How to deal with a bad review

Ouch! It hurts! You’ve found a bad review about one of your books on social media.

Your first instinct is to engage with the rotten person who has trashed the book you’ve spent the last year writing and a small fortune producing. You slaved over that book, worked with an editor to perfect it, gave it to a proof reader to check the text was error free, spent hours working with a designer to interperate your thoughts for the cover design. And then someone tells you its awful, they hated it, the book is badly written, they got as far as page fifty and decided life was too short to waste on reading rubbish.

Once you get over the shock that you’ve got a bad review your first instinct is often to go right back at the reviewer. People, genuine people, other than your family and friends have enjoyed the book and have given it good reviews. How dare they critisise your book. It’s like someone telling you your child is ugly. You want to engage with them, find out why they didn’t like the book, plead your case in the hope they’ll change their mind.

Well don’t. Even if the reviewer has pointed out errors in the text, or things that you’ve done wrongly which haven’t been picked up at the production stage. Don’t engage them. Certainly not straight away. Go for a walk around the block, make a cup of tea and wait until you can look at the situation from a more logical position.

Why does it hurt so much? We can have fifty glowing reviews and one which is a bad review and which one do we remember. Yes! The bad review. Why? It’s the way our brains are hardwired. In prehistoric times if we were cast out by the tribe we starved, we had no protection and undoubtedly died. We have an internal desire to please and be praised. That way we know we belong and we are safe.

Once the initial sting has died down have a look at other author’s reviews. There aren’t any authors, even ‘big’ names who don’t have some rotten reviews. You know what – that’s what makes a book more genuine. If every review was wonderful you’d start to wonder if they were fake anyway. The person who has left you a bad review could be one of those weird serial complainers. Have a look at other reviews they’ve written and you’ll often see they make a virtual career out of complaining.

If, after reflection you do feel the bad review is correct – and you feel you can engage with the person on an unemotional level – do get in touch, thank them for their time and their comments and ask them how you can improve. Often though you are better off not doing. Any comments will remain on social media forever. It is often better just to accept them for what they are and move on, with a sense of humour. After all, you achieved something so many people dream of doing and yet so few achieve – you wrote a book.