Friday, August 3, 2012

On the Subject of Negative Reviews

As a freelance writer, I am constantly putting myself “out there.” I am wide open to criticism each and every time I publish an article or blog post. It’s part of the job, something I’ve learned to deal with. 

The first few times I spied a negative comment on an article, I was taken aback. What?! They didn’t completely agree with? They don’t see my point of view? How could they say that?
Fortunately my better angels kept me from reacting long enough to give the matter some serious consideration. If you can’t take the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. In the world of article writing, comments are a good thing – even negative ones. They stir discussion and that means more people are reading your work.

What about negative reviews on a book though? A book, after all is an author’s baby, precious and dear to him. Can I react to those negative reviews the same way I do to comments on articles? Recently, I had the chance to find out. 

My first eBook, “Destiny Steps In,” a collection of short stories I described as having a dark twist published in June. I did some heavy promoting, gleaning a handful of positive reviews and a few sales. When the hubbub died down, I stopped logging in daily to check for new reviews and sales, preferring to get on with writing and letting destiny step in and it did.
Don't let the anguish get you
Earlier this week, I checked in to see how the book was faring and discovered a negative review! The book had been getting such praise that I was stunned by it at first. I read it. Then I read it again. Then I shared it with some friends who assured me the writer of said review was a Cretan from a distant galaxy and therefore incapable of comprehending the intricacies of my book.

I stewed on the review all day. Each time I read it, though, I grew calmer. As I write this blog post, I am actually smiling. That negative review was just what I needed in so many ways.
  1.  I recognized immediately that everyone has the right to their opinion and to express it. This reviewer did so rather eloquently. 
  2.  The review was rather professionally done. It contained no personal attacks but simply stated the reasons why the book wasn’t his or her cup of tea. 
  3.  A negative review lends credibility to the review process. A book with only glowing reviews, particularly in its debut days, looks a bit suspicious, to me anyway. Friends and family often rally around a new author to lend their support and you can never be too sure if the positive reviews are legitimate. 
  4. Taking #3 into account, this means that someone other than friends and family read my book! Good news no matter how you look at it. 
  5.  The reviewer challenged my twists as being predictable in every story. This is definitely something I will give further consideration to as I proceed with my writing. It may or may not shape how I write but it is a point worth considering.
So from where I am standing, a negative review or at least this negative review doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I’ve chosen to take the good from it I can and move on. The option is quit writing and the voices in my head won’t stand for that.


  1. It's true that positive reviews are always best to hear, but negative ones that are well constructed can help just as well as the positive :)

    1. Absolutely! You can only hope to grow in your craft if you can take constructive criticism.

  2. Theresa, I really like the way that you pointed out all of the positive aspects of negative reviews. No one likes negative reviews,but you are right that there are good things about them. I especially liked your points about the negative reviews making the other reviews more credible and also that it means someone outside of your friends and family bought the book.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I try to find the positive in most situations. Otherwise I'd drive myself crazy.

  3. I like the idea that if two people are always agreeing with each other, one of them is not thinking. You make good points about the negative review making opinions about your book seem more genuine and honest. No book is going to have such universal appeal as to be absolutely right for everyone. If everyone liked your book someone wouldn't be thinking.

    1. I agree Chuck. While I would love it it everyone loved my book, the reality is going to be somewhat different. That's what makes us all different and interesting.

  4. I usually think the same way when I see a book with nothing but positive reviews. Love how you turned a negative into a positive.