Dealing with Negative Reviews

Pop quiz: what do you do when someone releases an excoriating online review about something you’ve sweated blood over?

a) Leave a vitriolic comment questioning the reviewer’s integrity and decency.
b) Leave a bitter comment calling the reviewer an idiot.
c) Leave a vengeful comment declaring war.
d) A, B, and C, with lots and lots and lots and lots of comments
e) Give up. Never do anything again.
f) Close your browser and get on with your life.

I thought most authors understood the best answer, but then I came across a review where the author not only responded, she melted down. Spectacularly. So I thought it might be worthwhile to say something about dealing with negative reviews of your work.

Remember, reviews are not for the author. They are for prospective readers. The reviewer is not claiming you are a bad person. He is stating that your work did not meet his needs, expectations, or standards. Most negative reviews of my work amount to “I don’t like the tone and attitude of this book.” That’s OK. I deliberately use that tone and attitude, in the belief that the number of people who will appreciate it exceeds the number of people it will annoy.

Sometimes, negative criticism is actually constructive. If I don’t learn from my mistakes, who will?

The correct response to a negative review is: silence.

An even better response would be to send the reviewer a two-sentence note: Thank you for taking the time to review my book. Sorry you didn’t like it, but I appreciate your effort. Sincerely, Your-Name-Here. But I’m not that good of a human being.

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