Three ways to deal with bad reviews


This also applies to good reviews, great reviews and mediocre reviews.


I know. This sounds counterproductive, but it’s the number two piece of advice I’ve seen from successful writers (right behind turn off the internet and just write).

Most bad reviews aren’t worth reading. They’re not specific enough about what the reader hated. Telling the writer her novel is boring, is full of bad language, is nothing but smut, has one-dimensional characters, etc, is too broad. And it may be a one hundred percent accurate assessment from that reader, but it’s also  just as likely they wouldn’t have liked your novel no matter which of those defects you addressed because it’s the wrong book for them.

On the other hand, maybe they’re right and its a lousy book. You don’t know how to write. In that case, practice makes perfect. You don’t want to let a one-star review derail you, so don’t read them.

And then from the opposite side of the scale, good reviews and great reviews are usually just ego fluff. You know you’re not as good as what they say. Personally I wish Amazon would re-do its rating system. Not very much really deserves that 5-star rating. But the 3-star rating (where almost everything except absolute crap truthfully belongs) tells everyone  that the book is just okay. I’m agitating for a bad, good, better, and best rating system.


If you follow this path you’re going to get your ego inflated and feel on the top of the world with the good reviews.  And then you’re going to feel like dog poop and want to lash out at everyone when you get one of those I hated it rankings. The roller coaster of good reviews vs bad reviews can be harmful to your work, as well as harmful to your self-esteem.

However, if you can teach yourself to pick out the constructive information in the reviews you can try to learn from them.

Say that some reviewer tells you  your characters lack depth. So, take a writing course on depth. Does everyone call your book a fast-paced read, but you meant it to be a slow and comfortable cozy. Drop out for a bit and practice pacing. Reviewers announce they couldn’t finish the book. If they say why and where they stopped, take a look at that section. Did you do something different here.  But if what they’ve said is too many typos, doesn’t know how to write, horrible grammar...well, maybe so and maybe not. Some people write with fragments these days. Some people never use whom.

(Except for the typo part. Go back in and fix that ASAP).


I’ve read lots and lots of advice against ever engaging with the reviewers and I have to say I agree. No matter how much I want to say thanks to the reviewers who liked my books, no matter how I might want to say sorry to the reviewers who hated my books, I do neither. I think it’s very important that reviewers be left alone to write what they want.

But, there are some authors who do engage. If you decide to take that path, be sure you’ve read and understood the review etiquette that Amazon enforces. Then keep it to a simple thank you note. Address the bad reviews the same way with a thank you for your input and a sorry. And be prepared for some back and forth comments.


Right now I’m squarely in the learn from your reviews camp, hoping to move into the never read your reviews contingent one day.

And obviously there are more than three ways to deal with bad reviews. I can think of several that start with printing down the copy and finding where you kept the matches. Might be cathartic.

But here’s a less violent way to get in a better frame of mind after a one-star I hate your book and the horse you rode in on review.

Go to any author listing you admire and pick out your absolute favorite of his/her books. Find the one-star reviews he/she got. Read them. Gasp in horror. You loved that book! How could someone hate the same book you loved so much? Makes your own bad reviews look tepid in hindsight, doesn’t it.


You can see my bad reviews at


THE COWBOY’S BABY is free through Amazon and then through Smashwords


WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:  Holes In The Ground by J. A. Konrath and Iain Rob Wright.  Talking to the Dead Guys by Gretchen Rix.  Artful by Peter David.  The Cowboy's Baby

2 thoughts on “Three ways to deal with bad reviews

  1. Gretchen, what great advice and what a great attitude. Your attitude alone is worth reading your blog! Thanks for all the tips. I will try to take your advice and NOT read reviews until I have enough distance. I think distance is the key to being able to LEARN from your bad reviews.

    Thanks, Tam

  2. I’d say you’re not going to get any bad reviews (your stories are so good!), but from experience perusing books to buy I know that everyone gets bad reviews sometime.

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