8 Tips for Dealing With Negative Reviews of Your Book

If one of your goals as a writer is to be read, then sooner or later you will have to deal with negative reviews of your book. This could be as simple as a family member or beta reader telling you (tactfully or not) they didn’t like the book. Or it could be as painful as receiving multiple low-star reviews once the book has been published. Some of those negative reviews will have merit; some will not. Regardless, learning how to read them, accept them, and move on is a challenge all writers must face.

A few months ago, when I asked what you’d like me to write about, one question that immediately popped out to me was from Sionnach, who queried not just about negative reviews but about “unfair” reviews:

How do you learn to live with reviews that are patently unfair? My last book had mostly good reviews. Two, however, were two stars who were upset about graphic content. I always include content warnings about violence and steam level. I write the first sentences of my blurbs to include words/phrases that suggest violence if it’s in the book.

I really don’t know what else to do. The steam level is similar to other books in my genre, and the violence/gore would barely receive an R rating if it were a movie. All I can think of is just live with the reviews, but it’s hard. I know writers are supposed to have thick skins, but I hate reviews that just seem unfair. They get in my head while I’m writing and alter things.

As writers, we write for many reasons, but two predominant ones are wanting to put something of ourselves out into the world and to have that something be received. As such, writing is a supremely vulnerable act. The fact that it is almost inevitably partnered with rejection at some phase only makes it more so—and our courage in doing it anyway even more boundless.

Certainly, I have received my share of negative reviews over the years. Some of them stung because they were a little too true. Others stung exactly because they were anything but true. Part of my arc as a writer, and a person in general, has been learning how to understand my own reactions to negative reviews, to manage the personal damage, and to mitigate future effects. To some degree, this involves improving as both a writer and a marketer. Mostly, it comes down to looking within and working on my own expectations and identities.

6 Possible Reasons You’re Bothered by Negative Reviews of Your Book

In a minute, I will share some tips about dealing with negative reviews of your book, based on what I’ve learned through my own experience over the years. But first, I want to examine a few different reasons why negative reviews of your book may be impacting you. Each scenario can have a slightly different effect on you and require a slightly different perspective in re-centering yourself.

1. The Reviewer Is Making Good Points

Ultimately, the reason negative reviews of your book hurt is because they may be true. No author is perfect. Every story will legitimately deserve criticism of some facet.

Ironically, sometimes these are the sort of reviews that hurt the least. If you can recognize the validity of the criticism, at least you can do something about it. Even if it’s too late to correct the current book’s problems, you can at least learn from the advice and apply it to the next story.

2. The Reviewer Misunderstood the Book/Missed the Point Entirely

As Sionnach noted, perhaps the most frustrating type of negative review is the kind in which the reviewer seems to have misunderstood your intentions as a writer, or even entirely missed the point of the story. In response to Sionnach’s comment, Sara K. wisely noted:

I can’t tell you how to live with unfair reviews. However, as someone who has read tens of thousands of Amazon book reviews, I can tell you that getting a small percentage of unfair reviews is inevitable. (By “unfair” I mean books which say in the description “this has x” and a reviewer complains “this book has x.”) You’re not alone.

These reviews are frustrating because, really, what else are you gonna do? You can work to refine your presentation to create the correct expectations, but you will always encounter people who failed to pick up on the clues, however overt.

3. The Reviewer Was Cruel

Sometimes people are just mean. Even kindly worded negative reviews can hurt, but everything escalates when a reviewer’s language becomes personal, nasty, or even violent. Occasionally, these reviews can be easy to dismiss, when it’s obvious the reviewer is out of line and probably has a personal axe to grind that very likely did not originate with you or your book. Still, the effects of cruelty can linger long after you’ve rejected the person’s logic.

4. The Reviewer Made You Doubt Your Ability

This one is perhaps the most dangerous. Especially when you’re starting out, negative reviews (regardless of their merit) can make you feel invalidated as a writer. This is the single most important effect for writers to work through because you will encounter negativity. Some of it will point straight at parts of your writing that genuinely need improvement; some of it will be nonsense. Part of the challenge of growing as a writer is learning to recognize the difference and to be threatened by neither—both because you can and should improve where needed and because part of that improvement is learning to recognize when someone’s criticism is irrelevant.

