How Writers Should Handle Bad Reviews


by Lev Raphael

Don’t tweet that the reviewer is an absolute moron who deserves exile to Chechnya or at least a lifetime of bad sex and lukewarm meals. It’ll only make you seem nutty, and most people won’t know about the review until you tell them anyway.

Don’t make snarky, veiled remarks about this reviewer when you’re interviewed, because sulking and bitterness will just end up making you come off as a crank who should get a life or see a shrink.

Don’t take to substance abuse, stalking, or looking up all the other reviews this nimrod has done to see if yours is the worst, or otherwise push the dagger in any further.

Don’t write the reviewer directly or write the publication the review appeared in to complain. Nothing you say will help. You’ll only come off as an asshole and invite a public reply which will leave the reviewer with the last word.

So what should you do?

Accept it.  Bad reviews are as much a hazard of publishing as losing an editor, disliking your latest book cover, suffering low attendance at a book reading, and people endlessly asking you if you know Stephen King.

Spend some time re-reading your good reviews if you can’t let go of that bad one and remind yourself that not everyone is as blind, lacking in taste, or mentally deficient as that person was.

Go out and party–or better yet, sit down and write something terrific because you know that one thing is for certain, as the Latin saying goes ars longa, vita brevis.  That means reviewers suck and most of them are losers.  Sad.

Most importantly, have someone you trust examine the review dispassionately just in case the reviewer might have possibly stumbled on something remotely helpful. Then have that person write it down, put it in a bottle, seal the bottle carefully and throw it into the nearest body of water.




Guest post contributed by Lev Raphael who teaches creative writing at Michigan State University. Lev is the author of Writer’s Block is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check out more of Lev’s work on his blog, Writing Across Genres.

23 thoughts on “How Writers Should Handle Bad Reviews

  1. Great advice. Admittedly, I don’t have many reviews for my book, but the one huge (and bad) review – so far was from a major cycling outlet (my book is about a pro cyclist). My response was to take the book off the market and have a long, hard discussion with myself and my pocketbook. I hired an editor. So now, whenever I’m asked about bad reviews, I publically thank Mr. MacKay for his gutting, because he was right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this post!
    As a book reviewer (who has recently written a bad review), it is interesting to see how these are perceived by authors. When I write a bad review, I try to focus on the content of the book, and I try to avoid criticizing the author him/herself. And I recognize that other people may love the book I dislike (and vice versa). I can see how bad reviews can be upsetting to read. I am glad that you acknowledge that there sometimes is a morsel of truth to them. Definitely not worth getting into substance abuse for 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a reviewer give me a lower rating because she said my bad guys were evil for no reason. She was wrong. It says right in my book that they became evil because they’re being controlled by a dark, powerful, magical object. I did email her to tell her this. She apologized for missing that part, but didn’t change her rating. Personally, I think book reviewers have so many books to read that a lot of times they read fast and skim over things to get finished so they can whittle down their TBR lists, thus missing important happenings in many books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am going to agree with this for the most part. There are many reader-reviewers out there that really don’t feel the books they read at all. I also think it’s true that many reviewers are unaware of just how damaging a negative review is – if they were, some of them would at least try to be kind about it.
      I haven’t had a bad review yet but I know it’s going to happen. I did have a “reader” rate by book with one star on Goodreads – BEFORE I published it – eh… what?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A critical review isn’t necessarily a bad review if it gives details on what aspects of the book the reader didn’t connect with. If the author reads their reviews, it may give food for thought.

    To me, a ‘bad’ review is ‘don’t waste your money’, ‘the author’s a hack’ or ‘this is garbage’. You have no way of knowing if these reviewers even read the book. Why let it upset your day? I’ve read multiple reviews of some regular reviewers and personal attacks are their thing.

    I read a one-star review last year for a book I purchased (and gave four stars). The reviewer ranted for four long paragraphs about one thing – one instance in the book where the plural form instead of the possessive form of ‘its’ was used.

    It’s a one-star rating and it does average in, but just think of it like the person who cut you off in traffic then flipped you off. Ticked you off but you lived. 😉


    1. I think you might have missed that this was satire? That’s why I deliberately used the word “bad” vs. “critical.” In my career, over 25 books, I’ve rarely had an intelligent, critical review. And I’m speaking as someone who has gone over to the Dark Side: I’ve reviewed for years on line, on air, and in print. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.