Bad Book Review? No Sweat

No one is immune to a bad book review. So, at some point in your life, you’re bound to get one.

Getting book reviews for your latest tome is important. It’s also nice when they’re positive; nicer still when they gush with praise.

But getting a negative book review is considered a stumbling block; a “black mark” if you will.

First of all, don’t allow the negatives to get to you. It is the opinion of only one person. You’ll never know why she or he really didn’t like your book. You can only read what was written about it.

Instead of seeing that negative review a stumbling block, look at it as a stepping stone.

Was the criticism constructive? Were there any points made that you should seriously consider? Was any aspect of the criticism helpful?

For instance, “didn’t like the characters” is vague and not useful. But something like, “Sally was weak and a whiner; she didn’t measure up to the hero’s image at all,” is more specific. It tells you that you may need to work on those characters. It could also tell you that the reader missed the point of the character but it isn’t your job to explain that.

My favorite negative response is, “Too wordy, too long” (a verbal review.)

Admittedly, my initial response to this is akin to Mozart’s in “Amadeus”: I use exactly the number of words required, no more, no less. But that is my writer’s ego talking.

But part of me agrees with this. I love words. I love the works of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, both authors who weave words very well. And perhaps, subconsciously, I attempt to emulate them. But I also realize that I need to work on writing more succinctly. I need to be more aware of the words I use and do some “tightening up” especially when it comes to descriptions.

Most reviews will be more general in nature and rarely be specific. Most people who read the book know only that she or he likes it or doesn’t like it. And that may be all the review says.

Objectivity is the key in reading book reviews. The reviewer isn’t reading the book as you wrote it. Each person is reading from her or his own perspective which will be different from your own. Since each reviewer did not write the book, none of them will have the “inside scoop” on what is vital to the story. You present them with the story and it is up to the individual to take from it what she or he deems vital.

It may have been vital for you to create Sally as a whiner. Apparently that didn’t appeal to that one reader. And that’s okay. It does not reflect negatively on the reader or on you. It merely means that his character didn’t appeal to this reader. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Just like every person you meet isn’t going to be a person you like, so every reader isn’t going to like all your characters.

Responding to book reviews, whether good or bad, is never a good idea. Those responses could come back one day to bite you in the derriere whether they were good responses or not.

And responding to a negative book review in an attempt to justify your writing is in poor taste. It undermines your confidence in yourself as a writer. Even if the reviewer attacks you on a personal level, let it go. It isn’t worth getting entangled in verbal jousting with someone whom you’ve never met.  And continued contact with someone, especially in this day and age, could very well result in an unpleasant, unwanted meeting.


Take the bad book reviews with the good. And celebrate that you have more good reviews than bad ones.


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