How to deal with bad reviews

Bad reviews are never a nice thing to receive - but I do think there is a way to soften the blow that they deliver.

From what I have seen there are 3 types of bad reviews you can receive (if you have any more, please add them below) and each one requires a different response:

1. Complaints about formatting and grammar - it is terrible when you receive this sort of review as it questions your professionalism as an author. However, it is a problem that can be fixed - you can re-work your manuscript or hire a proofreader and/or someone to format your book and correct these problems.

2. Complaints about the price - with the 'brand authors', you will often see readers leaving one star reviews because the e-book costs more than the print version of the book. But with self-published authors, I have found readers leaving negative reviews because someone has price a short story for $5 - make sure your writing is reasonably priced - and if you are selling shorter fiction make sure you state that it is a short story several times in your Product Description so your reader does not feel like they are being mislead.

3. Complaints about the quality of your writing - this is the toughest of the three as it questions your actual abilities as a writer. To make your self feel better, look up your three favourite novels - I am pretty sure you will find a number disparaging views for these books. Just as an example, I looked up Moby Dick on Amazon UK - I was shocked to see that Melville's masterpiece has 14 1 star and 15 2 star reviews out of 112 reviews.

However, if someone critiques your work rather than just saying, 'This is really crap, I demand a return', it would be foolish not to take their criticism on board and use it to ensure your next book improves.

Of course, there will be times when a negative review mixes all three of the above, but as writers we need to believe in the work we put out and be as thick-skinned as possible (as hard as that can be). 


  1. I would like to add that it's impossible to please everyone; nor should one even try to do so.

    A.S.'s comments are all spot-on.

    Consider the criticism; it should be clear if the "reviewer" knows whereof they speak or if they're just throwing barbs.

    And remember, it's YOUR book. As long as YOU like it, that's what counts. If you wrote a song, you wouldn't be all paranoid and go changing it because one person doesn't like it. Same with a poem, or a painting, or a photograph. And the same with a piece of writing. Make it the best it can be, do the best you can do, and trust God to take it from there.

  2. A very good point. Writing can be hard, and hardest of all is seeing your baby not simply tossed out, but set on fire by the reviewers. I think the biggest thing a writer needs to do is separate out the purely negative reviews (this book SUCKS!) and pay attention to the constructive reviews (this book needs help, but here's what the problem is).
    But the thick skin? Yeah, if you're an author you'd better develop that very quickly. The good news is however that you may have fans that make up for negative reviews.

  3. @ Ryan Schneider

    I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. The lesson that it is impossible to please everyone is particularly important for new writers.

    @ Charles Gray

    You are right, it is essential to differentiate between negative reviews and constructive reviews as the latter can really help improve our writing.

    And yes, having a thick skin is a prerequisite for being an indie writer!