How To Deal with ‘Bad’ Reviews

I’ve been hearing some pretty disturbing things from fellow reviewers lately. I’m an author, blogger, but also a reviewer. I love to read for review, but these attacks on reviewers I’ve been hearing about make me doubt my sanity when accepting a book to review.

Stewie suicide

Why do you ask? Well, what if I accept a book I really had great expectations for, but disappoints me to no end? Do I dare to write my review, giving the book a two- or even one-star? Am I really ready for a personal attack and down-rating of my own work for being honest?

are you kidding

When a reviewer’s opinion on a book is not as favourable as the fans/friends of the author would like it to be, tough luck. Suck it up and move along! An honest review on a book is not an attack on the author, it is the opinion of that reader, a reader who has bought the book (regardless the fact whether or not that book was available for free) took the time to read it and made an effort to formulate their opinion, and now has every right to air their opinion on said book. There is no need to reply to a review, the reviewer has already moved on to reading another book. And, more important, it shows very bad taste to attack someone for giving their honest opinion on a book. After all they took the time to read your book and then to think about and write a review about it. Honour that by remaining silent and take it in stride that this author, or you haven’t pleased that one reader.


So, to all authors who have requested a review from me and I have accepted to read and review their book–I do not get any fee to review a book, I only ask a free copy of the book to review–please do not think my review is about you as a person, or even you as the author. It is my opinion on a book, your book, but by no means written with any hidden agenda. Not when it is a 5-star and not when it turns out to be a 1-star, or anything in between.

That said I’ll get off my soap box and get reading and writing again.

My question of the day are really three questions.

– Readers, do you ever read the reviews before buying a book and if so, do you believe those reviews?

-Reviewers, do you ever hesitate to read/post reviews lower than three stars?

-Authors, when you get a less favourable review on your work, how do you deal with it?

And when you’re done here why not take a look on Anita’s Desk?Β She has an opinion on this topic too.

52 thoughts on “How To Deal with ‘Bad’ Reviews

  1. I do not read five star reviews i read three stars and below. Sure some of them are downright bullshit but some of them show honestly. More three stars have sold a book to me than a 5 star.

  2. For what it’s worth, here’s how I deal with reviews of my books. I always reply to all comments on Amazon, good or bad. I always thank the person who left the comment for taking the time to do so. If they haven’t liked it, I always says I am sorry they haven’t. I never argue with what they have said. If they have said something that is totally inaccurate, I may just point out the inaccuracy as gently and diplomatically as I can, to set the record straight, but I try never to be impolite. I’m old fashioned, it’s the way I was brought up.

    Personally I do read reviews before deciding to buy a book. I rather like books that have diverging opinions rather than those with a lot of middle of the road comments. It suggests they may be more interesting.

    I am always extremely grateful to anyone, professional or otherwise, who takes the time to read and review my books and would not dream of responding with a personal attack. Sadly it seems not all writers follow the same code. (Personally don’t like the term author – silly, I know, it’s just one of those words I don’t care for.)

    Thanks for an interesting piece.

      • I think Tottie means a factual inaccuracy in remembering/reporting details of the novel. While I would never engage with a reviewer I have seen reviewers slam a work for spelling errors when the book was published in the UK, using standard, correct UK spelling and usage. I’d have thought it was ok to point out that the usages are different but both valid.

      • Ah, the US UK spelling thing, but even that is, in my opinion, no reason to engage in a discussion about the review. Everyone ‘knows’ or should be prepared for that one. Our US readers are used to only their spelling and anything else is seen as wrong, simply because they do not know their is such a thing as UK spelling vs. US spelling. When you choose to use UK spelling be prepared to get your work named ‘filled with spelling errors’, no need to point out the error of the reviewer, rather scratch yourself on the head for being foolish not to take into account that this could happen, or just not publish in the US with that book.
        Golden rule? Never engage in a discussion with a reviewer. Simple as that. πŸ™‚ And that is not to sound commanding or whatever, but it’s just common sense.

      • And that question is why I don’t comment on reviews, whether they are positive or negative. As an author, I make a pact with the reader: I claim that I am competent in my craft, that I have done my research and my due diligence, and will now spin you a yarn worthy of your time and attention. The reader, in turn, gives me said time and attention and will recommend my work if they like it or will vote it down if they don’t. It is an old arrangement between readers and writers and I don’t think Amazon and the internet change that arrangement. Reviews are readers speaking to readers, not readers speaking to writers. Authors have no place in that conversation. I feel like the conversation between reader and writer takes place on the written page–if someone wants to speak further, blogs, emails, tweets, Facebook and the like have made such connection simpler.

