AOA #2: How did you react to your first negative review?
Your book has been out for a while now, it’s been slowly gathering up the 4 and 5 star reviews, but then…
ONE STAR? What?
How do you react? Is this a time to slowly read through and take comments on board? A time to pick up the nearest inanimate object and hurl it at the wall? Or, would you do what Marc Nash did and grab a copy to use in your promo?
We had some great responses from our authors on this one, so relax, pop your feet up and read through the fantastic comments below.
Rum! Okay, there was more to it than that.
It takes a certain bravery to put yourself out there – and in some ways a little more when you are independentally published. We don’t have the muscle and experience of a traditional publishing company. I do have my writing edited by my wife, and then I hire a professional editor to beat up the final draft. My novels are read by an alpha team pre-edits and a beta team post-edits. The thing is, they are all friends, or love me, or I’m giving them money – I didn’t choose them because they hate what I’m trying to do. Up until that first negative review, I thought everyone in the world would love what I wrote (I mean, everyone loves me, right?) So, yeah, that first review was a bit deflating.
So, after the rum, and talks with supportive friends, I came to the conclusion that not everyone in the world is going to like me. If a writer does a great job of projecting his voice through the book, it makes sense to me that people who wouldn’t like me personally certainly won’t like my book. Now I’m okay with a few negative reviews (but just a few.)
David J. Pedersen, author of ANGST
I loved my first bad review and used it in my promo. Not everyone is going to like my work. I honour them for at least trying me and being engaged enough to set down what they didn’t like about my writing.
Flash and Literary Fiction author, Marc Nash
I haven’t had a review that was less than 5 stars, but something was said bothered me. A reviewer said they had to read my ending twice to figure out what happened. I took some time trying to contact this reviewer to see what they meant by it. Finally I got a hold of them and they recanted saying they had forgotten an early chapter that foreshadows a crucial element of the climax. Still I took it as a hit. You need to remember that if your reader can’t follow how clever your writing is supposed to be, then it isn’t clever writing.
DUST PAN GIRL author, James Fox
My first negative review was a lot like my first positive review; I read it carefully and tried to understand how my writing and story got that result. I firmly believe stories are shared, something that is created between the audience and the author as a book is read. That relationship is complicated. Sometimes, the positives are from things I didn’t intend, as much as the negative! I sift through them all trying to improve my writing, such that the intention of my words make it through… even if you don’t like it, you know what I meant.
I’d say the “meh” reviews are the worst emotionally. It’s like being completely naked in front of someone for the first time, and the response is an apathetic shrug before leaving the room to do something else. OUCH.
Aaron Safronoff, author of Sci-Fi novels SPIRE and FALLEN SPIRE
I haven’t gotten negative reviews from my readers yet, but I did keep my first rejection letter from a publishing house. I used the letter as motivation to keep on trying. That particular publisher may not have needed my book, but there were/are readers who do, so I was determined to keep at it until my words got/get to the people they’re meant for: the readers.
Romance author, Nadine Keels
If and when a one-star “drivel” review goes up, the sleeping tiger in me might awaken. The worst review, however, is no review. I have to assume that of all the people who downloaded the book while it was on free promotion, maybe only ten percent have actually read it, or started reading it. Some have posted lovely five-star reviews (on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), some who know me have sent messages or expressed enthusiasm. And the rest? I’m imagining comments so unflattering that people have not wanted to publish them. And since I have a nasty streak in me somewhere, I may be imagining even worse that the silent readers have been thinking. Ouch.
Historical Fiction novelist, Valeria Wilson
I haven’t had any really negative reviews. One kindle reader complained about the length of the story. My reaction was puzzlement, because my story is quite a slim volume compared with the bricks (not to mention series) by many well-known authors.
Graham Keeler, author of STOWAWAY TO THE STARS
I’m fairly thick skinned and love constructive criticism – how else do we learn and improve? Reviews though are difficult either way – good ones can inflate your sense of your own skills and bad can leave you lying a darkened room for days with a cold compress over your eyes. Generally I prefer to take reviews with a pinch of salt and focus on getting constructive comments from other writers.
Tim Bedford, author of RED
Nicely put, I was angry someone didn’t appreciate my effort. Like anything else, when I calmed my frustrations, I tried to see it from their perspective and accept it as a piece of advice for the next book.
Young Adult novelist, Cyndi Goodgame
I think I took it very well—it was expected.
Multi-genre author, Doyle Duke
I am fortunate that so far the lowest rating I’ve ever received is three stars. I’m sure as soon as this gets out there, one of my books will get slaughtered. But concerning the three star reviews, they often have a gem of truth in them if I sift objectively.
With Those Poor, Poor Bastards (Dead West #1), for example, we are mainly getting dinged (by a couple reviewers) regarding the excessive language, and we happen to agree. So in the rest of the series we’re making a slight modification and becoming more aware of the language in the main character’s narrative. In the dialogue, it’ll be pretty much the same.
Horror and Fantasy author, J.M. Martin
Had one (and luckily only one) negative review. It made me sulk. And then feel cross and certain that they were ‘wrong; and ‘didn’t get my work’.
Steven Harris, Poetry and Short Story writer
The only negative review that I’m aware of was for my web-comic/mini-comic series called Clyde the Redneck. My reaction was to belly laugh because the reviewer obviously didn’t get that the series was about. After I finished laughing I wrote the review into the next comic strip and had Clyde use the critic’s words to make fun of me.
As one famous author said, “There are no statues of critics.”
