How to Bounce Back from Negative Reviews

Positive reviews help writers sell books. Wonderful things happen when our books receive a glowing 4- or 5-star review. The more reviews a book gets on Amazon, the algorithms do a happy dance in our honor, which means that more people see our book upon searching. With a minimum number of reviews, writers can also gain access to promotional sites like Bookbub.

But what do we do if some of those reviews are negative? Reader reviews are the most important marketing tool a writer has. How does a writer handle reviews that could potentially hurt not only her sales but her reputation?

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WRITING IS A BUSINESS.

A negative review isn’t a personal attack (at least, the honest ones aren’t, which I’ll talk about in a minute). Your job, as a businessman or business woman, is to deal with the disappointment in an appropriate, professional, and productive way.

Carefully consider the review, word for word, subtext and all. Many negative reviews, when written in the spirit of honesty and genuineness, contain gems that can help authors improve their work. Don’t run from a review all because it isn’t a 4- or 5-star comment. There may be something there that your subconscious mind knew all along but that you couldn’t admit to yourself. Here could very well be your chance to grow a little bit.

The more you put your work out there, the more critics you run into. Some critics flay writers raw, others are constructive, while a few are clearly fans. You cannot write to please everyone, so you need to concentrate on your target audience.

BE PROFESSIONAL.

The urge to respond to negative comments may strike you, but generally that isn’t a hot idea. If you feel you must respond, then do so in a professional and humble (or humorous) manner.

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I think this is a great way to handle nasty criticism. Laughing it off makes you look like the bigger person sometimes.

Leaving a thank you note in response to kind words about your work is great practice and can only help both reader and writer feel good. However, responding to negative reviews can be risky. Unless you’re thanking the commenter for offering points to think about or can pull it off with aplomb, defensive rebuttals can blow up in your face.

Keep in mind the spirit in which the negative review was written. Those that offer solid reasons with quotes or scenes to back them up can actually be helpful to authors. Nasty reviews that tear down the author and/or the book are not written with sincerity or honesty.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ‘TUDE.

Negative reviews or comments are a part of the writing and publishing process. Don’t let them limit or define you. Assess each one, learn from each one, and plan your next action step. You’ve gotten as far as getting your work out there, don’t let negative reviews or criticisms stop you now. Keep making it better, appreciate your fans and your loyal supporters, fight for what you want, persevere.

LOVE CRITICISM.

Loving criticism sounds pretty strange, I know, but you’re better off accepting that you will get your fair share of negative reviews than thinking you’re going to ace this quest. Accepting that you need to grow and learn will only make you a stronger writer, and you’ll more easily deal with the cruel criticism.

The difference between cruel criticism and constructive criticism is encouragement. Feedback that points out your strengths as well as the areas that need work is criticism you can use to your advantage. Not much you can do about the project in question, but seize the opportunity to make your next project shine.

YOU CANNOT WRITE TO PLEASE EVERYONE.

One person might have hated the ending of your book, but that doesn’t mean you wrote a terrible ending. Take your time with all comments that are thoughtfully written, weigh them with an open mind, ask for advice from trusted fellow writers.

Negative or positive, the reviews that are honest and worth noting will have valuable information. Even though we of the book world are bound by relationships, we aren’t doing writers much good if we write sappy reviews so sweet it makes our teeth hurt. Honest, worthwhile reviews will be professional, fair, and will back arguments with specifics and clear rationales.

When you’re faced with a review that isn’t singing your praises, read it over to see if it meets the above parameters. If it’s clearly a sabotage, then just dismiss the reviewer’s words as sour grapes. But if it’s written with a fair hand, then try to consider whether there is any merit to the criticism.

It’s never easy to hear less than lovely things about your work, but if the criticism is just, then you are also given a golden chance to do better next time.

 

For more information on how to handle negative reviews, check out this informative guide on Online Reputation Management, a site that educates both individuals and corporations in the best methods to protect and enhance their reputation online.

Have you received a negative comment or review? How did you handle it?

Have a writerly day!!

