As any author can tell you, bad reviews aren’t fun. But…you will get them. It’s pretty much inevitable.
Reviews are weird things anyways. Some people think you should only write reviews if you liked the book…but if no one ever wrote any bad reviews, how would you know if a book was really good, if only favorable opinions were allowed? And then there are the time-traveler reviews, rated months before the book even comes out. Once on Goodreads someone went and in one fell swoop rated all of my books one star. I still am a little puzzled over that. (If you didn’t like one of my books…why did you keep reading them? Even more puzzling, why would you keep spending money to read them?)
Some authors don’t read reviews of their books. SO MUCH RESPECT FOR YOU GUYS. Alas, I’m too curious. Maybe I just like torturing myself? As someone who writes a lot of reviews, reads a lot of reviews, and has gotten a fair share of reviews, these are some that I’ve noticed pop up often. I haven’t received all of these types of reviews, but I’ve gotten at least one of most of them.
1. “There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like/connect with it”
Don’t get me wrong: I totally, totally get these. About 70% of all my 2 or 3-star reviews are this very thing. Sometimes, a book just doesn’t connect with a reader, and that’s okay! It’s a little sad that you couldn’t connect with someone, but it’s not anything to be ashamed of. (although if you get a bunch of these types of reviews on a novel, it might hint at a deeper problem with your writing.)
How to deal with it: remind yourself of all the readers who did like your book and related to the characters! Everybody is different and we all relate to different characters and situations. Even the best of characters aren’t appreciated by everyone.
2. Here’s a Novel-Length List of Everything You Did Wrong
These are always a little wince-worthy. For a historical novel, they can be a list of every historical inaccuracy in the book. Sometimes it’s a bullet point list of every grammar mistake or typo you’ve ever made. Those last ones are a double bummer because one, it’s embarrassing, and two, YOU END UP BANGING YOUR HEAD THAT YOU MISSED ALL THOSE EASILY FIXED MISTAKES.
But sometimes these types of reviews cross a line into unkindness. Sometimes, these reviews list all of your plot holes…make fun of your characters…quote lines from your story in mocking derision….
….and make you feel like you want to cry.
How to deal with it: Make a pillow fort and watch a favorite childhood movie. Maybe bake a cake. Or two. Or a batch of cupcakes.
3. The Social Justice Tirade
Most of the time I hate, hate, hate these. Now, sometimes books do have legitimate problems that someone should mention in a review. But these types of reviews can also be an organized “crusade” of reviewers who haven’t even read the book in question, but someone told them through the grapevine that the novel was racist or sexist or something and so they think it’s their sacred duty to get as many people as possible to load down a site with as many one-star reviews as possible. Seriously, these things are like campaigns, and they’re nasty. I’ve seen them for books that haven’t even been released yet, but “oh no! A white person is writing a book about a non-white person, and that’s cultural appropriation! We must drag this book through the mud even though we don’t know anything else about it!”
Nothing ticks me off more than these (or, in general, just people rating/reviewing books they haven’t read). Thankfully, this has never happened to me (and usually these campaigns are carried out for more mainstream, publicized novels anyway) but I’ve seen them on review sites before, and I get upset for the author, because nine times out of ten, the rumors have blown up something in your book way out of proportion and usually have tried to destroy your name in the process as well. It’s a form of bullying, and it’s just not okay.
How to deal with it: Gather your army. Avenge your honor. Defeat your foes.
(okay, okay. Occasionally, a review is right in pointing out something you may have dealt with in an inaccurate and stereotyped way. But if it’s truly unfair, there’s not much else you can do than rant to your friends and open that container of ice cream. Shake it off, y’all. Sometimes the haters are just going to hate. )
4. Did You Even Read The Book?
I recently got one of these on one of my books. They’re basically reviews that are so off you wonder if they got your book mixed up with someone else’s. I was really upset about it because I thought it would be misleading to other readers and even asked for advice on what to do. In the end, I decided to not to respond to the review and just eat some chocolate.
How to deal with it: Do what I did. Eat chocolate. Complain to your friends. Acknowledge that the world is unfair, people are strange, and hey…maybe they made a mistake and really did in some strange twist of fate post the wrong review.
5. The Hit-and-Run
“One star. I didn’t like this book.”
Okay. *shrugs* BUT WHY DON’T YOU LOVE IT? WHAT’S WRONG?
(some authors really hate these kinds of reviews, but I actually don’t??? Sometimes it’s just easier to see one of those reviews without hearing a list of everything they didn’t like.)
How to deal with it: These ones actually don’t bother me overmuch, so I can’t give you much advice, to be honest. I just shrug and move on with my life.
There are other types of reviews as well…the ignorant reviewer, who complains about something being “inaccurate”…when you were actually being accurate. The accuser who is positive you’ve plagiarized another book (which you haven’t read or even heard of). As an avid reader and writer of fairy tale retellings, I come across those reviewers who are upset that said retelling isn’t close enough to the “original” fairy tale…because they only know about the Disney version. (In particular, one Five Enchanted Roses review complained about something in particular that most of the stories didn’t contain that was “in the original tale”…when what they wanted in the story was actually an invention of Disney’s.)
But when all is said and done, for the most part I’ve been blessed. No, not all of my reviews have been good, but generally, they have all been respectful. We all have different tastes, and every reader isn’t obligated to love your book.
But really, the bad reviews don’t matter half as much as the good ones. Because in this world, if you’ve managed to touch a reader’s heart- well, that’s what matters, isn’t it?