Daily Archives: April 4, 2011

How to respond to a bad review

As I’m sure everyone has heard by now, there was an unfortunate incident last week in cyberspace when an author, smarting from her 2-star review, had a very public meltdown.

So, what should you do when you get a negative response? After all, you’ve put years and years of work into your novel, your characters are very personal, the tale you tell is personal, and in many senses having a novel is like having another child.

It goes without saying that you should never be rude. Not just because your mother told you not to, or because it’s good manners, or because you would be letting down the side, as we say in Britain. But because in a fundamentally practical way IT DOESN’T WORK TO BE RUDE. Think about it. The chances of convincing the other person of your point of view diminish considerably, and you harm your reputation. And if it goes viral on the web, as happened last week, the damage you do to yourself might become permanent.

What to do? Should you just take it?

Not necessarily

I see nothing wrong with answering negative comments providing that:

1. You have something to say that is valuable to the community at large,
2. You feel that there has been a genuine misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up
3. You are polite.

BUT if what you have to say to a negative review doesn’t fall under the above, or you are just too upset to think straight, then the best thing you can do is to be silent.

I know that silence sounds weak, the sort of thing a doormat might do. But that is an unhelpful myth. Silence can be a sign of strength. No-one can argue with someone who is silent, and no-one can lose dignity by being silent.

Why not give yourself a treat of a month, week or day away from cyberspace? Take a walk. Practice your violin. Paint. Sew. Quilt. Get on the phone and invite a friend to lunch. Do something that doesn’t involve typing on a computer.

Bad reviews hurt. They sting, and it can take some time to recover. It’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to be angry, and want to get back. But you should never ever have a public meltdown over it. Don’t ever forget that the messages you send out into the ether never go away. Never forget that any conversation you have over the web, however seemingly private, is public. If you remember that, you won’t write something that will come back later to bite.

If you have any stories you’d like to share, or tips on how to help writers who’ve suffered the bruising of a bad review, feel free to comment below.


–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


Filed under How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself