Saturday, April 23, 2011

Keeping Your Cool When You Receive a Negative Review

One of the greatest challenges writers face is learning to accept less than glowing comments about their work. It's understandable. You've dedicated hours upon hours of time and effort toward a project. Written, rewritten, and rewritten it until you're satisfied. Self-published it or gotten it accepted by a publisher. Then your book arrives and you're eager and excited to find out what readers think. You query reviewers; spend money buying shipping supplies, pay to have your book shipped to the reviewers who expressed interest, and then wait for the responses to get published online or in print.

When those reviews are positive, everyone is happy. You tell all your friends, you might ask the reviewer to post his  review at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads (if applicable), and you post blurbs from the review on your website.

But what if there are some less than glowing reviews? What if a reviewer goes so far as to compare your book to the used newspaper lining her bird's cage?

My first reaction would be less than nice, but it would stay between me and my journal. I would count to 10, okay, maybe I would have to count to 100, but then I would type, "Thank you for taking the time to review my book." Then I would add my name and a link to my website. Secretly I would probably be fuming, hurt, disappointed, and experience many of the other emotions writers feel when some says they didn't enjoy their work. The outside world, however, would never know how upset I was.


Because it doesn't serve any purpose to defend yourself when a negative review is posted--no matter where it's posted. You're not going to make that reviewer change her mind, and trying to defend your work makes you look like you can't handle criticism. There is added danger to responding online to negative reviews, because those comments travel through the blogosphere like wildfire. You could soon earn yourself a reputation you don't want. Even if you respond privately via email, word has a way of leaking out.

Here are a few ways to help keep your cool after receiving a negative review:

  • Count to 10, 50, 100 or whatever number it takes to make you stop seeing red.
  • Don't respond right away. Let the review sit there a day or two before you go back and leave a note of thanks. This gives you time to cool off. Maybe the review isn't as bad as it first seemed.
  • Write a letter to the reviewer in your journal. You can be as nasty as you want there. Nobody else is going to see it (well, until you become a famous author, your books become classics, and years after your death they publish your journals.)
  • Look for the positive aspects of the review. A review isn't usually all doom and gloom. If there are positives mentioned, focus on those instead of the less than glowing things that were said.
  • Realize a review is only one person's opinion. Reading is subjective. I've read books I thought were 5-star worthy, but found many 1- and 2-star reviews on Amazon; and vice versa.  Just because one person doesn't like your book, doesn't mean another person won't.
  • Consider that even a negative review can drive sales. I've known people who have bought a book to see what they would think of it after reading a negative review. I've even done it myself.
Once some time has passed it's good to reflect on the comments made by the reviewer. Do they have merit? Were your characters a bit flat? Did they all sound the same? Was your plot weak? Most reviewers don't delight in picking books apart. Perhaps you can use some of your reviews to help improve your craft.

Negative reviews can be tough to handle, but if you keep your cool you'll gain more respect from readers and reviewers.


Anonymous said...

My first published story 'Shelton in Love' (May 13th from Breathless Press) hasn't been reviewed yet, but I received a negetive comment about the cover just the other day. My very first book cover, and someone said something mean! I had to remind myself that it's impossible to please everyone. Most people like it and I'm very happy with it, and I guess that's what matters.

Cheryl said...

I like the cover. It's kind of mysterious since we don't see their faces, but that allows the reader to imagine how they look to them.