All book reviews aren’t created equal. In fact, some can be downright nasty. The very first review of my book, My Horrible Gay Dating Life, was well…horrible.
Unfortunately, negative book reviews take a toll on the writer. Like many others, I fell into the trap of self-doubt and confusion. Was I the only one whose first book review was negative? Did this mean I shouldn’t write anything else? Where did I go from here?
Bad book reviews are a part of the profession. They’re also necessary and can help you become better. So, the question becomes: how does a writer benefit from negative reviews? Well, I have a few ideas based on my own experience.
You Learn Not to React
A rookie mistake is to immediately respond to a bad book review. This can range from a simple “Thank You” comment to a long, angry letter. Regardless, a response isn’t necessary. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind. Your time is better suited on other things, such as writing.
You Learn to Spotlight the Positives
Not every review you receive will be negative. Or positive. It’s usually a mixture of the two. When you get caught up in the bad reviews you tend to forget about the positive feedback. Take the time to remind yourself that people enjoyed your book. Your sanity will thank you for it.
You Learn to Just Ignore it
Bad feedback is a part of every day life. Responding to negativity is exhausting in general. Taking the time to focus on it will drain your passion for your craft. At times, it’s best to just “keep scrolling.”
You Stop Taking it Personally
It’s easy to take every review to heart. After all, this is a book that you poured all of your heart and soul into. You probably see it as an extension of your very being, right? Most reviewers don’t know anything about you beyond your book. So, there’s no need to take what they write as a personal attack. You haven’t committed a crime. You’ve made a work of art.
You Learn How to Take Criticism
The best bad book reviews are the ones where the critic offers helpful advice. If you look hard enough, you can find a bit of truth in even the worst feedback. No one is a perfect writer. Every time your fingers touch the keyboard, you have a chance to improve your craft. Being open to criticism is a crucial part of that process.
You Learn Not Everybody is a Critic
There’s a difference between a seasoned reviewer and a troll who just wants to bash everything. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Internet, trolls should be easy to spot. What is there to gain from troll reviews? Usually nothing, right? Hone in on the reviews from critics who have something of value to say.
You Learn Not Everybody Will Like it (Or Has to)
Think of all the books you’ve ever read. Did you like every single one? Most likely there were some you weren’t impressed with. And that’s okay. You don’t have to like everything you read, and not everyone has to like your book.
You Remember Why You Write in the First Place
Whether it’s because it’s your calling or because you want to make money, there’s a reason you’re doing this. De-cluttering your mind of negativity and self-doubt helps put that into perspective.
So, What’s Next?
Now that you know bad book reviews can be useful tools, it’s business as usual. Start another book or revise the one you’ve already completed. It’s up to you. Just remember that somebody is going to love what you put out there.