      • And that is what it all is about. Reviews are meant to speak to other readers, the author is not a party in this conversation. The review is not written for them, but for the benefit of other readers.

      • Opinion, of course, cannot be inaccurate. But sometimes people make reference to things in reviews which simply do not occur in the book. A friend had one such, talking about his B&B business in a certain area when he neither runs a B&B nor lives in said area. Clearly it is fair to point out such inaccuracies?

  3. If I’m asked to review a book that turns out to be one or two stars, I will contact the author privately before posting a review, as a professional courtesy. I’ve met lawyers who are happy to recommend colleagues they know are good. And when a colleague is a yutz, I’m pretty sure they don’t say anything one way or the other. Pretty much how I play.

  4. I was pleased when I got my first one star review; I felt it gave the book some credibility.

    What irritates me is authors who complain about a bad review, and either assume it is another author who has a grudge to bear, or whines on about how the reviewer has obviously never written a book and doesn’t know how hard it is. Well, that doesn’t make your work good, and also no one asked you to write – it’s your own choice. Not everyone is going to like what you do.

  5. I am a brand new indie-author with two self-published books. Recently I’ve really put my works out there, promoting my works, offering them for free, etc. I recently received a review that literally had me saying “ouch” after reading the review. This review was probably the first review that really hit me hard. As much as I’ve heard over and over from fellow authors, friends, and family members that I shouldn’t let any review get to me, it did.

    I spent a long time thinking of just what to say to this person. How to defend my works, how to make them understand what I was trying to say, what I was trying to convey. But I realized that it was pointless and highly unnecessary. Not everyone is going to love my works, not everyone is going to be in my corner. And even more importantly, I realized that I need the bad reviews just as much as I need the good ones.

    The good ones encourage me, they keep me writing, they keep me motivated. The bad ones, they challenge me, they make me remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, and they push me to put out even better works in the future.

    So with that being said. I want to say thank you to all the reviewers out there. Thank you for taking the time to read my works, and others works, and for giving an honest review whether its good or bad. To my fellow authors out there a few words of advice: Grow some thick skin. Not everyone is going to like what you write. Get over it, learn from it, don’t take it too personal. And most importantly don’t attack the reviewers who have given you an HONEST review.

  6. I always read book reviews before buying a book and if there is a range of reviews I try to read a sample of each. What someone hates may be what I like and vice versus. Any book I don’t enjoy I review diplomatically and remember that sometimes bad reviews actually sell me the book.

    • Great to hear our reviews are actually read and that even the so called ‘bad’ reviews serve a purpose. And how good of you to even review those that you didn’t enjoy reading.

  7. This looks like a great ending to MY post. πŸ™‚

    This situation is very sad, unprofessional, and quite ridiculous. But, here it is overshadowing the professional authors and supporters who do not act this way. I’m thankful for authors who have enough respect for their readers that they also respect their opinions.

    I always read at least a few reviews prior to purchase because I find them quite informative. Magical, glowing 5-star reviews tend to irritate me. I can just see the glitter falling off them, and I usually don’t find them believable.

    I have shied away from reviewing one or two books that were horrible, but I shouldn’t have. I was very interested in one of the books, but I could NOT get through it. The extreme number of grammatical errors just made it impossible. Yet, that book received glowing 5-star reviews. I did speak with the author, and she was very understanding. I didn’t review the book.

    I haven’t published YET, but when I do, I will hate the reviewer who gives my book a bad rating! Hahaha! Just kidding. My feelings would be hurt, but I hope a bad review would be tasteful and informative– not a personal attack on me. That way, I could look at it objectively, and see where I need to improve as an author.

    • I think, Anita, that is the way to go. Learn from the ‘bad’ reviews and improve by soaking up what you did ‘wrong’ in that book. When a book has only glowing 5-star reviews on Amazon I do not believe any one of them anymore. I’ve learned to shy away from those, which is a shame, because they could have been honest reviews and not support by family and friends.

