This is a bit of a touchy subject with some writers. Some of us take on this problem in different ways. I won’t go into who (if any) of us is right or wrong. The right way is however you decide to handle it. Just remember, you will have to be the one who deals with the consequences of how you react, no matter how you handle it. The trick is making a decision that you can live with.
So, bearing that in mind, I’ll jump into this topic. I’m not going to go into all the different ways to approach this. Frankly, there are too many ways to take them all in a single blog topic. What I will do is try to explain how I’ve handled it, based on my on experiences. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it will work for you or not. The choice, after all, is always yours.
First thing, you need to accept the fact that there will be negative reviews. It’s going to happen. It does to all of us. For one thing, no one can write something that appeals to everyone. It just can’t be done. So many people have so many different tastes that there’s practically no way to please everyone. At least, I haven’t heard of any way to do it. Honestly, I wouldn’t even try. Write to your audience, whoever they are.
Negative reviews are part of the job description. How you deal with them will be just as important as how you deal with the positive reviews. Both will affect how you are perceived by the public. Personally, I don’t want to be perceived as argumentative or having a negative attitude of my own. How your readers see you is almost as important as how they see your writing. Don’t paint yourself in a bad light.
Some negative reviews will be honest criticisms and you should take them as such. Read your reviews, both good and bad, with an open mind. We all love to read the praise when we get a good review, but how many of us are willing to actually listen when someone honestly doesn’t like our work? I’m just as guilty of that as anyone. No one likes to hear bad things about their work. It’s human nature.
An honest negative review can make you think. Don’t take it as a personal attack. I’ll get to those later. Honest negative reviews might say something like “bad characters” or “poor pacing of story” or any of a million other things that they might not like about your work. Take these types of reviews as what they are, criticisms. Use this as an opportunity to self-examine and evaluate your work. Who knows, they might just be right. Use it to improve. I’ve told other people before, “You can let this make you better or make you bitter.” Only you can decide which it will be. I prefer to learn from my mistakes and try my best to not make them again.
There is always the possibility that they might just not like it and were looking for an excuse to say something negative. That happens, too. The best possible outcome that you can get from this kind of review is just to look at it and have an open mind. Evaluate what they say and then see if it applies to your work. If they’re right, fix it. If you don’t see anything wrong, keep it in mind and keep writing. Really, that’s all you can do.
Then, there’s another kind of negative review. Believe it or not, there are people (some of them other writers) out there who like nothing better than to post negative things to lower your ranking and to try to make themselves look better by comparison. It’s dirty and morally reprehensible, but it does happen. Some writers have their friends attack other writers, just to lower their ranking and to encourage others to not buy their work. There are also people that do it, just to be malicious. Whatever the reason, I think this is a horrible thing to do.
I’ve said it many times, this is not a competition. Writing isn’t about “winners and losers”. It’s about telling our stories and sharing our work with the readers. It should never be about who isn’t selling as much as you are or who gets more reviews. If you wrote a book and got it into print (be it self-published or traditionally), guess what? You already won. You don’t have to turn it into a competition to be the “Best Author.” It’s not going to happen. There will always be someone out there who will sell more than you, have more fans than you, write more books than you…or whatever. The point is, be the best writer you can be. You don’t have to be better than anyone else.
The only person that I am in any kind of competition is myself. I work hard to be a better writer than I was yesterday. As long as I can do that, I’m winning. I may never be a multi-million dollar international bestseller, but I’m doing my best. What else is there? In the end, that’s all any of us can do. I’ll work hard to be the best writer I can and to promote my work. The rest will work itself out.
As for how I’ve dealt with negative reviews (and yes, I have had my share) is by not engaging them. I read the review and decide if there is any merit to their point of view. If there is, I factor that into my work. I try to use the criticisms for what they are…criticisms. If they are accurate, then it can only serve to make my writing better.
If they are the malicious type (no matter the source) then the best thing to do is simply not engage them. Don’t argue with them, especially in a public forum. That will only make you look unprofessional and petty. The last thing you want to do is to make your current and future readers think that you are no different from the trolls who baited you in the first place. Don’t feed the trolls. It’s just a good policy.
If they post negative reviews on Amazon or Kobo or any other sales site, all you can do is read it and move on. Don’t argue there. If they came to your Facebook, Twitter or other Social Media and posted negative things about you there…then that’s a different story. Don’t argue with them, even there. Just point out that they are entitled to their opinion and don’t let them draw you into an argument. If it becomes too bad, delete and block them. Or, worst case scenario, report them to the site administrators.
The bottom line is, some people seem to thrive on negativity. They feed off of people arguing with them and seem to take delight in saying nasty things. The best advice I can give you is….Don’t Feed The Trolls. If you feed them, they will continue to do it and they will likely multiply.
Accepting negative criticism gracefully and silently is the best way I know to handle it. If the criticism is correct, learn from it and move on. If they post negative reviews just to be mean, don’t take the bait. How you deal with the negative will speak volumes about you. In fact, it means just as much as how you deal with the positive. Again, this isn’t a competition. Be the best writer you can be and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to out-perform the “competition.”
Writing is a journey that we take together, reader and writer. Both are important, for without one, there’s no need for the other. There’s room on the bookshelf for all of us. There’s no reason to tear each other down to make ourselves look better. Strive to be better than you were, yesterday. It will pay off, in the long run.
Remember….Don’t feed the Trolls.
5 thoughts on “Dealing With Negative Reviews”
All great points. My second book got negative reviews because I killed a character off that was actually pretty beloved to my readers… some of the comments I got were pretty angry. I was partially worried about a ‘Misery’ style situation ;).
Personally, I don’t take offense to negative or angry comments. For the most part, I look at them as… well someone obviously liked something about my first book or my characters enough that the direction I took pissed them off or prompted a reaction… especially as most people don’t even bother to leave comments or reviews unless it’s something they really loved or really hated.
As a rule, I don’t respond to comments on Amazon or Barnes and Noble… I find doing so to be unprofessional, but if someone seeks me out by my blog or facebook page, I do my best to address comments or concerns.
As for trolling or just rage-pumping comments. Well there’s an ignore button that I absolutely love for such things.
Good, solid advice, DA.
I think your admonition to “don’t feed the trolls” is applicable to virtually every facet of life.
Thanks for posting this.
Glad to do it. It is good advice for a lot of situations.
As always, very good advice. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts.
Good to see you, my friend. I hope that I can always help other authors with advice or assistance. If anyone can benefit from the things I’ve learned along the way, then I’m only too happy to share it. Like I said, this should never be a competition. By helping each other, we only help ourselves.