Dealing With Bad Reviews

Congratulations...you've published a book! After years of hard work, your masterpiece is ready for others to enjoy. Now it's time to watch those glowing reviews come in. Go on...hit the refresh button on your book's Amazon page a few thousand times a day. Five stars, here we come!

And then it happens: The Bad Review.

Because you see, some people are going to hate your book. And what's worse, they're going to hate it publicly (the bastards). They will describe, in brutal detail, everything that sucks about it. Your baby is going to be publicly eviscerated, and there is nothing you're going to be able to do about it.

Don't panic.

Instead, follow these simple rules!

Rule #1: Don't defend yourself

Your first instinct is going to be to protect your baby. Write a counterpoint to every wrongheaded view that bastard of a reviewer (who probably hates theirlife and wants nothing more than to crush you) managed to type with their sad little fingers.

Don't do it.

Some people are going to not like your book. Hell, some people hate kittens and babies. That's okay. They're not out to destroy you (I hope), they just feel strongly about your book. And if your book is pretty good, most of the reviews are going to be alright. One bad review is not going to tank your book.

Rule #2: Don't check for new reviews before bed

Admit it, you check your Amazon page for new reviews a few billion times a day. That's normal - and extremely unhealthy. Don't do that. And for the love of God, DON'T check for new reviews right before you go to bed!

I wish someone had told me.

You'll be laying in bed, your phone clutched in your hands, eagerly checking for a bump in your review count one last time. Wait, hold up...what's this? *Gasp!* Another review!

You scroll eagerly downward, and then you see it: the bad review. And not just any bad review...an utterly devastatingly bad review. 30 pages long, dripping with disdain.

You conduct an impromptu crash test of your phone case, throwing your phone across the room. Then you stare up at the ceiling, imagining all the horrible (and highly illegal) things you'd like to do to your reviewer. Morning comes, and you're still staring at the ceiling, imagining yourself strangling the bastard. After having re-read the review 4,000 times.

Which brings me to my next rule:

Rule #3: Read bad reviews once - and only once

Read your good reviews over and over. You've earned it! But don't obsess over the bad ones. Read them once, process them, and let them go. The more you think about them, the less happy you'll be. You don't need closure. Hell, a year after they're written, bad reviews still give me heartburn. Go write another book.

Rule #4: Don't check a good reviewer's review history

You got a GLOWING review! Yay! You're on cloud nine. This reviewer frickin' LOVED your book. Thought it was the best damn thing they've ever read. They liked it better than chocolate and coffee and meth and sex. Combined. Or taken sequentially, your pick.

Then you look at the other books they've reviewed...and every single review reads like yours.

The glow fades. You feel duped. That 5-star review means nothing now.

My advice? Hold on to that high, baby. Treat it like a new girlfriend or boyfriend that thinks you're the greatest guy/girl/etc. they've ever been with. Chances are they said the same thing to their previous partner, but do you need to know that? Nope! Bask in your ignorance! Knowledge is pain. 

Rule #5: Learn from it!

Bad reviews feel awful, but making mistakes often does. Some reviewers have a point...and as an author, we can learn from them. We can grow by fixing the mistakes we made in our current books and avoiding making them in our future ones. Think of bad reviews as your teachers. Teachers you never asked for and don't like very much, but you know, teachers.

Rule #5: You'll break these rules

Yeah, I can't follow them either.