  8. Thanks for the great piece. I read my lower reviews out loud to my 11 and 13 year old sons who helped form the idea for my MG series. They didn’t like it at first, but it was a great teaching opportunity about taking constructive feedback, having thick skin, keeping a healthy dose of humility and, most importantly, that any endeavor will have detractors…but that should never stop the act of creating. Lastly, As much as I loved the glowing reviews, the lower reviews of Book #1 were what made Book #2 much better.

  9. Truth be known us authors absolutely hate getting one or even two star reviews. It knocks our confidence. Someone out there doesn’t think our work is as great as we think. Having said that if that is truly how the reviewer sees our work well it hurts but so be it. But I did say an Honest Reviews. The reviews I hate are the ones that are almost personal attacks on your intelligence, or they are vindictive. Those I cannot accept. Others that I hate are those that read part of one chapter, and then slate the whole book. If you can give an honest view or a constructive commnet then fine.

    • John, however much I can understand your sentiment, I still say the best course of action is to not interact with the reviewer, even if you personally feel misjudged/insulted by that review. In fact I think we as authors shouldn’t even read the reviews, or boast about them, let alone whine. Like Christopher Starr says, reviews are meant for other readers, not for the author. We should be able to learn what we can from them and take in stride when we feel they can teach us nothing.

  10. As an “author” with but a single review, I can not talk from that side of the question. (So many titles, so few reviews. But that is another blog entirely.)
    However as a reader who tries hard to review stories as often as possible, as well as a beta reader for fellow newbies, I find it disingenuous to not give an honest opinion. How is a writer to improve if all you hear is praise of your work. This is one reason I stay away from titles with all 5 star reviews. No story is that good. Sorry just my opinion. There are people who do not like Harry Potter.
    If I plan on giving less than 3 stars, on a published work, I try to contact the author with my comments. It is never personal, it is just my opinion and I try to enforce that as I give my review. Sometimes they are accepted, but I find most ‘published’ writers tend to think their works are too good to be criticized. For unpublished works, I try to be more specific with places I feel they could improve. Sometimes to the point of rewriting sections to show what I mean.
    Most newbies do take some of my opinions to heart. Not that I am an expert, but as I write, I read blogs like this, as well as ones with things to avoid in myown stories. When I come across a good idea, I try to pass it on.
    Writing is a lonely journey. Those that tread that path should lookout for follow travelers to aid them when you can. Honest criticism is not a vice to be avoided as a writer or a reader.
    Ri Char Barness

    • Right, there is nothing wrong or ‘bad’ about an honest one-star review. If anything it could convince a future reader to buy the book because of what you so disliked about the book.
      Thanks, William

  11. Yes, sometimes reviews do motivate me to purchase, but I’ve become cautious as I have read glowing reviews and disliked the novel. So far, I have had nothing but five star reviews on my novels. One of my short stories received a four star, but that isn’t anything that warrants a complaint. I do hope I will be able to say that is just one reader’s opinion when it happens.

  12. This is such a tricky situation. The person about who mentioned “factual errors”, I would imagine that means if the reviewer gave inaccurate information about something that happened in the book. I can understand the desire to correct that, but there are some reviewers with whom you do not want to engage, and some of them deliberately put that sort of thing into their review to try to bait the author into responding so they can start up a drama fest.

    I disagree that reviews are only for other readers. Authors can use critical reviews to improve their craft. That’s why when I do write low-rated reviews, I try to provide constructive criticism that can hopefully help the author with their next book. While I hate having to write critical reviews, I never hesitate to do so, because I’m hoping that it will help in the future.

    The importance is to know the difference between a critical review, which respectfully outlines why the reader did not like the book, with a fake review, which frequently include ad hominem attacks upon the writer, or which come from people who haven’t at least tried to read the book. While I think it is perfectly okay for someone to read the sample and decide it is not for them and even review it based on that, I do not think it is okay to write a review on a book explaining why you have not and will not read it. That sort of thing should be left to commentary areas, not in the review.

    That said, authors should never, ever respond to those sorts of things. Unfortunately, it will end up making the author look bad. If you just leave it there, then it is the reviewer who will look bad for being a troll. And what do we do with trolls? We do NOT feed them…

    • Yay! Very sensible Katy, because getting in any kind of ‘this isn’t right about your review’ discussion online with any reviewer will make you as the author look bad. Period, or full stop depending on where you are.

