Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Monday, 5 August 2013

Writers, what to do when you get a bad review

The advice from other authors is to ignore reviews, but it's hard to ignore them especially when your publisher keeps going on about how reviews get you sales. When you get a really bad, withering review that makes you think you should never inflict your writing on the public ever again, you just want to dive under that duvet and never come out again.

But, is getting a stinker of a review really so bad? Well, yes it is, but here are some things to think about before you think of chucking this writing game in.

It helps if you write the answers down. That way your brain absorbs them and you can move on from the bad review, because you've got to move on so you can get on with writing.

Another great thing to do is answer these questions as though it's someone else's book that got the bad review; one you've read and know well. I use a similar technique in my bullying book, Bullying A Parent's Guide,  and to deal with my social phobias. 

Trust me, it works.

First off, look at the review -

1. Has the reviewer said anything constructive, that you can be used to improve the author's writing? For instance, a reviewer might spot a continuity error or that a writer over does speech tags. Or they might say that they couldn't see your characters, so you need to work harder on that. 

2. Do they talk about themselves in the review? Good reviewers don't talk about themselves, no; they talk about whatever they're reviewing. The over-use of I is a sign of an ego. The reviewer’s saying, "Look at me, look at me" and not here's a review.

3. Look at their other reviews. What kind of things do they say? Are they constructive in their criticism or venomous? Do they always seem to give good reviews to the top publishing houses, whilst slating self-published books or ones from smaller publishers?

I got a reviewer who admitted to not reading all of another book they reviewed because they "knew how it'd end." Why didn't he just read it then to see if he was right?

Another reviewer complained that a book with a bloody hand on the cover wasn't the erotic fiction they expected. Hey, I know what people do in their bedrooms is their business, but murder sex re-enactments? Now that is weird.

Does a good review come with a price tag?

4. Do they review for a site that charges for some books to feature on the site? I call these subsidy reviews. How likely are you to get a good review if you don't pay and are not with one of the big publishers who send them books and will probably stop sending them books if they start giving bad reviews? Mmm, we wonder.

5. Did the right person review the book?
There are books that have popular cross appeal, like books by Stephen King, but most books have a specific readership.

I wrote Hell To Pay as an escapist piece of fiction for women who were sick of seeing women being the victims of appalling crimes like rape and not getting justice. I gave the book the sub-title Die Hard for Girls.

A male reviewer on a well known book review website that charges some books up to £145 to be featured (I didn't pay them a penny because as well as paid for reviews they legitimise themselves by doing reviews for books like mines from commercial publishers) panned the book calling it "reverse misogyny" because my heroine Nancy got revenge on the men who raped her and murdered her parents. In fiction, clearly just like real life, women are allowed to be victims, but woe betide them if they fight back.

I disregarded his comment because the book's not aimed at men who think women should behave like they're in a Jane Austen novel. It's aimed at modern women who are just as likely to punch a mugger as hand over their handbag. I make no apologies for that. 

Other things to consider -

1. Look at all your reviews. What have other reviewers said - reviewers who aren't family or friends? If every reviewer hates your book, then you should start to worry.

2. Have you won any writing awards? Placed in any contests? Had good reviews on sites like or authonomy?

If you have, how can your writing be as bad as that review makes you think it is?

3. Do you have a history of getting published? Relive your successes.
Now, that feels better.

4. Look at reviews top authors have got on Amazon. Are they all five star glowing reviews? I doubt it.

Look at all of the one star reviews for authors who get advances in the hundreds of thousands or even the millions. 

Stephen King has got one star reviews, so has Harlan Coben and Frederick Forsyth. In the case of Day of the Jackal, one reviewer said "Derivative and lightweight. Another wannabe Ian Fleming best forgotten." 

Now get writing. The worst thing you can do after a bad review is to dwell on it.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

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