What do you do with a scathing book review?
Blogger: Rachel Kent
A negative book review can be devastating to an author; some of you may have already experienced this. It’s hard to put your book baby out there in the first place, but then when people say nasty things about it or your writing style it can crush the spirit. You don’t have to have a published book to get bad reviews either. They can come from first readers and also from editors and agents who are considering the project. When you receive a scathing review, what do you do? It’s tempting to lash out at the reviewer or to give up on writing, but these responses won’t help. Here are some suggestions:
For those of you who are unpublished, if you get a bad review from someone who is considering your project for representation or publication, understand that the agent or editor took time out of a busy schedule to give you feedback. This is usually a sign that the editor or agent sees potential in your project, but something about it isn’t ready for publication yet. Take these reviews and use them to improve your book. When you’ve finished revising, you might even ask those editors and agents who gave you feedback if you can submit your revised book to them. Just let them know that you used the review they gave you to make your project better. Many times the editor or agent will take another look.
A scathing review on a published book from a professional reviewer–like Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus–can cause damage to an author’s sales figures, but there’s not much you can do when you get a bad review from a professional reviewer. So I suggest that you look for the silver lining instead of letting the dark cloud of depression loom over you. If your book is reviewed–even negatively–at least it is getting some publicity. Readers will see your name, the book title and possibly the cover. The exposure could help to sell books that wouldn’t have sold without the review just from readers recognizing your book. And remember that many readers don’t even look at these reviews. They are picking up a book because the back cover copy sounds intriguing, the cover looks good, or because a friend recommends it.
Reader reviews on sites like Amazon.com or Christianbook.com can have a lot of influence as well, though the reader reviews can vary significantly. Take the bad reviews with a grain of salt unless you are getting an overwhelmingly large number of them. Most of the time bad reviews are outliers and potential readers understand that. If you notice some strong negative reviews on a specific site, encourage fans who have written to you praising your work to post a review on the same site. You can even offer a signed bookplate or a bookmark to the readers as incentive.
Don’t discount bad reviews though. If you are hearing the same criticism again and again, take note and make sure to address that issue in your next book. There’s always room for improvement in an author’s writing, and listening to critiques–when you have heard the same critique at least a few times– can help you improve.
What have you done when you’ve received a bad review?
Has a review ever helped you to improve your writing?
Do you write reviews? If so, are you more likely to write a review if you liked a book or if you hated it?