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Dealing With Bad Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 21, 2013

Dealing With Bad Reviews by Colby Marshall

When we send our own pieces of writing into the world, be they in book form or blog or a poem written on a sheet of notebook paper, we always believe they’re worth something. In fact, we don’t just think they’re worth something. They’re our babies, and most of the time, we think they’re pretty. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful that “baby” is, someone is going to think it looks funny. Therefore, I’m proud to present to you the Top Ten Ways to Deal With a Bad Review:  Colby Marshall

1. Sit on your hands. Repeat after me: “Never will I ever engage a reviewer, even if I think he or she is wrong.” He didn’t understand the story. She must not have read the whole book. Who does he think he is? Stephen King? While all of these may be valid responses in your mind, they won’t be to the person who wrote the review and will only make you look sour. The person writing the review has nothing to lose. You do. Keep your cool. There will be those who love your book, and then, there will be those who don’t. You can’t win ‘em all.

2. Use your phone a friend. When you have those urges to spew venom back at the reviewer and tell them exactly what kind of cross between a donkey and a baboon he must be to not understand the subtle brilliance and intricacies of your book, call and vent to a friend instead. You’ll get it out, plus, it won’t be in writing to come back to haunt you.

3. Re-read the positive. Remember that first good review you got, or that time your mom read your first draft and assured you it was perfect, you shouldn’t change a word? Now’s the time to pull that reinforcement to the forefront of your screen. Remind yourself that for every naysayer, there’s someone who subjectively likes your work.

4. Look up your role models. Quick! Head to your favorite author’s Amazon page! Now, scroll down to the reviews. I guarantee there is at least one one or two star rating. Click on it. Read it. See? Even the biggest, most awesome authors get bad reviews. It’s part of the game, so you’ve earned your stripes.

5. Say a bad word. You know you thought it…it’s better to go ahead and let it rip in the privacy of your own home. Now, don’t you feel better?

6. Write your own bad review of some book you didn’t like. Then, promptly delete it, because dang it, you’re not a jerk like that guy who left you one!

7. Now, write your own good review of the latest book you read and liked. Post it. Because dang it, karma will come around.

8. Have some chocolate or a glass of wine. Hey, you deserve a reward for being such a caring son of gun and leaving that positive review.

9. Laugh. You, your readers, your friends, and your dog all know that it was hilarious how the gal who left her evil mark on your masterpiece misspelled the word “alliteration,” and that she called your character Biscuit instead of Bruno. Take a moment to chuckle at the review. I promise it’ll help it to slide right off your back.

10. Most importantly, take note of anything the ridiculous, horribly-thought out, mean, short-sighted review might’ve actually gotten right. Hey, even wicked people can stumble on a good point now and then. Put it down in your mental notebook so that next time, he or she won’t have it to comment on. Then, go ahead and write something else and stop thinking about it. You’ve given it ten steps…in this case, you’ve admitted you have a problem, so twelve steps would be too many.

How do you deal with negative feedback?

ABOUT CHAIN OF COMMAND:  Chain of Command

The road to the Oval Office is paved in blood…

The simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President catapults the Speaker of the House into the White House as the first female President of the United States. Evidence points to a former Navy SEAL as one of the assassins.

Relegated to writing sidebar stories instead of headlines, journalist McKenzie McClendon composes a scathing story about the Navy training killers.

Former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins doesn’t believe his partner could have committed the heinous crime. They’d endured the horrors of Afghanistan together. His buddy was a hero, not a murderer.

No one who knows the truth is safe…

Thrown together in a search for the truth–and a career-making story–McKenzie and Noah must unravel a dangerous web of lies that includes a radical foreign faction, a violent ultra-feminist group, and corrupt politicians willing to kill to keep their secrets.

And an assassin who is still on the loose.

His next targets are already in his crosshairs…

Chain of Command is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, other major e-readers, directly from the publisher at StairwayPress.com (free shipping), or in select independent bookstores.

Watch the official book trailer for Chain of Command here: http://tinyurl.com/auye6bb.

You can learn more about Colby and her books at www.colbymarshall.com

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About Colby Marshall

Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency. Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013.

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33 Responses to “Dealing With Bad Reviews”

  1. Betsy said

    Excellent advice. Whether you put your book out in print or in a critique group, my word of advice is “check your ego at the door.” Not everyone will love our precious words. Not everyone will know how to deliver comments in a way they will be heard and, hopefully, not offend.

