A Bad Book Review Isn't the End of the World

Worried businessman in dark suit sitting at office desk full with books and papers being overloaded with work.
Worried businessman in dark suit sitting at office desk full with books and papers being overloaded with work.

"Writers, fall into two groups" said Isaac Asimov, acclaimed science fiction author. "Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review."

Sound like anyone you know? Yes, been there too, but it's not all bad. Don't get discouraged if you get bad book reviews because they are inevitable. Relax and take a deep breath. Right from the beginning let me say that no bad review is ever welcome but it is definitely not a death sentence for your book. This is one of the unavoidable pitfalls of being published. It comes with the territory and there's no handbook for how to deal with the personal gut-wrenching impact.

Anyone who chooses a career in the arts -- music, acting, painting, and writing -- should accept that reviews, good, bad, and non-committal, are a part of the business. All artists have to deal with all kinds of reviews. Truthfully, if you as an author can't deal with bad reviews in a practical manner, then your experience in the field of writing is going to be a hard, unhappy one. Don't let that happen.

A bad review is, of course, very uncomfortable to read. You can cry, have a few too many drinks, or get mad. A few authors take it with a grain of salt and let it go or at least, pretend to do so. This is your book someone just skewered, your baby. You've made sacrifices to get the book written and published. You want to scream or at least write a nasty rebuttal to your critic.

Go ahead and scream if you must but forget the nasty-gram and don't despair. Try to think clearly and rationally; it's hard to do but for your own peace of mind you have to do it. It pays to always remember that you will never please everyone's reading criteria or tastes. An author can receive ninety-nine good reviews and one bad one. Guess which one will stay in your mind? You can be sure not the ninety-nine good ones! While this may be true, don't over think the bad review and see yourself as less than a good writer. You should never let any review negatively affect your self-esteem or your writing. Come on! You are a good writer and you will survive this "attack" on your work.

Believe it or not, a bad review from a reviewer can actually be twisted to your advantage. You need to remember the old Hollywood saying about publicity: "I don't care what you write about me as long as you spell my name right!" Bad publicity is still publicity. Readers are not naive, nor do they always listen to book reviewers. A bad book review could even spark curiosity and get people to read the book and judge it for themselves. No matter what the customers say, those who write their comments online on Amazon, B & N, and other book venues, are spending time and energy thinking about your book. In essence they're spreading the word about your book and others will take note.

A good example of "publicity is publicity" for me came from a reviewer who liked my book Grave Misgivings but wrote that she did have two problems with it. She didn't like that I wrote that the main character, Cate Harlow, likes to drink a good Merlot and the fact that Cate drives a Ford Edge. She felt both mentions were irrelevant to the story. I admit I was miffed but sent an email thanking her for her honest review. As it turned out her review was good publicity because, in contrast to the reviewer's negative take on the wine and the SUV, I have had other people write me and tell me that the mention of what my character liked to drink and the vehicle she prefers to drive, made her more real and relatable to the readers.

No author is free from negative book reviewers. It happens whether you're just starting out in your writing career or already an established author. Just remember that the review shouldn't signal the death knell for your hard written work. I'm sure the author who received the following review was mad as Hell:

"It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read."

Ouch! No matter how thick-skinned you are that review packs a hard punch. What book could this critic be describing? Ah yes, the reviewer is offering an opinion on one of the great American classics; I'm pretty sure you know it. It's a bit of fiction by F. Scott Fitzgerald titled The Great Gatsby.

See? None of us are immune from criticism. Now go back to your desk and write the next best-seller. You won't please everyone and that is just fine.

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.

Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved