I’ve written about this subject before, and received many different responses and opinions. I thought I’d address the issue again, as I still often see authors on social media asking others how they should handle a negative review. The most common response is ‘Ignore it’. That always makes me shudder. if you’re publishing, if you’re putting your writing out there, then negative reviews are something you’re going to have to deal with, and ignoring them is not the right advice.
Writing is hard. You invest huge amounts of time and effort into your writing. It can be a pain. And it’s terrifying having your work out there, where it can be picked apart. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone could bear all that in mind when they write a review of your book?
But why should they? No one has forced you to put your book on Amazon. And your reader, who has spent their money and invested their time in reading your book, is entitled to their opinion. You chose to sell your book. They bought it in good faith.
Now, I’m not talking about the reviews that are silly and thoughtless and are to do with delivery times and downloading issues etc. These are ridiculous, and can, for the most part, be ignored as can the sort of reviews that complain about the amount of sex or swearing in a book, something that’s down to personal taste. I’m talking about reviews that point out a fault with your book. And if lots of readers are telling you that your books are full of errors, or are too wordy, or are boring, or that they had to skip great big sections, then you need to take note. The problem is, lots of writers lump all these types of reviews together. Worse, they accuse these readers of being trolls.
And this is a problem with a lot of authors and it’s one that does other indie writers no favours. There is a tendency among authors to be very precious about their work. They think because they’ve worked hard and because they’ve sweated over a book then that means it should be above criticism. They seem to think that because they’ve poured their hearts and souls into something then no one must be mean. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s rubbish.
It’s not OK to put something that’s poorly written or badly edited out there, expect people to pay for it, spend their precious time reading it, and then not expect to be taken to task if it’s not up to scratch. If you went to a restaurant and bought a meal and it was crap would you think, oh well, but the chef spent time on it, I should be nice? No, you wouldn’t. You’d complain. You’d be entitled to. And if you’ve put a book out there, then the reader is also entitled to complain if it isn’t up to scratch.
I know of book reviewers who have dared to criticise books and who have been met with insults and worse. That’s just not on.
Indie authors say they want to be treated with respect. They say they want to be recognised. But then some expect special treatment. The world doesn’t work like that.
So look at those one star reviews. It’s painful, I know. But there might be something in there that really helps your writing.
Be brave. We only learn through our mistakes after all, and if you never face those mistakes and correct them, then you’ll never grow as an author.
I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English.
I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.
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