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15 thoughts on “How to Bounce Back from Negative Reviews

  1. Excellent advice and spot on thoughts. In many ways, it’s more challenging for writers than ever with social media. While on the one hand it’s a great way to fetch more eyes and find more avenues for publication, it’s full of peeps with less than positive ideas on how to use it. So you really kinda have to become like that restaurateur with the Yelp sign.

    Great post 4am!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s amazing how many “fake” negative reviews there are. I don’t know what people stand to gain from tearing someone else down. I guess it’s a power thing, too, and sometimes people think that speaking freely doesn’t necessarily include being constructive or diplomatic.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great take on the criticism front! For most people, even constructive criticism stings at first. And the negative reviews can be devastating if we’re not prepared. I’d love someday to take it like that restaurant did!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I had a 1-star review on my first book that said simply, “It was segmented and a little confusing for me.” And he was right, it was. That was constructive, even in one line. I learned from that review. I had a lady review my current book who only reviews cozy mysteries. Mine is not a cozy mystery and never claimed to be. Why my publicist chose to send her a copy and why she chose to review a book with “Naked” in the title, I do not know. Though much of the book takes place in a nudist resort, there was only one sex scene in one chapter. It’s a crime novel, thriller romp about a murder and a sex-trafficking scheme. Surely she should have know there would be some nudity or sex in the book based on the book description. But she wailed on about the sex as if it were on every page in the book…and claimed she “skipped” those parts…hmmm, how did she report on them? At any rate, I said all of that to say this, her review was really pleasant except for that one observation….and that just helps me find my target market easier, and keeps people who are offended from reading the book and posting bad reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like how that first reviewer you mention added “for me” to show that this was simply an opinion, and not necessarily a problem with your book for everyone else. Yes, that was constructive, and I’m sure it helped you with your next book.

      The other reviewer sounds like someone who reviewed a book of my friend’s, who writes in a similar vein. I’m sure it isn’t the same reviewer (the world isn’t that small, is it???), but she had complained about my friend’s book having sex scenes in it, even though there was a clue in the title, and the cover blurb/book summary pretty much spelled it out for any reader that sex is included! 🙂

      Sounds like you have the right attitude, and you understand that reviews can seriously help us find our target audience, so that we have a clearer idea on marketing next time.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read and taking the time to comment. Good luck with your writing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good one, Kate!

    Critique writing is a skill in itself, and most of us just don’t have it. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet allows some folks to be jerks at the same time as being unskilled.

    You’re right: if a comment is pure nastiness, it’s best not to feed the troll, but I think even a negative comment – so long as it’s sent with genuineness for the story or writer – is worth acknowledging, even if it’s only a “Thank you for taking the time to read and offer your thoughts.” Sometimes, I put in a sentence like, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this story, but maybe you’ll enjoy a different piece from me in the future.”

    It’s taken me years to internalize this practice, but one thing that’s helped me is to wait on any review I get, to consider its points as you mention, and to try and see the story from that person’s perspective, what they actually said or what they might have been trying to say. Occasionally, it’s the equivalent of sour grapes, but most of the time, there’s something to be gleaned from even the most difficult critics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha–being a jerk and unskilled is a nasty combo! I like the idea of responding to all comments, if you can, with simply a thank you for reading and taking the time to review. I also like your additional idea that perhaps they would prefer the next piece you write.

      Blogging is one way that can help us experience writing something for other people, reading their comments or feedback, and then responding. Blogging allows us the chance to deal with constructive criticism, or even negative comments, as sometimes our posts can set readers off!! A good opportunity to practice for the larger stage on Amazon or Goodreads!

      Like

    • Oh, I know how difficult that is, trying to get reviews. I’ve offered free ebooks in exchange for reviews–and that only worked about 1/3 of the time. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get people to review…and I find some of the worst offenders are other writers!

      Like

  5. Great advice, Kate! Love it. The hardest thing for me is I have 2 one-star Goodreads reviews for Beneath the Satin Gloves with no comments. Naturally, they dragged my little indie book average down…and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s better not to know? And it’s good to realize that people just aren’t into certain things. Like you said, it’s not personal.

    Like

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