How to Handle a Bad Review

Face it. Bad reviews happen. Even the most acclaimed writers get bad reviews. Evaluating a book is a subjective process, and personal preferences won’t always match the book. Unfortunately, too many writers take bad reviews personally and even go to the extremes, engaging in negative banter, slander, and threats. Here are a few tips to help you take those bad reviews with grace.

  1. Remember that it’s not a personal affront. The reviewer just didn’t like your book. Do you like everything you read?
  2. Take a deep breath. Cool off. Put the review away in a dark place for a few days. Taking time to let the fresh emotions wear off will help you think more rationally and calmly when you look at it again.
  3. Look at who the reviewer is. Are they known for giving glowing reviews, or is negativity their forte? It may have nothing to do with you.
  4. Look at the review objectively. Are there constructive comments you can use to improve your next project? It could be a learning opportunity.
  5. DO NOT under any circumstances send a rebuttal. Just let it go. You may think you are defending yourself, but it only makes you look bad, not the reviewer.
  6. DO NOT slander or in any way bad-mouth the reviewer on your social media accounts or through other outlets. Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but you can also set yourself up for legal claims.
  7. DO be gracious and poised. Acting professional, taking bad reviews with a grain of salt, and maintaining a positive working relationship with book reviewers will only help you in the long run.

Remember, as an author you have put yourself out there for public scrutiny. Bad reviews show that people are reading your book and that you have drummed up enough interest to warrant a review. Also, they provide balance. An article from iMedia Connection (link), shows that too many good reviews can become fluff, and a bit unbelievable. Bad reviews from valid third parties let the reader know that reviews of your book are authentic. Also, the majority of the time, the number of bad reviews are small compared to good reviews. Plus, all reviews, good and bad, help by prequalifying book buyers and weeding out those who may not be a good fit for your topic.

All in all, take bad reviews with a grain of salt. They don’t spell doom, and sometimes can even help. By taking the high road and maintaining your composure in the face of bad reviews, you’ll come out on top in the end.

Shennandoah Diaz is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant specializing in strategic communications and publishing. She currently serves as the Business Development Assistant for Greenleaf Book Group, a publisher and distributor supporting independent authors and small presses, and as the Nonfiction Editor for Reflection’s Edge Magazine.