How to react to a negative review

Okay, someone reviewed your book on Goodreads or Amazon or a blog, whatever, and they hated it. Oh wow did they hate it! They gave it one star and explained at length all the ways they think it sucks.

Now what do you do? Of course what you absolutely do not do is respond to it. Not on the review itself, not on your blog, not on Twitter, not anywhere. We’re all clear on that one by now, right? But responding and reacting are not the same. Naturally you’re going to react to it. So what options do you have to cope with it? You could of course not react at all. Accept you can’t please everyone and put it out of you mind. They’ve got the right to an opinion. I can take it. It’s just fine…no, I’m not grinding my teeth.

Alternatively let’s assume you’re neither a saint, nor a sociopath impervious to all slights. It’s safe to say you’re going to be a bit narked. But you know you can’t reply or comment on the review to tell the perpetrator they are an ignorant philistine unable to appreciate great literature when they see it and, furthermore, their mother was a hamster and their father smells of elderberries. So what can you do instead?

  • Rant in your journal. If you don’t keep a journal start one just for ranting about reviews. But make it a pen and paper only journal. If you type out your feelings you might be tempted to post it somewhere online, if it’s got some especially excoriating witticisms in there. Keep it where it can’t escape onto the Internet
  • Commiserate with another writer. They’ll agree with you that some reviewers are monsters who must be stopped. But be wary. If you do this over email you’re sending your words somewhere out of your control. Friends fall out, or emails get shared either accidentally or deliberately and your real opinion of various people can become public.
  • Rant in person to another writer, a friend, your spouse/partner/significant other etc. They will, after suitable training learn to say the right thing.

Wrong: “They’re entitled to an opinion.
Right: “They’re clearly an utter fool.
 
Wrong: “I think they have a point about your main character.
Right: “Only an idiot would not adore your main character.”
 
Wrong: “You need to be more thick skinned.”
Right: “I happen to know someone who’ll bust kneecaps for money.”

  • Spork the review – privately. “How dare this imbecile criticize me when they can’t use your/you’re correctly. Look, they used “it’s” as a possessive! How can I take them seriously?”
  • Work it off in the gym. Pound that heavy bag, ride that stationery bike like you’re chasing down that reviewer with a sabre.
  • Get on with your current work in progress while muttering. “I’ll show them. I’ll show all of them.” Burning resentment and spite are underrated as motivators.

More dubious/Not recommended.

  • Crying yourself to sleep.
  • Sulking for a week.
  • Getting drunk.
  • Diving into a vat of ice cream and eating your way out.
  • Subtweeting.
  • Hiring a hitman.

Seriously, in the end, don’t get too worked up about them. They’re a part of the game. Feel the pain, then shake it off and move on.

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