  2. When I saw my first (and only) bad 1* review for “From One Place to Another” it really hurt. I usually keep my feelings to myself but decided to post my disappointment on Facebook. I received so many supportive comments back, that I was glad I got it out – and then forgot about it (sort of). I have seen some authors respond to bad reviews, and some do it in a very pleasant way. A good example is One Hundred Open Houses. (I loved the book and got a free d/l – even though there were several 1* reviews.)

    • The advice I’ve received is 1) Don’t respond to bad reviews, and 2)Don’t hang your negative laundry out to dry. i.e. Keep the negative reviews and rejections to yourself and focus on the positive. The encouraging response you got, though, can lessen the pain.

    • I think it’s okay to be disappointed. The problems tend to come out when the negative reviews are responded to or the author engages the reviewer in a way other than to say, “Thank you for taking the time to review!” The reason I personally don’t tend to post anything in relation to this on facebook is because of facebook’s rapidly changing privacy settings, I don’t ever feel confident what I post won’t show up somewhere I don’t want it to 🙂

  3. Nancy,
    Love your advice. So on target. A friend’s book’s sales actually went up as a result of a bad review.

  4. Terrific advise! And I needed a chuckle!

  5. dianeokey said

    Great advice. Might want to add “chew nails” 🙂

  6. May I add to your list: Remember back to when you weren’t published at all and be thrilled to death with yourself for having made it to that pinnacle.

  7. Thank you, Colby, for being our guest here and for providing this excellent article.

  8. My blog partner and I just posted a chat about reviews this week, too, so this is a timely subject for us! Bad reviews hurt – no way around it – but it does help to remember that we bring our own tastes, preferences, experience, and subjectiveness into everything we read, so there will always be a wide variety of opinions on the same book. Excellent advice on how to handle our volatile initial reactions to bad reviews and handle them graciously and professionally. Thanks!

    • For sure, Melissafoxwords! It was a timely reminder for me, yesterday, since I had a review posted that was largely positive but had one thing I disagreed with. I sat on my hands, though, and thought, “Well, that’s how that aspect came across to them, and to each their own.” 🙂

  9. Good advice! I never, ever engage…like you said, it leads nowhere but down. I like the idea of just keeping in mind the joy of being published! If we didn’t want people to comment on our work, we could always keep it in a desk drawer…but that would deny all the people who loved it a great read!

  10. All good advice and I intend to drink wine and eat chocolate while reading any reviews I receive – good or bad. :):)

  11. What a beautiful photo, Colby! First let me say that any author who has responded to negative reviews has been crucified, esp. on Goodreads. Scary stuff. And second, anyone who gets a bad review should go read the bad ones for Fifty Shades of Grey. Talk about brutal!

    Congrats on the success of Chain, and for your next book coming out!

    • Haha, so true, Tiffany! Goodreads is a scary place for authors a lot of the time. I get on occasionally, but more often than not, I don’t read many comments. And thank you so much for the congrats!

  12. That’s really great advice about bad reviews. They happen. And they hit authors right in their Achilles Tendon. It’s a wonderful idea to use praise others have given as review therapy. Enjoyed the post.

  13. I have a collection of hand-written letters from fans that I’ve saved throughout the years, plus a couple of notebooks filled with printouts from emails praising my books. Anytime I get a bad review, I can look back through these notes for inspiration. Today I rely more on Customer Reviews. For every bad one, there’s likely a positive review to give you faith.

  14. I’ve had good reviews and bad reviews–sometimes for the same book. I agree with the advice of never responding to bad reviews. Best to bite the bullet and ignore them.
    I’m grateful for all the good reviews I’ve received and the many readers who made the effort to contact me to let me know how much they enjoyed reading my novels. That’s what really matters!

  15. I would wager that most reviews are posted by people trying to help. It doesn’t seem so when the reviewer posts critical comments that seem so wrong-headed. It has been quipped that being an author is akin to suddenly pulling down your pants at high noon in Grand Central Station. You do have to take the bitter with the sweet. As a reviewer and an author, I encourage writers to read all their reviews and take away from them whatever useful information may be there.

    • Reviews can also be helpful in pointing out what genre readers consider your work, what high points of your writing appeals to them, and more. This is helpful in author branding.

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