Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Deal With Bad Reviews

Publicly: Ignore them completely.

Privately: Complain like hell to anyone who will listen.

And to cheer yourself up, remember what the great Oscar Wilde used to say:







90 comments:

Melanie said...

Amen

Sasha Barin said...

Perfect pic!

Ted Fox said...

You might also try screaming at pigeons. I've never had a review, good or bad, but this seems like it might help.

Lisa Desrochers said...

Yup. No one book is going to appeal to every reader. You're never going to change their minds and you just come off looking bad for trying.

Richard Mabry said...

I noticed when my first two novels were made available as free Kindle downloads they garnered some bad reviews by people who were shocked that they had Christian content. Come on, people. They were free!

Now, that's my complaining. And I've otherwise kept my mouth shut. See, Nathan. I've taken your advice.

Mira said...

Very wise. I believe this is how one should approach their entire life. Especially the 'complain like hell' part. Very satisfying.

Here's an Oscar Wilde quote for you:

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much".

Oscar Wilde

Thanks for lightening things up a bit, Nathan. :)

Timothy Coote said...

You mean creating a big public shit fight is bad?

Lucinda Bilya said...

Awesome!

Voice your complaints to a two-year old. They seem to listen, agree with everything you say, and don't mind if you cry a bit.

They also don't repeat it. (if they do, no one understands them).

kellye said...

Well said, as usual. Love the photo/haters mashup. Haters gonna hate, and writers gonna write. Back to it...

kellye said...

Here's an Oscar Wilde quote for you:

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much".

Love that, Mira! Thanks!

Tahereh said...

hahahahaaaa

WIN

Stephanie Faris said...

I've never had an actual review, but I don't think we could exist as writers without getting feedback that hurts over the years. I've found that it hurts initially but it strengthens us in the long run. Kind of like working out tears muscle down so it can build back stronger. Of course, that's just the CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. The rest is just personal opinion and we know to toss that out because no book will appeal to all readers. It's not possible. Some people, however, are sure that their opinion is gold somehow and everyone should listen to them, not realizing that when it comes to any kind of art, there is no definite good or bad, only what each individual likes...

K. C. Blake said...

Great advice.

My first ebook, Vampires Rule, is going to be getting reviewed starting in June, and I am extremely nervous. My mom and I were talking about it the other day. A few of the book bloggers say they'll let you know if they're going to give you a bad review and you can ask them not to post it, but I think a bad review is better than no review. Most people want to judge a book for themselves and won't take someone else's opinion too seriously.

Caitlin said...

Haha love that picture! And how very true.

djpaterson said...

It's a pity Jacqueline Howett didn't subscribe to your views, Nathan: http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

See Elle Oh said...

Haha...love it!

Once again, the importance of a strong network of friends and fellow creative folks. Who else is going to listen to you complain, whilst ensuring you don't slosh red wine on things you really don't want to stain?

L.G.Smith said...

Quick and to the point. I like it.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Awesome!

Jenny Maloney said...

Important safety consideration: Do Not Burn Bad Reviews.

Remember that only you can prevent forest fires. =)

Mira said...

Kellye :)

Oscar Wilde is one of my favs, so clever (despite his issues with women).

If Nathan will indulge me, here's another one:

The play was a great success, but
the audience was a total failure"

— Oscar Wilde

Okay, I'll stop now. :)

Bri Clark said...

Hate on me haters hate on me....hmmm hmmm

Darlene Underdahl said...

Lived with it all my life...

wry wryter said...

Ms. Trite says:

To err is human and so is eating to much, drinking to oblivion, screwing to many strangers and spouting off your, opinions, thoughts and all around vitriol to a world of dingoes.

To forgive is not only divine it’s necessary.

E.J. Wesley said...

Is his chair made out of Wookie or Ewok?

Cynthia Lee said...

I used to have a roommate that would complain to a framed poster of Johnny Cash that he'd hung in his room.

