Dealing with Bad Reviews

Early in my writing career, I don’t recall finding much information about dealing with bad reviews other than to put on your big girl panties, suck it up, and move on.

I never found that helpful.

I’m on the other side of bad reviews now, but I sure was in the thick of them for a while. I became a target for bad reviews, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

Most of my negative reviews are on my permafree books. It’s easy to download a free book, and if it isn’t your cup of tea – ding it. (Or download a free book for the sole purpose of leaving a negative review.)

I still have emails from the first two years I was writing. Here are some things I wrote to family and/or friends as I was tortured by bad reviews. My comments from these emails are in quotes.

“This whole review system is a kick in the gut.”

“I don’t think this writing gig is for me. … I just want to walk away. … I don’t have the thick skin needed for this.”

Becoming a target from people who read my blog was painful.

“Every time I post good things about my books, covers, whatever, on my blog, a few bad reviews are always right behind – sometimes within minutes.”

“Reviews have been the hardest part for me. I wasn’t prepared for them. I went back through my blog and edited and deleted posts where I felt someone could use my words against me.”

I felt as though my personality was changing.

“I really don’t have what it takes for this. I don’t. Some things with writing and self-publishing have practically paralyzed me. I’ve never had so much depression in my life. This is not who I am.”

What saved me?

February 28, 2014. Two years in. I had an ad run with BookBub for Sunshine Hunter.

There were in excess of 80,000 downloads the first two days. I was quickly able to see that approximately 300 people were making their way through the entire series of books. Sales were brisk.

Reviews started coming in – from complete strangers – not peers and/or readers to my blog. The good reviews far outweighed the bad.

That’s how I was able to get on the other side. That’s when the thick skin began to grow. I can honestly say I rarely look at my reviews now, and I certainly don’t flinch when someone doesn’t like one of my books. They may be an acquired taste anyway. My Susan Hunter books are pink and fluffy. My Murder books are uncouth.

So, what’s the takeaway here?

I honestly don’t think there is one answer. I do believe once your good reviews outweigh your bad by a good margin, you will breathe easier. You’ll develop that thick skin. Then force yourself to let the reviews go. Focus on writing your next book.

I realize not everyone can get a BookBub ad and be able to rocket past the bad reviews. So, do what I did for two years – rely on friends and family to listen to you complain and moan like crazy. Cry at times. Shake your fists at the Heavens and ask, “Why?”

You need an outlet to release the frustration and pressure. However, don’t stop writing. Never stop writing.

Before I let this topic go, I must add that I am of the camp where it is a no-no to respond to reviews. People have the right to free speech, and I don’t need to engage. Usually, nothing good will come of it.

I also think it’s wise to see if there is anything you can take from a bad review and use to either better your writing or fix something within your book. I’ve done both.

How have you handled bad reviews? Do you have some advice you can add? Leave a comment!

I should note that although I was distressed by some bad review “bombing,” the good reviews on my books were always more than the bad. I was never in the negative with my reviews. I liken the situation to the new car that gets a tiny scratch on the way home from the showroom floor. All you can forever see is the scratch. Negative reviews have a way of taking away all the good things people said who loved your book(s).