5. The Reviewer Called Into Question Your Intentions

On occasion, reviews can get personal. This happens when a reviewer goes beyond simply analyzing your writing to making assumptions about you. Sometimes this is appropriate or at least unavoidable, depending on the nature of your writing. But sometimes reviewers will go so far as to assume that because “xyz” shows up in your story, you must be condoning it.

Even worse is when a reviewer makes negative assumptions about a writer based solely on the quality of the writing. For example, we sometimes see reviewers indicating that a writer must be “stupid” or “immature” or “shallow” simply because the reviewer found the style of writing lacking. When these comments are patently ludicrous, they may be easier to dismiss; other times they can hit home and stick around long after they’re welcome.

6. The Reviewer Is (Perhaps) Endangering Future Book Sales

Finally, there is the practical concern of fretting that a review of your book may negatively impact your sales. After all, potential customers do factor in ratings and reviews when deciding whether to purchase.

The good news here is that negative reviews can actually work in your favor. For one thing, they may serve to warn off future “wrong” readers who wouldn’t like the book anyway. Second, they can lend credibility to a book, proving the good reviews are more likely to be legitimate.

You won’t have a marketing problem as long as the negative reviews don’t outweigh the positive reviews. If they do, that points to other problems that need rectifying.

8 Tips for Dealing With Negative Reviews of Your Book

All right, so you’ve received a negative review of your book. You’ve analyzed the review and your response to it to determine which of the above categories it best fits into. But it still stings. You still can’t get it out of your head.

What do you do now? Do you listen to and try to make course corrections? Or do you ignore the review and keep right on as you were?

The answer will be subjective to both you and the situation. To help you out, here are eight tips based the lessons I have learned in interacting with my own negative reviews.

1. Get Very Clear on Your Motives and Intentions

When a negative review bothers you—and I mean bothers you—it’s a sign you’ve lost your own sense of center. In order to know which negative reviews to listen to and which to ignore, you need to get very clear on your own motives and intentions.

  • Who are you as a writer?
  • What are you here for?
  • Why are you writing in general?
  • Why did you write this specific story?
  • What is your definition of success for this story?
  • What were you trying to achieve with it?
  • What did you already know was less than perfect about it—and you’re fine with?

Answering these question is not always a straightforward process. But the clearer you are in refining your own desires and goals for your writing, the clearer you will be in responding to other people’s opinions. If you know you want to write grimdark fantasy or cozy mysteries or lush literary fiction—and a reviewer doesn’t like that—then you can know they simply weren’t the right audience for your book and, as such, their opinions don’t matter that much.

2. Don’t Overthink It

If you’re keen on using negative reviews of your book to improve your writing, then good for you. But don’t overthink it. Or overfeel it. Listen to your gut—aka, your intuition.

True intuition is neutral, without emotional defensiveness. If your initial response is anger or hurt, that’s not your gut telling you it agrees with the reviewer. Rather, your intuition is the quiet, confident voice that knows whether the criticism has merit or not.

For example, when someone says your romantic subplot didn’t work, you will know at some level whether you agree with that or not. Either you realize they have a point, or you know that, in fact, your subplot worked exactly how you wanted it to. If you decide on the latter, don’t overthink your response. Trust your gut.

(However, there is a caveat. If you hear the same criticism again from a second source, that’s a sign you may want to revisit it.)

3. Don’t Give Other People More Authority Than You Give Yourself

The key to the above point is remembering that reviewers don’t automatically know more about writing and storytelling than you do.

Now, it’s absolutely true reviewers know themselves and their reaction to your story better than anyone. They know when they like something and when they don’t. But not everyone knows why they don’t like it. Although they may complain about your writing, the real problem may in fact be that they had a bad day, something in the book tweaked their own personal triggers, or they’re just pompous and want others to think they know what they’re talking about.

It’s also totally possible your reviewers do know more about storytelling and writing than you do. Many readers these days are very experienced and knowledgeable about story, even if they are not writers themselves.

The point here is that, either way, you don’t automatically have to believe that the opinions of negative reviewers deserve to have authority over your own understanding of story in general and this story in particular. Often, reviewers will be just plain wrong. Going out of your way to believe these reviews does no one any favors, you least of all.

4. Don’t Entertain Disrespect

The review format is a legitimate forum in which people can share honest opinions about books. There is nothing disrespectful about this. (Indeed, authors who bite back or complain may themselves be the disrespectful ones.) But there are lines. You do not have to entertain, even for a second, the opinions of someone who is not bothering to be respectful of you as a person or an artist.

