Not everyone will like your book. And sometimes, you may end up with a one-star review. I’ve been there, and initially it feels like a punch in the gut. So what’s the best way to deal with a negative review? Respond? Ignore? Take the feedback into consideration?
Richard Levesque gives some perspective on reviews. He wrote that “The negative review, I’ve often found, is motivated by some specific thing that let the reader down.” Reviews do not necessarily affect sales, he said, but for writers, “it can be helpful to try reading between the lines of those reviews, to look for the places where a book failed a reader as well as the places where a book grabbed a reader and wouldn’t let go.” Additionally, he said “We need to look for the reasoned, analytical, and carefully considered reviews. Those are the ones most likely to shed some real light on how a book is doing. The rest, treat with interest, but not as weighty deciders of one’s fate.”
Book reviews are not always reliable. As Digital Book World reported back in 2013, book reviews are unregulated and in some cases the ones posted are fake. These fake reviews could be positive or negative. According to Helping Writers, five-star reviews discredit books because they are not honest.
Interestingly, Chuck Wendig and Steve Vernon wrote a blog post about how he no longer writes negative book reviews. According to Wendig, posting negative reviews isn’t worth it, especially for writers, because it generates hurt feelings and could lose you potential fans.
For reviews that are negative and strike a chord, Belinda Williams offers a helpful checklist on how to handle criticism constructively. This includes considering the source and whether the feedback is helpful or too personal.
In general, according to Build Book Buzz, it’s best to not respond to negative book reviews. However, sometimes you should respond, such as when you want to correct major inaccuracies, and when you can thank the reviewer for the insight. See my post, “Dealing With Negative Reviews” to read about what turned out to be a positive experience I had with a reviewer who gave my book one-star.
Leslie Lee Sanders recommends improving your writing by listening to your book’s reviews. To get the most out of critical reviews, she wrote that you should read the reviews when you’re feeling good about yourself, focus on what you can improve, and be analytical about it.
Rachel Thompson on Badreadhead Media wrote that sometimes you just need to ignore the negativity and keep writing what you want to work on. Not everyone will like your book, so it’s best to have a thick skin and move on.
Rebecca Berto shared how sometimes she feels like the worst writer in the world (as do many other writers), but the best thing is to keep reading, keep writing, and never give up.
One easy way to help avoid negative book reviews is to reach out to the right readers. That means finding book bloggers who are interested in your book’s genre, and to be personal and respectful when contacting the blogger. Here are two resources that can help you find the right book reviewers:
What do you think? How do you handle book reviews? Please share in the comments!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on December 8, 2014.