Monday, September 23, 2013

Why Bad Reviews Don't Bother Me and Shouldn't Bother You

Because I throw everything I have into my stories and my writing means so much to me, I thought I'd have an exceptionally hard time when it came to reviews. I expected my heart to rip in two at any slightly negative comment coming my way. Certain I'd lose sleep for days, I readied my emergency stash of chocolate.

Instead I found myself totally fine with the whole process. Sure, I won't deny the initial sting when I found someone who didn't like one of my stories, but I got over it pretty fast--way faster than I ever could've guessed. Surprise made me work out the reason for my duck's back reaction and I thought I'd share why bad reviews don't bother me and shouldn't bother you.

Confidence in the story. If I'm not completely happy with my story, I won't put it out into the public forum. To have the confidence to put it out there, I first need to make sure it's the best it can be--by sending it to critique partners and beta readers, using the expertise of professional editors, and listening to their advice. Let's not forget the benefits of learning the craft, attending workshops and conferences to develop the craft, and writing more than just one story. If I like my story, then it won't matter as much what other people think.

We can't please everyone. It's often just a matter of finding your audience. Often reviews come from readers who picked up the book for free and who would not have normally read a story in that genre. I can shake them off because it's not personal, whether the reviewer tries to make it personal or not. Not every story will suit the same audience either.

Bad reviews validate good reviews. When I check a novel's reviews before I buy and it only has glowing five star ratings, I'll skip the book because this tells me only the author's friends and family have given a review. I no longer trust the good reviews. Every book gets some bad reviews. It's inevitable and it's needed for a balanced representation of the novel.

We can learn from bad reviews. Some less than shining reviews can be truly helpful through the constructive criticism they offer. Rather than getting upset, or dismissing them in a huff, it's worth rereading them to see if something can be learned from them.

Not all reviews are honest. I find it difficult to get upset over a review that was written out of spite, a need to knock down the competition, or a general grumpiness due to quitting caffeine the day before. Because most readers of reviews can spot these types, they bear little weight. They tend to reflect more poorly on the reviewer than the story being reviewed. Whatever a person's motivation behind writing a bad review, if it's not an honest review, then it can easily be dismissed. Perhaps a small chocolate can help wash away the negativity.

Getting upset dulls the shine. It's just not worth wasting our precious time getting upset over the little things. Yes, bad reviews count as the little things. If you're being reviewed, that means you're published. Celebrate that instead.

How do you handle--or think you'll handle--bad reviews? 

85 comments:

  1. Great post. I, too, look hard at books that only have good reviews. It doesn't seem balanced because we're all different in our likes and dislikes.

    As for reviews of my books - I don't read my reviews unless they find their way into my inbox. It works best for me that way :)

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    1. hehe, I can't not read my reviews. Maybe it's because I like my chocolate so much ;)

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  2. I think it also becomes easier over time as you get used to that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. A little pain is good for you (I keep telling myself).

    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. Definitely. I remember the first time I sent something to a critique partner. I was biting my nails in anticipation and fear. Now, while there's still that anticipation, there's none of the fear attached.

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  3. All of those reasons nails it!
    Yes, we can learn from bad reviews. And we have to separate them from the spiteful ones. (I've had a couple. You ignore them.)
    Bottom line is we can't please everyone. If someone doesn't like my books, I know they just weren't my target reader.

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    1. Exactly. I should've put that point first instead of second in the post, hehehe.

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  4. I think I can handle it because at the end of the day you can't please everyone. While lots of good reviews won't turn me off, if they don't have an actual point beyond 5 stars then I will be suspicious.

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    1. yep, even within a review itself I'd like to read what the reviewer liked and disliked.

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  5. Great post. I so agree that readers likes/dislikes are so subjective. You can never please everyone. You've got a great attitude toward reviews!

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  6. Not to read any customer reviews - good or bad! :-) I like reading features on books whether in a magazine, newspaper, fab blog or listening when talked about in a group/arts show! take care
    x

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  7. I'm sure there will be a few tears and a lot of chocolate but I hope to get over that soon too!

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  8. only a crazy person would write a bad review on something me wrote :))) First, because my writings are glorious, second, because my revenge would be glorious too....