It’s important to note that just because they dislike your book, this does not mean they are being disrespectful of you. But abusive language, name calling, shaming statements, unsolicited and patronizing attempts to “help” you, and bullying, among other inappropriate behaviors, don’t deserve a second glance.

If you feel shame or any of the other emotions that such reviews might be projecting onto you, that’s something for you to work on within yourself. It is not something that you should necessarily respond to (in 99% of instances, you’re probably wiser not to), but it is also not something you need to internalize or consider.

5. Examine Your Triggers

Negative reviews only hurt when they strike a nerve. Otherwise, they’re either a neutral background hum or useful information that can help you improve. Our own personal triggers can get in the way of both. Either we surrender authority to others without questioning the validity of their statements, or we become defensive to the point that we may be rejecting helpful advice that could improve our craft.

Regardless, the only way to work on this is to work on ourselves. Whenever a review stings, make it a practice to look within. The insecurities you’re feeling may have to do with your writing, but they may also have to do with pain points that did not originate with your art. Perfectionism is a common bane among writers, and when a review suggests a story is anything less than perfect (which it always is), the pain we feel in response may have less to do with the story’s problems and more to do with an inner sense of shame that needs to be recognized and rehabilitated.

6. Calm Your Nervous System

If you’re triggered by negative reviews, for whatever reason, it is important to not only work through your discomfort logically and emotionally, but also within your nervous system itself. Many people these days suffer from anxiety that is specifically triggered by social media and other online conversations—of which book reviews are certainly a part.

One way to honor your nervous system is to remove as many of the negative stimuli as possible. In other words, simply stop reading reviews. If this isn’t possible (and even if it is), you can also work with techniques to retrain your nervous system. Some methods that have been successful for me include daily meditation and breathwork, tapping, and affirmations.

One technique that has been particularly helpful is that of mentally revisiting triggers while holding the tips of my fingers to my forehead. This keeps blood flow in the front of your brain, reversing the flight or fight response and retraining your nervous system to realize it’s okay even in the presence of triggering stimuli.

7. Up Your Writing Game

Of course, the best way to avoid negative reviews of your book is simply to write a better book. Use negative reviews as incentive and, where appropriate, guidance for improving your writing and your marketing. Although it’s important to fully acknowledge your mental, emotional, and physical responses to negative reviews, it’s also important to work through the difficulties. Use negative reviews as motivation to keep improving.

8. Take a Look at the Negative Reviews for Your Favorite Book

Finally, if all else fails in helping you feel better after a negative review of your book, take a minute to look up your favorite books on Amazon. Go read the one-star reviews. Particularly if it’s a popular book, there will be many. This can help bring perspective to the fact that art is subjective. Not everyone will like every book. Even books you think are perfect will have legitimate detractors. So the next time you face down a negative review of your own, you can remind yourself you’re in good company!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What’s your best advice for dealing with negative reviews of your book? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. So many helpful thoughts.

    I’ve always liked “Don’t entertain criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice.” We simply don’t know who might post a review, so any attention we give them is an act of trust — and that can *always* be more than the review deserves.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is such a solid point. It sounds intuitive, but it’s something many of us have to consciously work on. I was raised in environment that taught me (particularly as a female) to distrust myself in favor of other people’s opinions. The lesson that I don’t *have* to listen to everyone’s opinion was transformative and liberating for me, as both a person and a writer who receives reviews.

  2. Here’s another problem: negative rankings on Amazon with no review words at all. Yes, I know that most Amazon readers who enter a rating do not include review words, but why would someone enter 1 or 2-stars? It feels like being trolled. I do worry it will hurt sales and hope the lack of words will encourage potential-readers to disregard the low rating.

    BTW… I’ve noticed Amazon adding the ranking from Goodreads next to some book ratings. Has anyone else seen that?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      On the whole I like that Amazon allows ratings without reviews, since I think many people are more inclined to leave a rating than a review. But it’s definitely a system that’s less accountable and therefore open to more abuse.

      I haven’t noticed the Goodreads addition. I’ll have to take a look.

  3. Thea T. Kelley says

    Great post! I took your advice & read some negative Amazon reviews of one of my very favorites, The Once and Future King. Wow, check this out:

    “Once upon a time when I was much younger and stupider, I read this book and liked it. It seemed terribly moving…However, upon rereading this book in my middle age, I realize that I hate it and despise its author. Why? Because he took possibly the greatest tragedy of all time and turned it into a cross between a Monty Python sketch and a soap opera. No, not even Monty Python, because they were actually funny and could pull off a spoof. The humor here, despite its veneer of midcentury upper crusty English charm, is more like an ’80s sitcom. All it needs is a laugh track.”