Comic Book author, Stephen Hines
I’ve gotten three 3-star reviews, all of them providing me good feedback to throw in my experience bucket. I haven’t had a “nightmare” review yet. Still waiting on that one. 🙂
Kenny Soward, author of ROUGH MAGIC
After the initial sting of seeing the title of the review “I really didn’t like this book”, and reading the rationale behind it, my heart sunk. However, I soon rallied, knowing that you can’t please everyone and that I made myself vulnerable voluntarily. And so I took it on the chin. Just like dirty diapers are a part of raising children, bad reviews are a part of being an author.
Regency romance author, Claudia Harbaugh
Not well. Up to that point, everything had been so positive.
Then came the “Poorly written” review, which to be honest, was dead on. Again, the original edition was a good story but not a good book. The criticism was 100% valid.
As time goes, the bad reviews (of which there are few, thankfully) hurt less while the good ones…well, they still feel pretty nice. The key is not getting too high or too low.
Remember, you’ll never be able to please everyone. So, don’t try.
R.T Kaelin, author of the Children of the White Lions series
The first bad review I got was a 1 star complaint about the formatting issues. I didn’t know enough about Kindle and the document I uploaded got completely jumbled. When I read it I spit and cursed and probably broke some stuff, but I fixed the issue & I’ve gotten all 4-5 stars since then.
Erotica author, Albert Sawyer
I have not as yet received a negative review for DARKER THAN, but I have gotten several ‘critiques’ about the story from friends and peers. All I can say is: listen to everyone but maintain your focus. It’s YOUR story, no one else’s. YOU decide what happens. For those that have really gone off on a tangent and suggested I do this or that with the story, to them I have suggested they write a book themselves. The fun part is watching their gears turn as they consider that idea.
J.W Patten, author of DARKER THAN
I have not received my first negative review yet. I’m still in the process of trying to get some reviews for it, however I know that negative reviews are inevitable and while I’m sure it will sting I think I will be able to handle it just fine.
Author of THE APOTHECARY MURDERS, A.R. Price
My negative reviews come from people who are offended by the retelling of various accounts from the Holy Bible in my book, Bibles Be Trippin’ : Holy Sh*t (no offense). I knew going in that religion is a touchy subject but I had no idea just how sensitive people could be. For starters, the front cover says, “no offense” – So, there’s that…. Secondly, in all honesty I’d have to disagree that Bibles Be Trippin’ is sacrilegious. It’s a collection of short, compelling stories that provide a way to understand the bible in a way that’s highly entertaining, cleverly modern and in Layman’s terms. Which makes it a great satire.
One comment that I recall from an Instagram post was, “So wrong.. In so many ways.” Immediately, I wanted to defend myself but then I thought, whatever – it’s not for everybody. My type of humor is facetious, somewhat absurd and can be too much for prudes and I’m fine with that. It simple doesn’t phase me. However, if ever anyone wanted to talk or ask questions about anything that I’ve written, be it positive or negative, I would welcome it with open arms.
Satirical writer, Jocelyn Ingram
I was upset, at first, until I realized that he was commenting on things that weren’t in the book. I couldn’t find them, and neither could anyone else. I think he was just looking for anything to be critical of. I don’t think he even read the whole book.
Rhani D’Chae, author of SHADOW OF THE DRILL
I haven’t had a truly negative review yet, though I suppose that it’s simply a matter of time. I have received some criticism as a part of generally positive reviews and I am honestly grateful that people are engaged enough in the book that they are willing to take the time help me improve my storytelling abilities. My aspiration is for every book to be better than the last and any feedback I receive will help me to achieve that goal.
Fantasy author, Trista Wilde
My first negative review was an email to the newspaper editor by a reader lambasting me for what he considered a factual error in one of the stories I had written for the newspaper. The editor forwarded me the email.
As I read it, my heartbeat raced and a hot flash wiped every word from the screen. I kept rereading it and nothing made sense. I felt instant guilt, overwhelming shame! I had to walk away from the screen, the office, the building – I kept walking till I could walk no more. Then I stopped and sat down at a cafe.
As I sipped my coffee, I began to sort through what the email said. I remembered checking that very fact that he was questioning! I had backup from a reliable source. It immediately occurred to me that I was right… and he was wrong… so very WRONG!
I left my coffee and ran back to the office and began composing a reply to the editor. I wrote a long scathing response that not just refuted the readers claim, but was chock full of the most literary and colorful insults I could verbalize. After I finished writing it, I felt much better. Then I deleted it, and wrote a two line response to my editor citing my source.
My editor wrote back the next day telling me about all the “drama-queen” responses he got from his other writers whenever they received a negative comment and how pleased he was to be working with a professional like me.
If only he knew 🙂
Ritu K. Gupta, author of AWAKENING COLORS
I have not hot had one yet! But then again, I have barely had any reviews at all. I have sold over 1200 copies of Firework Art through Amazon, and have received universally positive personal feedback but I have only received 2 reviews there – in 6 years. I guess I have not paid enough people to give me reviews!
My approach will be (when it happens) that you cannot please everyone and nor should you write to please everyone.
FIREWORK ART author, Mark Fleming
I reacted badly. I had 6 x 5star reviews and the 7th review ripped my heart out because it said my work was rubbish. However I took note of the review and did my best to improve my writing, and I think I have achieved that goal, but there is always room for improvement. I also employed a pro cover designer and editor
Science-Fiction author, Malcolm Powell