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  9. No matter what it is, even the most popular thing in the world, indeed we can't please everyone

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  10. I'm lucky so far... the worse reviews have been two 3/5* Both said the really enjoyed the book, although one added that she didn't realise it would feature vampires, and she claimed to be 'so over them,' and the other read mostly paranormal romance/erotica and my novel contained no sex/very little romance in it. So basically, they weren't my target audience, like Alex said. So, although my initial reaction to both was tug at the gut, I have since convinced myself they weren't really bad reviews. Still, it would be wonderful if everyone adored my debut... :D This post offers a great round up of reasons why that will never happen, however. Thanks Lynda.

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    1. Sounds like you're doing really well. And yep, definitely, those readers weren't your target audience. No biggie.

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  11. I'm bookmarking this post and reading it daily before my book comes out. It's true, we can't please everyone; chocolate haters proved that theory. I also agree with Alex, usually the bad reviews come from people who aren't our target audience, so why try and please them?

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  12. I've had to remind myself that there's a huge amount of subjectivity in writing. Some books rock my world, but others don't enjoy them at all, and vice versa. Though, there's definitely chocolate around here for reviews that hurt!

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  14. Valid points here. I think where the review is written makes a big difference too. Some sites have become famous for vile reviews.

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  15. Very good points! All authors get bad reviews (unless only their friends have read/reviewed the book), so it's just part of publication. That said, I don't plan to pore over my reviews once I get published and get reviews.

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  16. I have no idea how I'll handle bad reviews. My plan is to avoid reading them all together, and when I fail to do that, my plan is to have a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a security blanket at my side.

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  17. That is one thing I learned right off is that we won't please everyone. Great post!

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  18. 'We can't please everyone. It's often just a matter of finding your audience.'

    Last night, my family and I watched 'From Up On Poppy Hill.' I fell madly in love with the film, far preferring it to other Miyazaki films that had preceded it because it stayed within this golden realm for me. I loved it start to finish. When I read reviews, people were saying it was lyrical but perhaps too gentle, not as Baroque as some of Studio Ghibli's other offerings. What they counted as a negative, for me was overwhelmingly positive. There really is *no accounting* for taste.

    By the way, I just had a handful of peanut M&Ms *before* breakfast--which is typically a berry and mint salad of some sort. Chocolate has real power.

    (And I do recommend that beautiful movie.)

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    1. No need to convince me about the power of chocolate :)

      I'm not familiar with 'From Up on Poppy Hill', but it's now on my list of movies to see.

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  19. Great ways of dealing with bad reviews, Lynda :-)

    I suspect really bad reviews will sting, no doubt about that. Sherbet will be on hand just in case. But as you mention, reviews are the opinion of that reader and not all the worlds. Some will love what is written. Some will shrug with indifference at their reading experience. Others may wish they could have that time back (Ouch!) But it's part of the process. I don't respond to bad reviews at all. Shake it off and keep on writing.

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    1. There's no denying the sting, but like you said, it's part of the process. Never stop writing.

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  20. The Bad Review Post! Very well done, Lyn. All your points were excellent and show a level head and emotional maturity on the part of the author.

    And of course the chock-lit helps.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Chocolate helps in 99.9% of all cases. For example, stubbed your toe? Eat some chocolate and you'll feel better in no time! Having a bad hair day? Eat chocolate and you'll no longer care. Got a bad review? Pfft! Whatever! I has me some chocolate!

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    2. The other 0.1% of the time, a kiss on the boo-boo does the trick. And blow on it. Takes the pain right out.

      I love reading your blog, Lyn. Just had to tell you. ;)

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    3. Chocolate AND kisses. Now there's a winning combo!
      Thank you for the chuckle, and the kind words.

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  21. Lynda, excellent post. I know the quality of the writing I put out means that bad reviews shouldn't bother me, but they do sting. You're right though about some readers not being the target audience. I get the worse reviews on my free book. Par for the course, I guess.

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  22. I appreciate this wise advice! I've been nervous about getting reviews (you know, and stashing the chocolate as well), so this is timely. So what time do you want me to come by and help you with that chocolate surplus? :) I'm totally up for the challenge.

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    1. I'm not sure you're aware of how great a challenge you're offering yourself up for. It's a mighty big stash. ;)

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  23. Excellent advice. I find that if I keep it professional and don't take it as a personal attack it's easier to find the spot where I can learn from the crit/review and use it to improve.

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  24. Great post. Very good points. I didn't think about the negative reviews creating a balance, but it's true. The reader me is suspicious of all 5's.

