Dealing with Negative Reviews

written by Anisa A. Claire

No matter what you’re doing in life, you’re always going to face negativity. It’s the way you face it that will define your success.

Feedback is crucial for writers. You need to know what your readers genuinely think of your stories, poems or articles because they are your audience. Without an audience, you’re stuck writing for yourself, which is rewarding, as well, don’t get me wrong. However, if you want to branch out beyond yourself, and your friends and family, you will need to eventually find an audience. As I said previously, their feedback is crucial, but you need to learn to decipher what is useful and what is not.

Let’s start with the initial emotional response… Trust me when I say, you can read one thousand positive reviews and forget them all the moment you read a negative one. Be extremely aware of this because it is incredibly important when dealing with negative blow back. Don’t lose yourself in the negative review.

What I typically do is read it, sit on it, and then read it again. Why do I do this? Because my initial reaction isn’t going to be helpful to me. It’s tough taking harsh critique and it’s easy to allow yourself to justify all of the reasons you don’t need to listen to what they’re saying. In truth, they may have something to say that could potentially help you. After I’ve waited a while, sometimes I don’t go back until the next day, I then read it a second time and allow myself to consider exactly what is being said.

You have to weigh your genuinely positive reviews against your negative ones. If you have twenty people telling you they connected with the characters, loved the storyline, and want more… and then one person saying it was the worst story ever written… it’s possible you just didn’t connect with that one individual. Now, if you have eleven people telling you they connected with the story and characters and ten people saying the story was okay but the characters weren’t doing much for them, well, this is where you would want to listen to your negative reviewers, right? And now you know you have to work a little bit harder on your character development.

NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR WORK! I put that in CAPS LOCK because it is critically important for you, as a writer, to understand. If you look at ANYTHING in life, there is not one single thing that every single person likes. This can range from the ocean to the color of a car. We are all wired differently. For example, I don’t like red cars. I would never buy one. I prefer darker colored vehicles. However, there are a bazillion other people who LOVE red cars and wouldn’t buy anything but a red car. The same goes with stories. Not everyone will like or appreciate your stories, poems or articles. You will always have to find your target audience, and even then, people within your target audience may not like it. That’s just a fact of life. Don’t let it get you down! Because on the flip side, guess what? There will be people who love your work. Those are the people you need to find and connect with. But you will not please everyone, so don’t even bother trying. It’s unneeded stress and a waste of energy on your part.

Whatever you do, DO NOT respond publicly to negative reviews. It almost never ends well. As much as you want to defend your work… don’t do it. Vent to your friends and family, write out a reply and delete it, do whatever it takes but do not respond directly to a negative review. There are very few exceptions in this matter. Personally, I’ve only ever replied to one (possibly two) bad reviews on my 200+ Amazon reviews. As an example, the one reply was only because it sounded to me like the reviewer had received a misprinted book with a correct cover and a totally different interior. This does happen on Amazon sometimes, so I simply stated that it sounded like she may have possibly not received the proper interior and if this was the case she should contact Amazon to get a refund. The other time I replied to a review it was similar circumstances.

Sometimes you will receive negative reviews based on things that are entirely out of your control, such as paper quality or shipping mishaps. Again, do not reply to these kinds of reviews. Most people reading reviews understand that those kinds of reviews aren’t directed at the quality of your storytelling ability.

Having some negative reviews is actually helpful because if you have 100% five stars it can sometimes look fishy, even if they are all genuine. People assume that nothing is perfect, and that assumption would be correct. If there are negative reviews on an item, it makes them look more realistic. So don’t fret getting a few lower reviews. They can actually be a good thing.

Take a few moments to read reviews on some of your favorite authors. You will immediately see that even the best of the best receive bad reviews, too. It happens. It’s all a part of the process.

Don’t obsess over bad reviews. Read them. Take what you can from them. Don’t dwell on them. Obsessing over bad reviews isn’t going to do you any good. In fact, you’ll end up wasting a lot of energy where you could be spending it on something more productive, such as writing your next story.

I hope these tips help you! Believe in yourself and remember that with anything in life, there will be ups and there will be downs. Brush yourself off and keep going.


Author Notes

7 Comments for “Dealing with Negative Reviews”

reigny dai

says:

Hello All,
No one is more critical of my work than me. So, in terms of negative reviews from others, I fare well.
My stlye of writing is not meant for every one; I know that going in.

I go against what I see “all the time”, but just like I don’t dress or live for others, I don’t write for others, either. I write what and how I write. Those with similar tastes and an appreciation for my style gravitate toward me.

Even if it’s negative feedback, someone took time to comment on my work. That’s a positive.

says:

This post was incredibly timely, as I’m enrolled in my first collegiate creative writing class and we engage in several workshop sessions! My own piece was workshopped today, and though I’ve always taken criticism well, even sought for it, sometimes a reminder is necessary. Interestingly enough, writers aren’t allowed to contest any points made by critics during such workshop sessions. I too like to sit on my pieces before revisions, because being able to step away from the writing enables me to reflect on it with a more objective perspective.

anthea243

says:

I must admit, I do not respond well to negative reviews/criticism to my writing which I am trying to deal with. Yes, it is very hard when someone writes a negative comment regarding your writing only because of the time, work, and effort you put into it. Then someone comes along and cuts it up. I enjoyed reading the article and a lot of what was said made sense but it will take me quite a while to adapt to criticism–I need to grow tougher skin.

says:

Well said, Anisa. Everyone has their own unique voice, which will come through their writing. If we review to the point of changing their voice to our own, then we’ve done them an injustice.
But, I agree that we should look at our reviews and see what they see that we didn’t. Like you stated, not everyone is going to like your story, article or poem. We need to pick ourselves up off the floor and check our story again and then find another place to submit. Don’t stop at submitting to just one, but try several. You’ll eventually find a home for it, or, consider rewriting it or put it away and write another.
Having someone review your work is very helpful. I’ve edited hundreds of stories and books and I’ll find something to comment about: grammar; repetitiveness; typo; fleshing out characters, etc. I want to help and not hurt. So, hopefully, you will build a thicker skin and find that they are helping you in the end.
By the way, Stephen King is a good example of being rejected over and over until he finally found a home. Now look at him. Happy 70th birthday Stephen King.

Raymond Tobaygo

says:

Good morning, Anisa

I look forward to my work being reviewed by my peers as it helps one become a better writer. To have one savage your effort(s), though unfortunate, need not ruin your day if you let it. Ninety-nine percent of reviews are constructive which far outweighs the one that’s not.

Take care and stay safe,

Ray

says:

We can take the critique as gospel but should remember it is opinion. We can chose to learn from the review or drown in it. It is also helpful to remember it isn’t you your personal self that is being critiqued, but your work. Obviously if several are saying the same thing it needs acting on, but the odd dislike or rant … read it and move on.

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