A negative review can hit an author with the force of a freight train. After all, you’ve spent months or even years writing, plowed through the necessary editing, and then invested your time, money, and energy into launching your book into the world. Yet, with just two or three off-the-cuff remarks, a bad review shatters your psyche, your confidence, and your enthusiasm.
Take a few deep breaths and get your laptop out of the trash can you threw it in. Here’s Self-Publishing Relief’s advice on how to put a positive spin on negative reviews:
Acknowledge The Hurt
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all authors wholeheartedly love the books they’ve written. Our books are our babies! So, when a stranger calls your baby ugly, it’s a natural instinct to react with shock, horror, anger, and even despair.
Acknowledge those feelings. They’re perfectly natural. Cry, rage, scream, even punch a pillow if that helps. The one thing you don’t want to do while in an emotional fit is respond to the review. The Internet teems with examples of the backlash that occurs when an author defends his or her book against harsh or unfair criticism.
Be wary before you put yourself in that position. Instead, work through the natural emotional stages in private or with the help of friends until you can settle down and put the situation in perspective.
Talk To Other Self-Published Authors
Although venting to your family and coworkers may make you feel better, you’ll get a keener professional perspective if you talk to fellow indie authors. They’re likely to regale you with stories of the bad reviews they’ve received, as well as remind you of some basic truths, such as:
- In the age of the Internet, no qualifications are needed to bang out a book review.
- Book reviews, both negative and positive, are solely the opinion of one person.
- No book ever published has ever received only five-star reviews.
- Not every book is going to resonate with every reader, and at one time or another, even the best writers thought they flopped.
- Internet trolls exist, and nothing good ever comes out of engaging with them.
Knowing you’re far from alone in getting knocked off-kilter by harsh or unfair criticism goes a long way toward righting your world.
Not All Negative Reviews Are Bad
Believe it or not, there are situations when receiving a bad review can be a very good thing.
First, when a book starts experiencing rising sales, it is exposed to a wider audience. Unfamiliar with the new genre and its expectations, some of those readers may react negatively, widening your review-score range. Those same readers might also stir up controversy about your book, which will draw eyeballs to your buy page like magic.
Second, you can actually turn the tables on this bad review by learning something from it. This requires a bit of grit and stoicism. As hard as it is to acknowledge, does the reviewer bring up any salient points—maybe even something that bothered you while you were writing? Do other reviews echo the same points, suggesting a weakness you can shore up? Learning from this review can help you in your future work.
Third, if you discover that your heart is still sore weeks after the review is published, your smartest move may be to stop reading reviews altogether—something that even well-known authors do. Preserve your psyche and creativity because they are precious, irreplaceable commodities.
Time Heals All Wounds
No doubt you’ve listened to interviews of some of the most prolific authors on the planet, such as Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, etc. For these old-guards of the publishing world, bad reviews slide away like rain off a duck’s back. They’ve experienced every insult, kept writing, and then laughed all the way to the bank. In the end, all that matters to them—and all that should matter to any writer—is to preserve creative integrity, to continue improving, and, most importantly, to keep on writing.
Question: How important are book reviews to you when it comes to deciding to purchase a new book?