty and unable to take criticism. At the end of the day there is a distinct difference from someone who has written a considered, but negative review and explained why, as opposed to someone who has just written horrible things about your book for no reason. At the end of the day, the former has every right to be entitled to their opinion and the latter will just come across as an internet troll who other readers are unlikely to take seriously. If someone has written something personally offensive, you do have the option of reporting this to Amazon to see if they will take it down.
A bad review is still a review and means someone thought your book was interesting enough to buy in the first place, so there is a silver lining! The fact of the matter is there is not a huge amount you can do about a bad review so just remain positive, keep trying to improve, accept it and move on.
Re-read your good reviews
For most writers the good reviews far outweigh the bad - so when you are feeling down just read over all those wonderful compliments you got about your writing, and you’ll start to feel better soon enough.
Remember why you write
It’s important to always remember what inspires you to write in the first place. If you only do it to make money and get famous then that’s too bad. But if you do it because it’s your passion and you simply can’t not, then a bad review or two shouldn’t get you down for too long!
Another thing I know to expect, even though I have not reached that point yet. Everyone knows to expect to get both good and bad reviews.
Incidentally, the article refers to self-publishing, but I'm sure most of this is also true for traditional-published books.
Another website, The Write Life, offers this suggestion for dealing with a bad review:
Dealing with a negative review
If you’re a writer, especially a newbie, and you’ve received a bad Amazon review, here are my three steps to deal with it:
1. Ignore it
2. Ignore it
3. Use it as motivation to make your next article or manuscript even better
Yes, all of these sound like good ways to deal with a bad review. I guess I'm now prepared for such an event.