Dealing with Negative Reviews: A Guide for Authors

The dreaded negative review is an unfortunate if realistic part of putting a book out into the world. Every book gets them, so try not to feel too disheartened! One author I worked with said she didn’t feel like a “real writer” until she got her first negative review — “at least someone read my book!” she said.

The internet says

As you may have seen on the internet, every viewpoint that’s presented has someone who disagrees with it. The same goes for books. There will always be someone out there who doesn’t agree with what you’re saying and isn’t afraid to make their opinion heard. 

Even taking all of that into consideration, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel bad! You’ve devoted countless hours to this book, and it hurts when people don’t get or they judge it unfairly. Maybe you’re the kind of person who can use the motivation from negative reviews to write more books just to prove a point! Or maybe you’re the kind of person who can’t read reviews online because you know nothing good can come of it for you.

Pick your plan and stick to it

Either way is OK. If you don’t want to see negative reviews, stick to it. Protect your peace however it feels best for you. Don’t visit your book on Goodreads and don’t check the Amazon reviews. Set your social media profiles so they can’t be tagged. You might consider having a trusted person (another author, your partner, your editor, etc.) sift through the reviews and send you the high points.

If you are the kind of person who feels like they want to know what’s out there, try to think them through objectively. Does this person have a point about my writing style? Or are they just complaining because they picked up a YA book and they don’t even like YA (yes, that’s a very common example). If it’s the former, then try to disregard it — you can’t do anything to help that person, bless their heart.

And if you are reading the negative reviews, don’t forget to look at the positive ones as well! Chances are they outnumber the negative reviews, and will help validate you.

Don’t respond to negative reviews

I typically don’t recommend authors respond to negative reviews for multiple reasons. Arguing with strangers on the internet rarely goes well, and usually escalates into a back-and-forth battle with no winners. 

It can also be a turn off to many readers — whether your response is valid or not. Many readers think of reviews as being from readers to other readers, and get defensive when authors jump into what they see as a private space.

You don’t want to be the subject of the latest TikTok drama because you argued with a reader. Authors’ books have been review-bombed — where a mass of people gave a book negative and/or one-star reviews — because they made a fuss online about negative reviews. Social media is not a vacuum. Your actions there can have real repercussions for you and your brand.

You can debate the merits of that line of thinking, but from a PR standpoint, it’s just easier not to engage.

Embrace your accomplishment

You’ve accomplished the huge task of putting a book out in the world and getting it read and reviewed! Don’t let negative reviews damper that feat. As my mother likes to say, this too shall pass.