    I believe this falls into the “Misunderstood the Book/Missed the Point Entirely” category!

  4. With regard to criticism from random people, I’m of the opinion that these should always be ignored and the bad ones should elicit a similar emotional response as the the good ones. These people don’t know you or what your intentions are and yet they feel free to spew their ire because in their opinion you’ve crossed some imaginary line. It was their choice to read the book and if they were offended by anything you wrote that’s on them. They should do what any normal person would do when they encounter something not to their taste, put the book down and acknowledge they made an unfortunate choice in selecting it. Otherwise, you are allowing random people with different intellectual and moral backgrounds to affect you and that is just not right.
    There are choices to be made in every moment of our lives and those have to be left up to the individual. I may not ever want to see an X-rated movie but I would defend the rights of others to see whatever movie they wanted with my last breath. Otherwise, we are all Nazis.
    All writers, in my opinion, should be true to themselves and to their followers by writing what is genuinely in their hearts and minds, and the devil take the hindmost. What would happen to the human intellect if writers allowed random religious or other zealous fanatics to curtail the exploration of human motives and characteristics through censorship. The world would be a most boring and intolerable place.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “All writers, in my opinion, should be true to themselves and to their followers by writing what is genuinely in their hearts and minds, and the devil take the hindmost.”

      I agree. At the end of the day, our authenticity is the only true gift we bring to the table. But presenting it is often easier said than done!

  5. I had a review where the reader complained that it was an e-book and she didn’t read e-books. It was a verified purchase so the mistake was hers. I also had someone who thought “damn” was profanity. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, there are those reviews that are just so off-base that they tickle your funny bone. :p

    • Miriam Harmon says

      Actually, that word *is* profanity to certain people. Including me. But still, not a reason to poorly rate the book. How many times was the word used in the book? ‘Cause if it was only a couple times, that’s not worth a bad review.

  6. These are most useful, especially I think for writers who may still be fairly new in the published world and haven’t yet built up a thicker skin and developed the tools to assess clearly others’ comments.

    Simply put, consider the source. If the comment has merit, learn from it how to improve your work on your next story. If the comment has no merit, dismiss it. Comments that are personal, nasty, unrelated to your book (in cases where the “reviewer” never read the book, which happens), or whatever else don’t deserve the time of day from you.

    I posted an essay online many years ago, in which I explored the progression of the tomato from being considered a deadly fruit to its acceptance as an important addition to our table. The essay was sparked by a 19th Century newspaper account of someone announcing that he would eat tomatoes in public to prove that they were not poisonous. I found loads of similar articles and ended up likening the whole story to the game of “Telephone” or “Gossip,” in which a spoken piece of information is whispered from ear to ear and gets corrupted beyond recognition. I included links to all the references I had found. It was a fun romp. But someone blasted me for posting such hateful, vicious material (?). I found it both amusing and sad – amused by his absurd reaction, sad that his reaction was so violent. Over a story about the history of the edibility of the tomato. He must have been having a really bad day to be triggered like that.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t know, tomatoes are a pretty volatile subject, if you ask me. (Just ask the one that exploded all over my shirt…) 😉

      • Yes, trying to cut tomatoes sometimes results in an explosion of sorts. (You really need a razor-sharp knife.) I blame that on the newer cultivars – growers prefer tougher skins on tomatoes for more intact shipping to market. This year, I’ve noticed that the skins on apples resemble cellophane – I can chew them forever, and they remain undamaged. I think it’s because of the drought conditions this year, apples being from a perennial plant.

        But I digress …

        • Some bad reviews can actually sell your book. I have purchased a number of books because a reviewer complained about an aspect of it and that aspect happened to be something I enjoy reading about. Negative reviews can tell potential readers important info about what they’re considering reading and it may work in your favor.

          • Many years ago, a man who had appointed himself Lord High Reviewer gave everyone and everything the worst possible reviews. He panned the elementary school basketball team for poor plays, and the high school band for hitting the wrong note once or twice. He criticized the latest movies as all bad. He never had a good word. Calling him a pompous ass would be a compliment. As a result, everyone avidly read his columns in the paper for his invective du jour. The worse his review, the more eagerly people flocked to see or read or watch whatever he shredded. It didn’t help his cause when he peppered his column with high-falutin’ words that didn’t mean what he thought they meant, often resulting in adjectives that contradicted each other and their nouns.