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  25. I haven't had anything reviewed yet, but when I get a bad one, yeah, I'm probably going to get upset. It's just how I feel, and since there's really nothing I can do about it, that's all I CAN do. And that's fine with me. I'm not going to react and destroy the person who gave the review, so I can feel bad, get over it, and get back to writing :)

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    1. yes, getting back to writing is so important

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  26. Really good post, and you're so spot on.

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  27. Hear Hear! I never a trust a book that has an average 5 star rating; so I'm with you that the bad validates the good.

    I think a lot of authors forget too that you can't please everyone, like you said. I think that simple statement is key to not letting bad reviews get the better of you.

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  28. The book "50 Shades of Grey", which made $95 million in a year, has on Amazon some 9,000 five star, but it also has over 5,000 one star very strongly worded reviews too, that's when reviews stopped being so important. If it sells it sells. I agree with everything you stated! Thank you for this great article and truly putting this in a perspective all authors can appreciate. :)

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    1. Ha, yes, just goes to show, even that seemingly popular book has a balance of reviews which hasn't stopped its sales.

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  29. Great advice, Lynda. Really a good perspective.

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  30. "Bad reviews validate good reviews." Yes! It's easy to forget this and I'm glad you pointed that out. Great post, Lynda. (:

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  31. I learned early on that reviews are in the eye of the beholder. I saw this movie (Brother Sun, Sister Moon about the earlier life of St. Francis) and I absolutely LOVED it. For some reason it got poor reviews. I realized then how vastly different tastes could be, that each review is just a single person's opinion, not the world's.

    I just hope when my first book comes out I'll be so level headed. :)

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  32. Great post and blog. I have had it all, gushing and flaming and I can tell you that they do tend to balance out in the universe (although I do get really pissed off when I first read or hear about a bad one and become all defensive. I'm learning to control it).
    Sharing this post. Thanks

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    1. Sometimes you just have to go through those emotional stages to get over them.

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  33. I occasionally find myself dwelling on a negative review, if it appears to be genuine at least. Most of the time I get over it quickly, but once in a while. Definitely better to simply move on, as you say, and I do have confidence in my stories, if not always in my pure writing ability.

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  34. Thanks for the great insights, Lynda. I know many authors do not even read their reviews; your approach seems much more mature!

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  35. It took me a bit to realize that not everyone was going to love my book. To make this hit home, I occasionally go and look at the reviews of some of my favorite books and realize not everyone liked them, too.

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    1. Ha! I love your method. Checking out the reviews of your favourite books is a great way of reminding yourself not everyone will love your work too.

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  36. This is a really great post, Lynda. You make so many great points here. I'm so glad I read this. I think even the same holds true for blog posts. You can't make everyone happy all the time. It just doesn't happen.

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  37. Wonderful post, Lynda. It's a topic that is scary for writers (and artists in general). I think you made a lot of really good points and I agree with them all. Not everyone is going to like our work, which is why it is important to stick to one's vision, because that is where success is found, not in other people's opinions. At the same time, constructive criticism makes us stronger. Thanks for a great post :)

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  38. This seriously is the best advice a writer can be given. Not everyone is going to like to like what we put out. I just saw a quote from Disney too about this:

    "Why worry? If you've done the very best you can, worrying won't make it any better." ~Walt Disney

    Great post.

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    1. I love the Disney quote! I need to stick that up somewhere I can see daily.

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  39. Great post, Linda, I saw it on LinkedIn. However, there's a myth that all 5 star reviews are written by friends and families. I don't have a lot of reviews, but they are all 5 and not all from friends or families. I just do not have enough to get that variety. It's a shame if people just pass up a book because it has all 5-star reviews. Maybe we should reevaluate how we think about 5-star reviews.

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    1. Oh yes, in a few cases those five star reviews are absolutely genuine. It's just difficult to work out which cases.

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  40. Thank you, Lynda. You spell it out in a palatable way. I'm still working on the confidence angle. Once you have that, there really isn't any reason to get upset over bad reviews. Great points.

    Also, thank you for the excuse to raid my emergency chocolate stash now.

    xoRobyn

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    1. Be careful not to overdose on the chocolate. Silliness may ensue ;)

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  41. Very well said. It would be better if when people didn't have anything nice to say, they said nothing, or told you their opinion in a private message. That would be in an ideal world.

