Do bad reviews make you go boom?

Bad Reviews, by Wendy Reis, from her blog of August 11, 2011 –

Don’t slit your wrists, heave your laptop into the dumpster, join a convent or drown your sorrows.

If the review is downright nasty it is not really about you. I know, but trust me. If, on the other hand, some of the points have merit (and you may be in no frame of mind to acknowledge that for a week or two), let them aid you in honing your craft and grow from the experience.

We can’t all like the same things. That’s not simplistic, but it is simple. There would be only one writing style, one genre, one boring world if tastes didn’t differ.

Book reviewers have preferences but those should not interfere with the assessment of writing style or character development.

Overall impression is, yes, highly subjective, but a good reviewer will clearly differentiate between that and the general merits of the material.

I get paid to read books and write reviews. I don’t get paid to sugar coat anything or lie. There is not enough money on the planet. But there are gentle ways to convey the message that a book didn’t leave an unforgettable impression.

I won’t write a scathing review of anything. People who do that have other issues and get their jollies out of grinding writers to bits. They go through life, in general, fangs first. If one of those rabid reviewers does a number on your book, try to stay calm.

How should you take it if you ever get a bad review?

Excellent advice from Neil Marr of BeWrite Books
Best policy is to stay mum, Wendy. Ignore nasty reviews, respond quietly and privately to genuine and well-worded criticism with thanks, and take those positively negative reactions to heart. Praise is wonderful. Thoughtful and constructive criticism, though, is rare and invaluable. It should be used to effect and the reviewer merits appreciation for insight.”

Wendy Reis

Wendy Reis has been asked to proofread and edit things since she was in grade 6. She eventually succumbed to the obvious calling to make this her full time pursuit in 2006. She now addresses the problems of fractured or incorrect English in everything from novels, websites, and advertising copy to reports, speeches, presentations, and correspondence. Visit Wendy at her website, Twitter, Facebook.


From Karen –

I have gathered a few additional articles about dealing with bad reviews. Here they are.

From Elizabeth S. Craig at Mystery Writing is MurderCommenting On Reviews: A Different Type of Author Intrusion.

By Lisa Yarde at Best Damn Creative Writing Blog – A somewhat disturbing baby photo made me laugh out loud. The article is good, too. Sorry, Your Baby Is Ugly: Advice for Handling Critical Reviews.

By Marti Talbott at Marti Talbott Stories blog, “Get your writing advice from someone who has already done everything wrong.” See her How to Handle a Bad Book Review.

See a very simple plan at Nathan Bransford’s blog, including a reference to Oscar Wilde – How to Deal With Bad Reviews.

What is your take on handling bad reviews? Respond? Ignore? Shot of bourbon?

Explosion photo


Filed under E-books & E-publishing, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing

14 responses to “Do bad reviews make you go boom?

  1. I think it important to have advice such as this. It is very easy for an author to become dispirited. It is such a subjective thing to write a book that often, a writer loses a sense of perspective. Thank You, Wendy and Karen for your soulful insights and broad points of view.

  2. If only all reviewers came with the same frame of mind. Do we dare wish???

  3. One of the very first things I learned about bad reviews is that not all bad reviews are bad. There’s bad and there’s mean. Bad is an opinion, mean is much more of a hit and run assault. Both are equally hurtful at first, but with the ladder it’s more about considering the heinous actions of the coward behind the wheel and just waiting for them to get caught in their evil deeds.

  4. Good advice Karen… as a bar owner I would also advise to not drown your sorrows, but save the drink for positive reviews… it’s more fun to be around a celebration, and the good ju-ju could lead to another sale.

  5. We all prefer a great review, but it’s so important to receive a review at all. I read a really bad review once and the author in question made a complete fool of herself as she unprofessionally pointed out to the 100+ commenters, that the reviewer didn’t know what they were talking about. It was embarrassing, but the reviewer quite rightly pointed out that we all need constructive criticism in order to improve.


  6. I’ve seen a lot of advice on this subject. I can’t feel it yet, because I don’t have a book out there. I have received some critique on stories. You can usually tell if a person is on a rant or has truly considered the book/story and is making intelligent observations. Thank you, Niamh, Brian, John, and Crystal, for stopping by the blog.

  7. Years working at newspapers has taken much of the sting out of negative comments. The personal — I mean really personal ones — always hurt. But, you dust off to write again. Check back with me when I get published, and we’ll see if this carries over. Great links.

  8. nancyelizabethlauzon

    Good advice. I think ignoring a nasty review is the best approach. As you said, you can’t please everyone all the time, and if it’s really nasty, it’s not about you. Same as when you meet rude people on the street.

  9. I don’t read reviews – unless someone sends me one! And if I were to come across a negative review, I’d never comment on i t- in fact, I don’t comment on positive reviews that people or my editor may send me — I feel the reviews are for the readers, not for the authors.

    If I were to concentrate on what everyone else is writing in reviews, I become confused and discombobulated. I suppose reading reviews could offer insights into a book, but since it’s already published, it’s too late anyway! lawd!

  10. I don’t have a book out there, but I know from other negative comments I’ve received in life, I feels sick when I first hear them. Then I work to put them in perspective. Unfortunately a special few comments have never left me and they rattle around in my head, getting louder when I’m in a down mood. If the time ever comes I’ve a book out there, I’d like to resist reading reviews at all…but I’ll read them in weak moments and hate myself in the morning.

  11. I am beginning to believe that it is best to avoid your own book’s reviews. It’s nice if it’s a good review, but if it’s bad, it can ruin a good day. None of us can please all the people all the time!

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