Getting a Bad Review

It happens to every writer. After weeks, months, years spent agonizing over story and character, syntax and plot, you release it into the world. Then, if you are lucky, the reviews start coming in. If you are very lucky they come in like a deluge. If you are like me, it is more in dribs and drabs.

Some of them can put a smile on your face and warm you to your core. Others might make you shrug your shoulders and say “that’s fair.” But then there are the bad reviews. The ones that try and cut you to your quick.

The one star reviews.

These hurt. And they play hell with an average. And they leave you with little recourse. But fear not. I’m going to do my best to give a bit of a pep talk and share what you should do in case you ever get that dreaded 1star review.

First off, let me put my cards on the table. I am a fantasy author, with two books finished. One is very limited, so I won’t dwell on it. The other, my first novel, currently has 30 reviews on Goodreads so I’m pretty much a small potatoes author. The book in question has an average score of 4.17. The two most recent reviews has both been 1stars, so I’ve watched the average drive over the past few months. But enough about me. Let’s get to the good stuff.

What should you do in case you get a bad review?

0. Ignore It!

Yeah, that’s right. Just ignore it. It is one person’s opinion. In the grand scheme of thing it doesn’t really matter. It sucks, but just move on. You probably shouldn’t read reviews anyway.

Did you notice that this was listed as 0? That’s because it is currently for me to not read a review and equally impossible to just ignore it, even though I know that would be the best option. If you are reading this, I’m guessing we might have something in common.

1. Is there anything useful?

Okay. just by reading the review you have essentially ripped the bandaid off. Let’s see if we can put some ointment on the wound. Think about what was just said. Was there anything to be gained? I was just blasted for too many typos. Of course, I’ve down several rounds of editing and beta-readers, but it seems likely that there are still some left. So, as soon as there is a moment I will also need to double check that the major retailers have the most current version available. So, if I find a few more typos or learn that there are older versions still being sold, catching those might be a silver lining.

2. What are their other reviews?

This is the part that might sound a little odd at first, but check your reviewer’s history. Are they a serial 1star-er? If so, it sucks that you got hit, but at least you can be fairly sure it had little to do with you. Or, do they typically read your genre? For example, if you wrote a fantasy novel with dark themes and sudden brutality amidst an adventure romp (to make the darkness all the more upsetting) and your reviewer tends to only enjoy softer teen fiction, well, again, maybe the fault doesn’t lie with your writing, just preferences.

3. What didn’t they like?

Everyone has an opinion. We all have reasons we do and don’t like something. Sometimes these overlap. If your negative reviewer cites something that they didn’t like as the key reason for the low marks, but most of your positive reviewers cite that same device as their favorite feature, well, go with the majority. I’m currently reading the Expanse series. Loving it. I took a look at its reviews and found out that most negative reviews were from readers who didn’t like that it dealt with future politics and factions. I’ll give you a guess as to what part I am really enjoying about these books? Factions and politics… In SPACE! And, buy clever segue:

4. Look at your favorite authors reviews.

Go ahead. Do it now. I can 99.7% guarantee you that if you take your favorite book from your favorite author and look at the reviews, you will find negative reviews. Read over those. And realize that if someone is going to 1star something you think is amazing, then it is almost a surety that someone will come by and crap on your darling.

5. Feel Honored.

No. Seriously. Feel honored. Even if it was in a negative way, you just moved someone. I know, it wasn’t how you intended, or planned. But you just made someone go out of their way and spend their time discussing what you created. It’s weird, but in a way that is also a signal that you did something right. Striking that raw nerve. I mean, it sucks that it is in public, but it is better that your work got someone so worked up rather than having them simply not care.

6. Write a Blog Post.

That’s basically what I’m doing. Wait. Better idea. Don’t write a blog post. Go ahead and bookmark this page and read it whenever in doubt. Yeah, that’s a good idea. And share it. Everywhere. Facebook. Twitter. Weibo. Just get everyone you know to read it. Yeah. That’s a better idea.

7.  Another important thing.

If you did get a low review, please please please, don’t confront the reviewer. Don’t. Don’t call them out. Don’t start a fight. If you are in a habit of thanking every reviewer on Goodreads (as I’ve heard some do) then, sure, say “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but thanks for taking the time to review.” that shouldn’t cause a problem. But really, doing any more than that just makes it likely that you will just associate your name with sour feelings, and a single review becomes a story of the unpleasant writer, and that is much worse.

7. Last note.

Treat yourself. If the 1star hurts, go read some of your higher reviews again. Remind yourself that people do like your writing. Get a smile on your face. And then go back tot he keyboard, because I can also guarantee you that there are people out there waiting for your nest book.

So get to it.

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