Recently, a fellow author was dismayed to see she had gotten a dismal review on Amazon. I’m talking a one star review. The kind of review that went beyond a simple dislike of the book and crossed the line into downright mean spirited.
Of course, the author was devastated by this review. Needing someone to vent to, she reached out to fellow authors. She wanted to know what she could and should do about this review. The truth is there is absolutely nothing you can do to change a bad review. You can cry and complain. You can question your talent and curse the reviewer.
You could get into an argument with the reviewer, but you shouldn’t. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions. Not all of them are going to like your book and some of them are going to make sure everyone knows how much they dislike it. Do they have to be so hurtful about it? No, and they shouldn’t. It serves no constructive purpose. As much as we don’t like what was said or the way it was said, it’s best to let it go. Don’t bother engaging in a pissing contest with the reviewer because you end up looking petty in the end.
Once we get over the initial shock of the bad review, we need to find a way to set the hurt aside. Try to ignore the barbs and pot shots and really look at what the reviewer was saying. Is it possible that underneath all of that bluster, the reviewer has given us something we can do to improve our work? Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes though, when we distance ourselves emotionally the answer is yes. If we can accept that help, we can improve our craft and decrease the chances for bad reviews in the future.
We can also look closely at the rest of our reviews. If a majority of the reviews are positive then try not to get hung up on the one bad review. Even as I say this, I know this advice is difficult to follow. There can be one hundred good reviews and one bad one and I’ll get down about that bad one before I even realize how many good ones there are. That is not a good practice. All writers need to learn to let go. Maybe the reader didn’t connect with the book. Maybe they had a different expectation of it. Maybe, and this happens, the reader is just an ass who takes pleasure in tearing others down.
Reviews are one of those double edged swords for writers. We look forward to them and want them. We also dread the possibility the book will not be well received or that it will be poorly reviewed. Either way, I think we have a responsibility to take the bad with the good. Sure, we love those glowing reviews, but when we made our work available for public consumption, we opened ourselves up to the possibility that not all of the responses would be positive.