            He certainly entertained the whole county, although that clearly was not his intent.

  7. You quoted me.

    I’m blushing.

    *scurries away.*

  8. Rebecca Rhoads says

    Another great blog, Katie. Hey, y’all, count any review as a blessing! It means you’ve been published and those naggy negs are just jealous. Getting serious, though, it’s really important to remember none of us will please everyone all the time. My debut is coming out next year and I’ll be seventy. Though I am a sensitive soul, my hope is that at my age I’ve gained enough insight to embrace constructive criticism, ignore that which is off-base, and roll on. This has to be awfully hard for younger authors. People can be wickedly cruel. Just remember cruelty reflects badly on them, not on you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I wrote a post a few years ago, musing on why audiences (myself included) take stories so personally. When we view a story as unsatisfactory, our response is often outrage on a personal level. I try to remember this when I’m on the receiving end, even though it can seem so unfair when you’re the creator.

  9. Before I became an author, I did commissioned art work. I learned quickly that people’s opinions were just that, opinions, and not all would like my work. That didn’t mean it was bad, just not their taste. Artists and authors, and any endeavor, improves with practice. The more we do, the better we become. For reviews, it’s just their opinion, unless there is some validation to their comment.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Reviews can be tremendously validating, especially when you’re first starting out. At a certain point, however, you realize that if you’re going to invest your self-worth in the good reviews, you have to do that with the bad ones too–and you start taking them all with a grain of salt!

  10. This post is solid gold!

    It’s not worthwhile to worry about readers being swayed by unfair bad reviews; most people are not as dumb as they’d have to be for the unfair reviews to be an issue. If a reader says he hates mysteries, his 1 star review on a mystery matters little. If a reader loves mysteries, but thinks a particular one is badly written, and offers substantive objections, his 1 star review matters more.

    If the weirdo who missed the point or thinks you’re endorsing evil is the only reviewer on your book, they may seem more threatening. But most people aren’t going to be swayed by the one review. Just like they won’t be swayed if the lone review is praising the book. To me the reviews have to reach a certain sample size before they pass the margin of “your best friends or ex-boyfriends are posting these reviews.”

    In the tradpub arena, this is why publishers send out ARCs, so they can have advanced reviews ready to go when the book hits the streets. This is how those books have blurbs and endorsements from famous authors or book review columnists on the jacket. One thing I miss about my old newspaper is the bookcase with all the ARCs. Free books! I discovered several authors that way.

    Indie writers can do similar with book bloggers, especially if you trust their reviews, and the reviewer likes the type of story you’re writing. That may be one way to combat the specific situation of the sole review being wrong or unfair. But otherwise, learn, laugh, or move on as applicable.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      When I browsing for books to read and looking at reviews, I tend to put more stock in the four- or three-star reviews. Five-star reviews that gush and one-star reviews that hate are both interesting, but usually aren’t going to align with my own experience if I choose to read the book.

  11. Thanks for a great post – very relevant to me I’d say.

    I don’t mind a negative review if the person states why they didn’t like my book. Within reason. Recently someone posted a nasty personal review and I was annoyed and a bit upset. But then (in response to a question on Twitter about negative reviews) I began to think … you know what, who is this person and what gives them the right to be so downright mean?

    The other thing is, if they thought the book was sooooo bad why on earth did they read the whole thing all the way to the end? Jeez – I wouldn’t. Life’s way too short.

    So then I settled into a comfortable feeling of “they have no talent, therefore they’re just jealous”. Now, I have no idea if that’s true or not, and I don’t know the person anyway, so my feeling were completely internal and that made me feel better straight away.

    Later, I wrote a short story called, “Death of an Amazon Reviewer” and that was great fun. Cathartic.

    Your point about recognising the criticism may be true was also very accurate. So what do you do about that. Well, in my past I was a training consultant and I always asked for feedback to see if anything about the training course needed to be changed or improved or even taken out. I heard this piece of advice:

    If one person calls you a horse, that’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it.
    If two people call you a horse, there might be something in that so go away and give it some consideration.
    But if three people call you a horse – go out and buy a saddle.