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  42. Wonderful advice that I needed to read as I admit that I struggle with bad reviews. For a while I stopped reading all reviews because I was afraid of seeing bad ones and then all I did was miss out on some great ones that really gave me a thrill. So I know I need to learn to take the bad with the good and just suck it up. I especially love your last tip, that's one I really need to remember. :)

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  43. It's so hard not to let them get to you, even if you DO believe in what you've written. Or at least, it's hard for me.

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  44. These are great and make me feel better about reviews. At first I felt very emotional about bad reviews, but those feelings dulled and I handle reviews better. And this list puts things in better perspective.

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  45. Great point about a book with nothing but stellar reviews seeming staged. Actually when I look at reviews when deciding whether or not to read a book, I welcome the disparity of opinion. To me, that means the book will be substantive. As long as someone has something great to say about the book, a smattering of bad reviews only piques my interest.

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  46. So true, Lynda! It's so interesting how differently readers perceive something, all the different tastes out there. I realized this just recently, which is why I decided to believe in my story and put it out there. We have to know the audience we're writing for, and understand there'll always be people who don't like our work. Just a fact of life every writer must come to terms with.
    That doesn't mean I'm not nervous about reading reviews when they come in. lol
    BTW thanks for signing up for my cover reveal blogfest! Can't wait to see where (and when) you book your time trip to! :D

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    1. I loved the question so much for your fest, that I've already written the post. I'm looking forward seeing where everyone else chooses to go.

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  47. You should be very proud that you've taken the time and effort to learn craft and then polish the heck out of your work. I doubt you get many bad reviews, and I wish more new authors had your work ethic.

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  48. Great post! I sometimes get down from the bad reviews, but I remind myself not everyone likes my stories and eat some ice cream. And if it's an honest critique, I learn from it.

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  49. Great. I did get down with some bad reviews then decided to see what the reviewer actually said. One said, she gave 3 stars because the story was too short. Another said she wondered about the secondary characters. So there!

    I learnt that they really wanted more of the story-there is a lesson.

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  50. Reviews are subjective and every reader is not suited to all genres. They should not read/review a book when they are not familiar with a genre.

    Don't pay attention to bad reviews, Lynda!

    Nas

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  51. Great attitude:) I always think how about how there are people that still hate Shakespeare out there...not even the Bard can please everybody;)

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  52. I honestly don't know how I'll react to that inevitable first bad review. I hope I react just as you suggest, but secretly suspect I may shed a few tears first. (And I don't know most of the people who've blessed me with a good review.)

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  53. You've got a really good attitude! You're right - if you feel you've put out something you're proud of and happy with, you shouldn't worry about an occasional bad review.

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  54. Argh. I hope I can remember this advice when I have books out there. It must be hard to resist reading Amazon/Goodreads...

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  55. Wonderful attitude, Lynda. I often learn things from bad reviews. So that's a good thing :)

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  56. You have such a zen attitude about all this, and I really admire that. I too don't trust book reviews that are all five stars because as you know, even best-selling authors get one-star reviews sometimes.

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  57. I find that bad reviews are not really what bothers most writers. It's hateful reviews that are hard to get over. It's okay for someone not to like a book and explain why, because then the author has a chance to either learn from it or determine that the reader was not their audience. I agree that it's healthy to have a nice balance in reviews so that bad ones do validate the good ones.

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  58. Great Post, Lynda. You're absolutely right. Thanks for reminding me.

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  59. Even though all your points are valid, Lynda, there is a human part of us that doesn't embrace being criticised, and I can understand some authors being upset at bad reviews. Well, some books are bad, and some reviewers are actually honest. But I'd find it hard to give a bad review. I'd rather keep quiet. After all, writing and publishing a novel is a huge time chunk out of anyone's life and I'd hate to rain on their parade.

    Denise

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    1. Absolutely!! That's why chocolate was invented--for the times when the reviews sting anyway!

      I'm also like you. I won't give a review if I didn't like the book.

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  60. I'm still pretty green, new, when it comes to reviews, but I'll keep in mind what you wrote.

    I'm very proud of the story that is coming out in December, so I'm sure a bad review will sting. I have my band-aids ready.

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. I had the privilege of reading the anthology before the release date. I loved your story. You've got nothing to worry about!! :)

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.