I recently received an email from a friend of mine, Randy Ingermanson, an author who helps out other authors. He had in the body of his email advice about how to deal with reviews, good and bad.
All authors receive reviews. Not all of them are good. Some can be considered hurtful in nature only if you let them. There is no legitimate reason to respond to bad reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how screwed up that opinion may be.
Here’s Randy’s advice on dealing with reviews.
What to do about bad reviews
Every few weeks, I hear from one or another of my
author friends who’s in tears over horrifying news:
Somebody out there hates her writing. Somebody out
there hates her writing violently. Somebody out there
has written a vicious review.
Yes, that hurts. It stings, in fact. It makes you want
Just ignore it.
Get on with your writing.
Look, bad reviews are a fact of life. Even if you write
your heart out, somebody somewhere is going to think
your writing sucks. Somebody somewhere is going to say
so right out in public.
There’s just no way around that.
I think every writer on the planet secretly fears that
his/her writing really isn’t any good.
Almost every writer on the planet, anyway. I’ve met a
very few writers who honestly thought they were
brilliant, amazing, inspired by God, and due for
millions of dollars as soon as the publishers could
quit tripping over each other to write the advance
Roughly half of the writers who believe that are
stupendously awful. The other half are stupendously
The rest of us all privately fear that we’re frauds.
When we read a horrible, biting, savage review, we
So don’t read your reviews.
Oh, all right, if you really must have an ego boost, go
ahead and read your 5-star reviews. You are allowed to
believe the least-flattering ten percent of whatever
sweet fibs they say about you.
But don’t read the other reviews.
A nasty review can leave you fuming all day.
A nasty review can paralyze you.
A nasty review can make you try to change yourself –
to be somebody else. That’s the worst thing you can do.
If you go changing yourself willy-nilly, just to please
some slimeball who trashed you in public, then you’re
Strong words, yes, but true. Be yourself. Don’t be an
As a writer, all you have is yourself. If that’s not
good enough, then it’s not good enough, and maybe you
ought to go into a less risky career.
Blind-folded lion-taming, for instance.
Real life is about taking reasonable risks to do what
If you have fans whom you’re pleasing with your
writing, then your task is to please them with more of
Trying to change yourself to please people who hate you
is likely to ruin the very thing that your fans love
Don’t do that.
Yes, it’s fine to always try to improve your writing.
Everybody can improve. Everybody should try to improve.
Improvement means making your strengths more amazing
and your weaknesses more acceptable.
To improve on your weaknesses, ask a professional
editor to point out things you need to work on and ask
her to show you techniques that might help you improve.
To improve on your strengths, ask your fans what they
love about your writing. Then try to do that better.
It’s possible that a professional editor might be able
to help you with your strengths, but it’s not a sure
thing. After all, you’re the one with the strength.
Unless the editor also has that same strength, she
might only be able to show you how to dilute your
strength to be like everybody else. That’s not what you
Protect the flame that powers your writing. Don’t read
negative reviews. They won’t help you and they might
What about when somebody helps you out by sending you a
That’s a toughie. You have to read your e-mail, right?
Do you? When you get an unsolicited commercial e-mail,
how long does it take to realize that this is something
you don’t want, sent by somebody you don’t know?
Once you see that, do you read the whole thing?
When somebody sends you a poison e-mail, you’ll get the
flavor pretty fast. But no law requires you to read the
If it helps you, make an e-mail folder just for these
folks and label it “Nasty People.”
That makes it clear that they’re the one with the
problem, not you.
When you get a hate-spewing e-mail, take your revenge
by throwing it in with all the other Nasty People.
Leave them to spew bile on each other until the end of
time. That’s your revenge. Your whole revenge. Nothing
could be worse for them.
Then forget about them and get on with your writing.
You have true fans who love your writing. Write for
them and only for them.
- Randy Ingermanson
There will always be someone out there that writes a bad review. It’s as Randy said, a fact of life and part of being an author. Don’t get all worked up and butthurt about what they say and don’t ever change the way you write in an attempt to please them. Above all, never think that this is a personal attack against you.
Never, under any circumstances, respond to a bad review. No matter how tempting it may be to lay into a reviewer who had a difference of opinion about your work, it just isn’t worth it. You, as the author, need to adopt one of these two mindsets in regard to bad reviews.