10 Ways Authors Respond to Bad Reviews (Which One Are You?)

It’s bound to happen — the dreaded bad review. Authors get them all the time. Find your most beloved book on Amazon, and you’re bound to come across someone who has called it “a colossal waste of time.” Hey, it happens. When it happens to me, I try to adopt a “grin and bear it” attitude, although, truth be told, even after twenty years as a freelance writer, rejection — as much as my rational mind knows it’s a part of the business — still stings. Over the years, though, I’ve seen writers respond to bad reviews in all kinds of ways. Here are 10 of the most common:

  1. The Egotist: “Obviously, this person has no concept of good writing or storytelling. I can’t fathom why Amazon even would allow this uninformed and uneducated opinion to be shared.”
  2. The Conspiracy Theorist: “Obviously, this person has not read the book and is totally out to get me. I read The New York Times. I know what’s going on with all those bogus reviews. I have a good mind to flag this review and report this reader to the authorities.”
  3. The Wimp: “Oh my god, it’s true. I have no talent. What was I thinking? I should have never left plumbing school.”
  4. The Teacher: “It is impossible for me to take seriously a review that is so chock-full of grammatical errors and/or illogical conclusions.”
  5. The Overreactor: “I should have had more women under thirty represented in my book? Well, I’ll show you! My next book will feature fifteen women who are under thirty, all with variations of the same name!”
  6. The Overthinker: “What exactly does it mean that my book ‘stretches credibility’? Does it mean that my plot isn’t believable, or that my characters are not? Or is it referring to both? Or does it mean that my plot and characters are totally fine, but the problem is in my interpretation? Or maybe…”
  7. The Explainer: “This reader just did not understand what I was going for, so I am going to plead my case to this reader in a comment under her review, and I will continue to plead, explain and cajole, in as many back-and-forth comments as it takes, until I have gotten her to change her mind!”
  8. The Wise-Ass: “Hmmm… so my characters seem inauthentic? And, like, I’m sure you’re qualified to make that judgment based on what? Your many years of creative writing teaching? As if.”
  9. The Martyr: “I spend YEARS and YEARS of my life trying to capture the human condition, and this is what I get?”
  10. The Ignorer: “Oh, sorry, I never read my reviews.” (Bullshit.)

How do YOU handle a bad review?

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8 thoughts on “10 Ways Authors Respond to Bad Reviews (Which One Are You?)

  1. My feelings were hurt even though the reviews did come from family members of the murderers I wrote about in the book. I try to be tough.

  2. I think (though what do I know?) that reviews are overrated. If a book resonates with us personally we will love parts that others are less excited about, and forgive things that we wouldn’t forgive in a book that isn’t our thing. I’m as skeptical of my fantastic reviews. I won’t say I don’t read them but unless the reviewer says something concrete that I can seriously consider I don’t worry about them. So I guess I’m a bit of the overthinker in that if someone says, “character x was y and I thought he should be more z,” I say, okay, why would this person think this and do I agree? And if so, I will file it under useful information for future books.

    • Hey, Sabrynne! I think reviews are a reminder that publishing is a subjective business. Some people will like our stuff and some won’t, whether they are readers or agents/publishers. I,too, try to learn a little bit from each comment about my book, as long as I feel it’s been made in earnestness. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This list is hilarious. Kind of Scott Adams-eque.

    I’ve never published a book, but if I do, I’ll print this list and tape it to the desk next to my laptop as a reminder.

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