  13. Pingback: REVIEWS: Do you trust them? | Anita's Desk...

  14. May I just add a few words? When I was a young journalist reviewing books for a newspaper, I once poked gentle fun at the latest from Dame Barbara Cartland. I was amazed to discover that that great lady always hand wrote a thank you note to each and every person, including unknowns like me, who reviewed her books. She wrote an incredibly kind and very polite letter which was so gracious it very much impressed me, so I always try to do the same.

    • Nothing wrong with a gracious thank you note for their time and effort to write a review, but that is a whole different thing. Getting into any kind of discussion about the review and what you think is ‘wrong’ with it is just a don’t, a big fat don’t.
      Who knows, you could be feeding a troll and get yourself in heaps of trouble. More than the inaccuracy in that one review would have ever gotten you into.

  15. Do I read reviews before I purchase a book? Yes, will I buy the books based on those reviews? Probably not, It is usually the blurb or an excerpt that hooks me, and if those show promise I will give the book a try.
    I DO give 2 star reviews (though few) I think I have only ever given a 1 star review if I was unable to finish the book, and that rarely happens. However, if the book is below a 3 star review and I know the author or the author requested the review, I do give them the information, and a copy of the review and give them the option of whether or not they want me to publish it. It goes about 50/50 of authors who say, yes, go ahead, or No, I appreciate your comments and critique but would prefer you don’t publish. I DO still post the rating, even if I don’t include the text review.
    As an author I do not engage with reviewers, other than to thank them for taking the time to review. I have has reviewers make factual errors in their review (both good and bad) But I do not attempt to correct them. I believe that ALL reviews have value, they help authors improve their craft. A writer always needs to be learning and growing. I feel that I learn more with each book I read, write, review or edit. I hope I never get to a point where I fell there is nothing left to learn, because every day should be a learning experience.
    So thank you all who review. Good, bad or indifferent, I appreciate it!
    Tamara Hoffa

    • Hi Tamara, thanks for your reply. Like you I am of the opinion to give the author a choice whether or not they want me to post a lower rated review and offer them my reasons for that rating. And like you I do not ever engage in discussions with reviewers other than to thank them for their their time to read and review my book.
      I do hope more and more authors will see that trying to sway reviewers to see things their way does not work.

  16. Pingback: Bad Book Reviews – What NOT to do. | Tracing the Stars

    • It is, the only thing it accomplished is that most of the 5-star reviews are seen as bogus.
      I don’t even check if there are reviews posted on my books. Only when a reviewer notifies me I go and read and privately thank the person in question for taking the time to read and post a review.
      Personally I don’t bother writing a review for a book that is less than a three star. To be honest I read a lot more than I review, because I only take the time to write a review for the books I really love and think are so great the general public should know about them.
      If not, I don’t bother. If the author has requested a review and I can’t finish the book, for whatever reason, I’ll notify that author in private and explain my reasons. They never ask me to post the low rating review.

  17. Our usual advice to our authors is read reviews if you wish but know that sometimes you get a good one and sometimes a not so good one both on the same book. Writers have to develop a thick skin – ignore the mean spirited reviews but take the advice from intelligently written reviews – even the negative ones may be informative. Attacking a reviewer often sets you up for trouble and brings on the trolls. Thank a reviewer for their time and move on. Reviewers however are not blameless. A review should be written fairly and respectfully- this does not mean you have to like a book but it does mean you do not attack the writer or harshly give you opinion. Kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way!

  18. I have gotten both good and bad reviews on my book. When I get a 5 star review I jump up and down with glee. When I get a review lower than 3 stars I’m heartbroken. Sorry, I can’t help it. I understand that I cannot please everyone and I knew from the start that not everybody was going to love my book. I get it, but a bad review still stings. My book is my baby. Try giving a mom an honest opinion about her “ugly” baby. Ha,ha! That will not turn out well. Nonetheless, even though I don’t like bad reviews I know they are someone’s opinion and I have to respect that so I do remain silent and move on. Here’s a quote I like.

    “From close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”
    ~Isaac Asimov

  19. I had a reviewer on Amazon give my book a one-star review and then say in the comments that he actually liked this book but gave it a one-start so people would read his review of it. There needs to be respect on both sides of the fence. To cause someone’s rating to go down because you want your review to be read and are worried it would be “lost” in the four and five star is crazy and selfish IMO.

    I however, did not respond because I think it looks petty when authors do that. Instead, I grin and move on, knowing there are other reviewers with integrity.

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