How to Handle Bad Book Reviews: Tips for Dealing with Negative Reader Feedback

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How to Handle Bad Book Reviews: Tips for Dealing with Negative Reader Feedback

Congratulations! You've published your book, and it's now out in the world, ready to be read and reviewed by your audience. The book ratings pour in, and the excitement inside you builds as you see those glowing reviews. But then… the moment you feared comes knocking at your door. Your first one-star review! Now what?

While receiving positive feedback can be exhilarating, encountering negative reviews is an inevitable part of the author's journey. But fear not! In this post, we'll discuss how to handle negative book reviews and maintain your motivation as a writer.

Should you read negative reviews of your book?

Many authors recommend not reading any reviews of your book once it's published. Dwelling on feedback— whether good or bad— can be detrimental to your creative process. However, sometimes it's unavoidable. Maybe you've resolved not to read reviews, but a well-meaning friend or family member sends one to you. Maybe the reviewer themselves tags you in it on social media. Or maybe you're just curious— and that's perfectly okay! The trick is to know how to take reader feedback in stride, and that goes for positive reviews as well as negative ones.

What should you do when you get a negative book review?

Remind yourself you’re not alone

As writers, we all know the sting of pain from seeing your first negative review. But you’re not alone! We’ve all been there.  Even the most well-loved and popular authors get their share of negative reviews that cause them to doubt their writing abilities. So the next time you sit down to write and start hearing the reviewer’s comments in your head and begin doubting your writing or your abilities, keep in mind you’re in good company. As Robert Hughes says, “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

If you look up your favorite books on Goodreads, you’ll notice even your favorite books have their share of negative reviews. Don't take negative reviews personally! Writing is subjective, and no book is universally loved. Even the most acclaimed works have their detractors.

Know that you are someone’s favorite author

Every reader comes with their own preferences, biases, and tastes, and what resonates with one person may not necessarily resonate with another. Embracing this truth is fundamental to maintaining your confidence and resilience as an author. Embrace the fact that your writing won't please everyone and focus on the readers who connect with your stories. These are the readers who eagerly await your next release, who find solace and inspiration in your words, and who proudly proclaim you as their favorite author. 

Consider the impact your writing has on these readers. Your stories may provide comfort, escapism, or new insights. Knowing that your words have made a positive difference in someone's life is a powerful reminder of the significance of your work as an author. Remember, you have the power to touch the lives of readers, and that's a remarkable achievement. 

Build a good support system

The journey of a writer can be solitary at times, but you don't have to navigate it alone. Surround yourself with fellow writers who understand the highs and lows of the creative process. Lean on friends, family, and supportive mentors for encouragement.

When it comes to receiving feedback on your work, having a trusted circle of beta readers can be invaluable. These are individuals whose opinions you respect and whose feedback you value. Share your writing with them and listen attentively to their suggestions and critiques. If you trust their judgment, you can confidently ignore any other feedback that comes your way.

Consider enlisting the help of trusted friends to act as a filter when reading reviews of your work. They can sift through the feedback and pass on the positive and uplifting comments while holding back any overly negative criticism unless there's a recurring pattern that warrants your attention. This can help shield you from unnecessary negativity and allow you to focus on the constructive feedback that will help you grow as a writer.

If you're looking for a supportive community of writers to help you navigate the ups and downs of your writing journey, consider joining the Writing Mastery Community!

Acknowledge it and then move on

It's natural to feel a sting when encountering negative feedback on your work. Allow yourself a moment to acknowledge those emotions. You've poured your time, energy, and creativity into your writing, so it's understandable to feel disappointed or even frustrated by criticism.

However, dwelling on negative reviews can hinder your progress and dampen your creativity. Instead, channel those emotions into your writing as a form of catharsis. Use them to fuel your determination to improve and grow as an author. After acknowledging the negative feedback, it's crucial to shift your focus away from it. Give yourself a few moments to process your feelings, but don't let them consume you. Set a time limit—whether it's a few minutes or an hour—and then make a conscious effort to move on.

Engage in activities that help clear your mind and restore your perspective. Go for a walk or a run to get some fresh air and physical exercise. Engage in a hobby or activity that brings you joy and allows you to temporarily escape from the world of writing. Distract yourself with something enjoyable, whether it's listening to music, spending time with loved ones, or indulging in your favorite pastime.

Write your next book!

The best way to overcome negative reviews is to keep writing. Use positive and negative feedback as valuable lessons to improve your craft. Each book is an opportunity for growth, so embrace the challenge and continue honing your skills as a writer. You can view some reviews as constructive criticism that will help you grow as an author.

For example, if you come across a reviewer who says something like, “The characters felt underdeveloped and unmemorable” or “The pacing dragged in the middle and felt rushed towards the end,” those could be valid critiques that help you realize your weak points. Then, in the next story, you’ll know to focus more on character development or on the pacing of the story. Reviews like these can be just as beneficial as positive ones.

Remember what Theodore Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...”

You are one of the few who dared greatly and stepped into the arena. That’s what counts. So, if you’re ready to do it again, face your fears, and silence that inner critic, then grab a pen or open up your laptop and write your next book.

Should you address a negative book review?

You should ignore negative reviews. It's natural to feel a strong urge to respond to bad reviews, especially when they contain criticism that you may disagree with or find unfair. However, engaging with reviewers, particularly in a defensive or confrontational manner, can often do more harm than good. Attempting to defend your work against the reviewer can come across as unprofessional and may escalate the situation further. Instead, focus on nurturing your relationship with your true fans and continuing to create the stories that resonate with them. Remember, your attention is best spent on those who uplift and support your work, rather than on those who seek to tear it down.

Ready to get back into the arena?

Receiving a bad book review is undoubtedly challenging, but it's an inevitable part of the writing journey. By implementing these tips, you can navigate criticism with resilience and continue pursuing your passion for writing. Remember, every positive or negative review is an opportunity for growth and learning.

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