    Thanks again for posting. Take care. Harry.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for sharing that little ditty. I’ve always said (as I do in the post) that “if two people agree” (and one of them can be me), then I need to take note. But I’m going to steal this for the future. It’s much pithier. 🙂

  12. I look at one star reviews before buying a book. Why? Because it tells me what people disliked about it and I can decide if it is something it will bother me too.
    Nevertheless, with my favorite authors, I never check reviews but they earned my trust.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. Once I’ve discovered an author I like, I don’t *want* to look at the reviews before I read it. I want my experience with the story to be mine alone.

  13. As a writer, I found this post very interesting, informative, and helpful, especially in view of the fact that I just wrote a review of a fellow author’s ARC that I don’t know whether she will consider “negative” or not. I really wanted to encourage her, yet I felt bound to express honestly what I didn’t like. Why? Because, as a reader, I appreciate the negative reviews as much as the positive ones. The purpose of a review is to enlighten potential buyers, not necessarily to praise the writer. It’s SO helpful to know ahead of time if a book I’m considering investing $ in is, for example, poorly-written or -edited, basically erotica, full of language or violence, or in some instances, marketed as “inspirational” when it’s not. On the other hand, I also gave this book 5 stars because on the bottom line, I loved it! I just felt that both the writer and other readers would like to know where the story fell flat for me. It’s really hard to be balanced and fair to everyone, isn’t it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, once you’ve received reviews of your own, writing reviews for others becomes a whole new ballgame. For the most part, I no longer publish reviews for books that I rank as three stars or less. This is totally a personal decision, but particularly because I tend to review based on subjective factors (my experience with the story) rather than objective ones (overall quality of writing), I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day unnecessarily.

  14. I don’t so much mind people complaining that the book includes something the author said it included – at least they’re not giving other potential readers a false idea of the book. What gets my goat is people complaining about the book based on things the book does not in fact contain.

    For example, the main character in my first novel is an overprotected princess who is forbidden to use the stairs by herself – inspired by the Kensington System inflicted on Queen Victoria as a child.
    Of course she rebels & disobeys, but that didn’t stop one reviewer announcing that the main character is a pathetic person not capable of using stairs unaided.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally true. Misrepresentation is the toughest to deal with, because what are you going to do?

  15. Thanks for the great article.

  16. One thing I learned from negative reviews is to properly set expectations on the cover or blurb. Most of the negative reviews I’ve received is because people were expecting something other than what I wrote.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. I’ve learned this too. Many negative reviews can be avoided if a reader’s expectations are properly set up from the beginning.

  17. Recently while listening to the editor of a small press, he said (in terms of one’s writing, not personally),, “Most people won’t like you.” It sounds disheartening at first, but it became a great lifter of weight of my shoulders, saying ‘Write what you want to write.’ And logically, think of it this way-most people therefore don’t like Stephen King. What? But he’s sold millions, probably earned a billion or more. But still. If you consider ALL readers all over the world and their tastes, it’s still true that most people won’t like him. So just keep writing, and hey, if you get a bad review, good, because at least someone read your book 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a great reframe. It’s true: once you realize you *can’t* make everyone happy no matter what you do, you suddenly have the freedom to do what you want. The beautiful part is that, in doing so, you’re more likely to draw in the *right* readers for you anyway.

  18. Thank you so much for this article! You’re so wonderful. I’m going to try everything, but I’m going to apply the forehead technique to my life at large.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My pleasure! Thank you for the post idea. I hope you have as much success with the technique as I have. I’ve made it a part of my morning practice for the last six months or so.

  19. I once received a 2star review of my science fiction novel. Most of his critique was fine. His opinion, etc. But he also accused me of using friends to post all the positive reviews I’d received. I analyzed my reviews and broke them down into 3 categories: friends, acquaintances and strangers, showing that fully half of my strong reviews were by strangers. When I sent him that reply, he modified his review to remove the accusation. It was still 2 stars, but now I was okay with it. Out of 60+ reviews, that was my only 2star review.

  20. These are things every creative person needs to understand. Every point is excellent. Thank you for this article!

  21. Super! Thanks.

  22. The “miss the point entirely” reviewer probably stresses me out the most (other than outright harassment) because it kicks fears about other people not getting me, however hard I am trying to communicate. Meghan Duam wrote an essay on this called “The Joni Mitchell Problem” that I found really interesting.

