Dealing With Bad Reviews

Let’s face it, eventually every author is going to have to swallow the medicine that is a bad review. Whether it be a low rating without an explanation to a full on dismantling of a book someone probably should have just put down. Over many years I’ve experienced every kind of review, from the ‘abandoned’ to the snarky ‘let’s try and be funnier than the book’ to even scathing borderline abuse. I have even received constructive criticism that I’ve then used to correct a typo or potential error so its not all bad and ‘bad’ may just be a stance.

Disclaimer: I will say now first and foremost that any reviewer no matter their opinion, as long as it is not abusive, is entitled to say what they feel about a book freely. This post is not an attempt to bash anyone that has left a less than favourable review for my work or anyone else’s. This post is designed to help fellow authors cope with bad reviews. I have to include this disclaimer because this subject might be perceived as ‘spicy’ and if I don’t, my Goodreads ratings will go even lower…

Its not a nice feeling when someone leaves a bad review for our work. It can straight up hurt and that’s more than okay because our books are a labour of love, time and effort. For someone to say negative things about it can feel like a personal attack and leave an author spinning for days while also questioning themselves. Feeling bad and every other emotion that comes with a bad review is totally normal. Remember that.

Ahead are hopefully some pointers and a few truths that will help any wordsmith deal with the inevitable because for every author receiving a glowing review, there will be another receiving the opposite.

1. Be Aware…

This is aimed for newer authors and has a bunch of inputs, but after publishing that book, your writing is no longer just a hobby and your presence on social media is now one of a public figure. Whether you like that or not is kind of irrelevant because being published puts you in the public domain. This means that as an author you now stand in the spotlight inside a glass house. Anyone can throw stones at you, and if you give them a reason to, they will, trust me. You see that disclaimer up there, yeah I put that in to cover my ass in case someone gets precious and decides to defend anyone who has ever left a bad review – your actions online can draw unwanted negativity sometimes, even if your intentions were good.

What do I mean by this? Social media and the internet can be a volatile place and now you have a book out there, it is vulnerable also. Because of that, its time to consider your conduct online. Me; I have a pretty comfortable seat on the fence in most of my social media endeavours and I make every effort to be inclusive, decent and supportive. This will go a long way to preventing certain stones being thrown and I would even go as far as saying some negative reviews are simply a reaction to something you may have said online. That’s why I have that comfortable seat and I tend not to react to any major news subjects or any polarising political situations – these things will always be happening and providing an escape from them works for me.

Of course there are many great causes out there that authors have every right to stand for but remember social media can be a volatile place where someone might not agree with you all the time so be mindful and be aware.

2. They are Inevitable…

While being aware and conducting yourself in a certain way are great preventative measures, bad reviews unfortunately are inevitable. If your work sells enough it will be discovered by someone who doesn’t like it. Any author who has been around a while and sold a bunch of books will tell you this. So think of it as a baptism. Your writing has done enough to at least stir a reaction, even if it is not so great and you are now part of the club!

3. Is it Worth the Time?

Time for me is valuable. I can get a lot done with my time, from social media posts, blog posts, editing to even exercise so ask yourself if the review is worth your time? Those star ratings without an explanation – there isn’t really much to digest there so why spend time thinking about it?

I’m quite selective when it comes to where I read the reviews I receive. Goodreads is a place where I only focus on the statistics and not really the content of the reviews. Amazon is way more important to me so I tend to read the reviews I get on there. Even then if the review is negative with zero constructive feedback I’ll tend to just move on.

4. Is it Constructive?

Speaking of feedback, does the review help you in any way? Anyone can claim to be an editor if they spot a simple typo or even a spelling error. Even pro published books have those. US and UK spelling does differ sometimes and some reviewers won’t be aware of that. If there is something constructive you can get from the review then to me its really a positive one in disguise – remember sometimes the truth can hurt and we are all human so mistakes happen.

5. What’s the Value?

I’m going to confide in you here while also stating that I appreciate everyone who has made the effort to review my work but I can count on just one hand the amount of reviews that shaped my future works or had any real constructive feedback and for this I consider myself lucky. This is the case with positive reviews also and while we all love a compliment, what does that actually provide us with? Speaking truthfully, there is normally zero personal value in a review – good or bad they help sell future books and sometimes they need to be looked at just that way because…

6. A Rating is a Rating…

Above all, even if the review is down right insulting, a rating is a rating and proof of readership. Someone out there in that vast busy world of constant content found your book. Good or bad if they were thoughtful enough to rate it, then somewhere deep down there was something in that book which meant something to them.

Side note: If the review is abusive or even a personal attack, you might have grounds to report it and get it taken down. I’ve done this before.

If you were to purchase my self help guide book for indie authors and bloggers you’ll find there is a whole section dedicated to reviews and dealing with them.

7. Can You Spin it?

Some years ago, one of my newly released books received a low rating that kind of came out of nowhere. I forget the name of the book blogger but I confided in my social media following and managed to spin that review into a bunch of sales and positive reviews from some friends in the writing community. As long as you are decent, it’s okay to confide in your following, they might swing in to help you.

