You Should Think Positively About Your Negative Reviews

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Do you check the reviews of your published novels? Receiving a critical review, especially in the early stages of your author journey, is often a kick in the guts. It has the potential to make you question whether you should ever write another word. And with other authors posting their glowing reviews all over social media, it might feel as if you’re the only writer receiving bad reviews.

You’re not. I have received that one-star punch to the solar plexus. I understand the gut-wrenching misery and self-doubt that follows.

The thing is, a bad review doesn’t count as definitive proof that your novel kicks butt or sucks. Often it is a comment on the content of your story and how much the reader liked it. And while bad reviews bring down the overall rating of your book on Amazon, Goodreads or the platform you’ve published on, I’m here to tell you there can be upsides to those one and two-star reviews.

What one reader hates, another loves

Negative reviews can inform others what to expect if they read your book, and that’s a good thing. For example, a negative review of a romance novel might contain complaints of a jerk-hero and doormat heroine, cheating spouses, or too much sex or swearing. But what one reader hates to read, another loves. Thus, a romance reader could read a negative review for a book you’ve written and conclude they will like it and decide to buy it.

Before I buy any book, I always read through the negative reviews. I want to know the worst thing someone has said about the characters or the story. Oftentimes, a problem or flaw mentioned by another reviewer is what entices me to read a story. My decision to buy your book is based on the negative reviews, not the positive ones.

Negative reviews demonstrate your book isn’t too good to be true

Aside from providing social proof that people are reading your book, and letting you know your marketing strategy is working, negative reviews prove your book is real and the reviews are genuine.

I will often avoid books that have no critical reviews because they seem too good to be true. How is it possible everyone loves it, I ask. If all you have are glowing reviews, readers may believe reviews are biased or provided by people who know the author. This is not always true, but readers may be less likely to dismiss your book if it has a bad review.

Sometimes our critics speak the truth and there are things we need to hear

Before you published your book, you likely received feedback from your beta-readers. Beta-readers are an essential part of every author’s tool kit, but sometimes they miss things, or sometimes they’re too busy gushing over your fantastic plot to remember to point out the flaws they noticed.

Years ago, I received a highly-critical but constructive review for my book, Lights, Camera, Kiss Me. As an author determined to improve, I took the time to read all my negative reviews. The reviewer suggested my heroine was shallow and two-dimensional, and they were absolutely right. The next book I wrote, I spent more time developing my heroine, really understanding who she was, her backstory, her reasons for doing the things she did. And that book? That book never received anything less than three stars.

Negative reviews may highlight character inconsistencies, plot holes, editing mistakes, and more. Take advantage of this feedback and make improvements to your writing next time around. If you’re an indie author, you could even make changes to your manuscript today and publish another edition. In that case, the feedback has helped you improve your writing or manuscript.

When to ignore negative reviews and when to consider pulling your book from publication

All negative reviews hurt, but there are some worth listening to, and some you should flat-out ignore.

Negative reviews without comments are useless. If there’s no comment, or the review is too short to glean any value, ignore it. Wordless or too-brief thoughts are of no use to you or your reader.

If the negative review is aimed at you as an author or is simply there to troll you or fuel controversy, again, ignore it.

Alternatively, if your negative reviews outnumber your positive reviews, it’s time to take an honest look at your book. You might want to re-edit, rewrite or make significant improvements. In the end, only you can make this decision, but readers deserve the highest quality product you can publish. Ask yourself if you have delivered that.

The bigger picture

Negative reviews are never fun to read, but neither are they the end of the world. Not everyone will love what you write, and sometimes, even when your book is generally well-received, a review comes along that threatens to sneak under the thick skin you’ve developed as a writer and knock your confidence to the floor. It happens.

Mope. Eat some chocolate. Drink a glass of wine. Move on. That’s what I do. Choose to see the review as a growth opportunity for you as a writer or be optimistic you’ll sell more copies of your book because of it.

Let me know in the comments if you see any other benefits of negative reviews.

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Romance writer. Fiction publisher. I serialize books on various platforms. Aussie gal, mum, and wife. New to podcasting, paid newsletters, and personal essays.

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Elle Fielding

Elle Fielding

Romance writer. Fiction publisher. I serialize books on various platforms. Aussie gal, mum, and wife. New to podcasting, paid newsletters, and personal essays.

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