  23. Victoria C Leo says

    I could not read this immediately because it was TOO relevant and I was hopping mad. Now that I’ve read it – wonderful ideas.

    My situation is I have a six book series, and the first book got it’s Amazon listing boogered up. Entirely 4-5 star reviews but I didn’t realize the problem immediately and by the time I gave up on Amazon ever fixing it, I needed a new edition and ISBN. Blank. No reviews. Previous edition not showing up in searches unless you use ISBN. Have to read the first book first. So there is a funneling effect – no one will find the other books unless they get to the first one.

    And – BAM. A woman who took a local class from me and found the link to Book 1 in my email sig, paid her 99 cents for the privilege of posting a 1 star rating. No review because she only read enough to discover a POC/Muslim protagonist. I know her, she’s a raging MAGA-head. Now my whole series is cooked, cuz no one will have book 1 Recommended To You in Amazon with a 1-star average. I needed a couple of days to emerge from homicidal and come up with solutions: a video to attract anyone who wonders by, by accident and -most importantly – the ARC’s who are sending me emails about how much they love this that or another thing are being pressed to say it publicly with 4-5 stars. Those algorithms are math and we all know what a skew a 1 gives to an arithmetical mean.

    Yeah, mean. Been writing books for a lot of years and never ran into such determined, vicious meanness before. Our times….

    • Barbara Martinez says

      There are so many horror stories. I wish you the very best. There are few solutions to fight the crazies out there. My wish is that Amazon would do away with ratings/reviews completely. Let the description be the guide.

    • Victoria, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Amazon sucks sometimes, and mean people are always horrible.

  24. What to do when the book review site owner has something against people with neurological disabilities….and they change aliases for their review site so they can spit bile only about these disabled authors? Danika Ellis at The Lesbrary does this about autistic/neurodivergent authors….all you have to do is find the negative reviews and then go to those authors’ websites and see that they are neurodivergent. What has she got against us?

  25. With people like that, it’s not about you – whoever or whatever you may be – it’s about gaining attention because their souls have a gaping hole in them. They’re jealous of anyone else, including you, who has accomplished something good, like writing a book (an astonishing accomplishment in and of itself). They hate themselves, therefore they hate everybody else, so they strike out at anyone within reach. You just happen to be their victim-du-jour. No serious reader who sees what they post will give them the time of day. It’s painful, but it’s a waste of time, energy, and mental health to try to counter them, for they will not be reasoned with. (Think: Scrooge or The Grinch, both of whose hearts needed to grow a few sizes.)

    I’m impressed with the abilities and insight of many autistic individuals. They all continually surprise me. They all have a great deal to share with the world. My younger brother is on the lower end of the autism spectrum – change is difficult for him, and he prefers one-on-one friendships – but he consistently shows me great resilience through his challenges.

    Go well, my friend!

  26. Barbara Martinez says

    My ebook has been on Amazon for two years and the paperback for a bit less than that. I’ve considered it a success within my definition of success. It wouldn’t be Stephen King’s definition, but I felt good about my accomplishment and my handful of good reviews. Then came the dreaded review. It wasn’t even a bad review about my book but a bad review about a readability issue. She claimed there were blue highlights throughout the book, making it unreadable. That was bad enough, but the tone of the words were attacking me personally, alleging I didn’t bother to proofread my book and shame on me. I contacted KDP not just once, but three times and every time they verified to me there were no blue highlights. I asked for a copy of my conversation to verify there were no issues with my book. KDP suggested it might be with the device the reader used and she could contact them to troubleshoot that. It was already affecting my sales. Who is going to buy a book they can’t read. My mistake was in thinking I could appeal to the reviewers sense of fair play by informing her there were no issues with the book and that she might be able to talk to Amazon to fix the problem. I emailed her with a copy of the report and told her that her words hurt me personally and affected my sales. This was met with more hostility from her and another accusation that quality control was my responsibility. I think contacting KDP three times for a review of the book qualifies as quality control. She updated her review to say I sent her a scary email. Amazon won’t take down the review. I know life isn’t fair, but this isn’t a matter of an opinion about a story. It’s a falsehood that has killed my book. The fact there is no recourse is doubly disheartening.

    • Barbara, that’s terrible! It’s almost never good to contact the reviewer, though. They just get their back up even more. When I first started out, I wrote to a reviewer on GR who attacked me personally. All of her friends ganged up on me. I cried. Some people are just awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you for something she should have worked out herself.

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