Final Thought

It will feel better tomorrow and much like that struggle for reviews you feel sometimes, the best thing to do in order to cope is to focus your energy elsewhere. Of course its okay to vent but do it with tact and confide in others because you’ll be surprised by how many bad review stories authors have. Use this post as a reference to when the inevitable happens and of course vent below if you wish because this will always be a safe space for creatives. How do you deal with bad reviews?

Thanks for reading. This post originally premiered on Patreon where all of my guides are available to Patrons first before they make their way onto here. For information on my Patreon which aims to guide and help fellow creatives click here.

Weekly Ramble #108

My author and blogger social media engine is running hot. While it has been an incredible ride to see so many awesome things align in recent times, its been an arduous journey. Most followers only really see the end product and the good statistics I share but beneath all that is just one person doing his best to hold everything together.

Around twelve months ago I took a vow to carry on through whatever this world threw us. We’re still in a very real pandemic situation that is still rocking our world to the core. Carrying on is my way of coping, perhaps even plastering over the cracks of doubt or uncertainty. We all have our mechanisms to cope but with those mechanisms comes the eventuality that they’ll break down and weaken. The reason I say my engine is running hot is because everyday I have been out there showing up and carving a following from near enough nothing. My social media following statistics are quite incredible but there is also a price and quite soon I am envisioning a slight step back. There are a stack of non-author things on my to do list and they are building up.

For every wonderful moment I have on social media every now and then I’ll come across something that effects my mental health. A bad engagement or even something I just scroll past can be a trigger and this becomes all the more prevalent when you spend more time exposed to it. For all the good things that have come from social media, I need a break, I’m fine, but I need a break and I need to go back to the writing…

Toxic Undertones

Quite recently I’ve been caught off guard with a handful of ‘bad’ social media interactions which have served as a stark reminder of how toxic and volatile the underbelly of social media really is. There seems to be a consensus of those laying in wait, ready to pounce upon negative situations with their own negativity sparked from a desire to either be a troll or to be an opportunist in the face of adversity in order to get follows, likes and interaction. This can seem to happen at any time and it’s something I’ve always known but presently perhaps forgot while my momentum is building and my following is growing.

As an author in the modern social media age, my market is based mostly within it, and as much as I would love to just turn around and walk away, I’m not in that position just yet, although it’s just another driving factor to get me there. Having a higher following on social media will attract many lower level folk who are trying to get their own foothold and sometimes they use whatever leverage they can to climb. Such recent experiences have forced me to back away from my usual level of engagement, especially on Twitter which is a particularly volatile, mob cultured petri dish of assholery that can turn on you in an instant. The ‘mute notifications’ button has been utilised is recent days.

While this post isn’t an attempt to vent, it’s become an opportunity to do so and that’s okay, this is my patch. And my philosophy on book reviews is simpler now: they don’t actually matter in the broadest of senses, I cannot help but sometimes notice the ilk of review that is literally an attempt to troll, or be funny. Although after a night’s sleep the nagging pain they cause is gone, and I am big enough and old enough to know my stuff is in the public domain and that it isn’t for everyone but any type of cross word against me will affect me, I’m human after all. Any review really, is a good review, because it’s proof somebody took the time to look at your words and possibly buy it. Most of them aren’t constructive, even the positive ones, what I can do with ‘your book was great’, although I still appreciate the sentiment. No matter what anyone says, they’ll never know the journey, the struggle and the ultimate satisfaction of being a better person for finishing the crafting of a book. Their words about your words will never match them.

I guess all of this is just the symptom or the outcome of reaching a new plateau of a bigger following. This blog is growing and the content includes reviews and investigations of other parties who might not appreciate that so perhaps this is a glass house situation. My ambition has always been to write books and tell stories, no amount of toxicity will stop that, after all I am radioactively coated in stubbornness, so I’ll always survive, it’s all I know what to do. It’s up to us as individuals not to get lost on the journey.

Weekly Ramble #74

I’m starting to embrace and enjoy the semi lock down lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I miss people, I miss gatherings, I miss the opportunity to have conversations but many of the lifestyle elements right now I am enjoying. 

It’s a case of embracing what is good in a shituation. That’s what this is and for so much bad that has come from this, it’s also been a huge opportunity to take on things that I wouldn’t normally take on. In the beginning I got myself back into booze nearly every night. Drinking for me has always been a vessel to good times and so I leaned on that perception to have a ‘few’ every night and for a while it worked as a coping mechanism. We all know that’s a slippery very short term slope and especially so for the health situation and of course the scales which I quickly became unhappy with.

The lock down was something that began to piss me off, no matter what I did and so my mental health took a hit for a small time but I’m pretty damn good at getting my ass up off the ground. I took one big look at myself and said ‘I can do more with these days’ and I’m lucky enough to have a work that has continued to pay and employ me, just on a different basis. I have to attend work for two shifts every 6 days, day time or night time.

For someone who’s been held down by the excuse of work for pretty much everything I eventually crawled away from that because of all this time I now have. I’m getting up before 9 every day, I’m eating clean, I’m exercising every morning and then leaving my afternoons to write and read. This is the best shape my schedule has been in for a long time. It’s like being semi retired and I’m doing stuff I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe finding the best out of a bad situation is really the best way any of us can cope…

How are you coping right now?