He would talk to Johnny and then go quiet for a minute, like he was listening to what Johnny was saying, nod his head, and continue with his vent. It was both funny and creepy.

Hillsy said...

I stop eating cheese before bedtime

Melanie said...

"Is his chair made out of Wookie or Ewok?"

bwahahahahaha...

Matthew MacNish said...

The credit for this goes completely to Steve Abernathy, who you should know from the forums, but I love to think about Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer when it comes to negative reviews.

Dick Margulis said...

Funny. But while that's great advice for anyone whose work has actually been accepted for publication by a traditional publisher (large or small) and has been edited, it's perhaps not the best advice for the do-it-yourself publisher who just writes some drivel and uploads it to Smashwords. For that author, it would perhaps be helpful to take a deep breath and then to consider that the reviewer may have something to teach her. Reacting defensively, even in private, is not going to result in better writing.

Michael Offutt said...

Thanks for the great advice.

Mr. D said...

It's true for any art, be it writing, fine arts, performing arts, etc. Heck, it's even true for just being you. The haters are out there, and they will hate anything. Even apple pie!

Loree Huebner said...

Love it!

RobynBradley said...

And then, of course, there's always chocolate. :)

Bryce Daniels said...

Okay, so the guy had a few quirks. But this blog illustrates more than any what all of us, I think, aspire to. I would be ecstatic knowing my words were still being quoted a century after I left this world.

AderuMoro said...

Can't we try to look like goodie two-shoes in public and thank them for their time? :P Stephanie Faris and Dick Margulis both mention considering what they have to say to improve writing, and I don't disagree.

Mary Connealy said...

Hopefully you've built up a hide like a Rhino from years of abuse adn rejection before getting to the bad reviews.
All those years had to have SOME purpose, right?

Also, i've found sucking my thumb makes it a little better.
:)

D.G. Hudson said...

Smart guy - Oscar Wilde.

Had to visit his gravesite in Pere Lachaise to see the kisses covering the lower half of the monument. (there's a photo of the monument on my writing blog: (scroll down - it's on the right sidebar)

http://dghudson-rainwriting.blogspot.com/

Yeah, haters will hate--and sheep will follow like lemmings as they fall into the black hole that is swarming (of any kind).

Ignoring a bad review is best. It's there, so what. Consider the source, but use the 3 day rule if you must reply.

Most likely you'll cool off.

Anonymous said...

You can also get them back in future novels. You have to be discreet. But there are ways :)

It's great therapy to eat a reviewer for dinner in fiction. You're safe there. And no one can point any fingers.

Nick Lewandowski said...

HA!

Brightened my day significantly.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

And Wilde also said:

A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

Laura said...

reading a book is so subjective. Just because one reviewer hates it, doesn't mean they all will. It's one person's opinion. it should not be taken personally.

J. T. Shea said...

How to deal with bad reviews? That's what hitmen are for.

Timothy, of course creating a big public shit fight isn't bad.

Lucinda, don't just complain TO a two-year-old, complain LIKE a two-year-old. Terrible tantrums are just the ticket.

Jenny, burn the REVIEWERS instead of the reviews.

Krista D. Ball said...

Sage advice: tell your dog. She will listen, cuddle, and tell you that it's going to be fine.

Do not tell your cat. He will say how shocked he was that it took this long to get a bad review and he thought your book was rubbish from the first moment you told him your plot.

Oh, and you have a typo on page 237.

Now, feed me.

The Red Angel said...

I take criticism harshly, so whenever I received bad reviews I smile and nod and take them with as much grace as the Queen, and then rant later on to my two poor turtles.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

JohnO said...

I had one, from a supposedly reputable organization whose name you would recognize, that got the plot completely ass-backwards.

But, you know, I'm taking Oscar Wilde's advice (that Mira so helpfully posted). No biggie, Supposedly Reputable Organization. I'm sure you were trying your very best.

Pamala Knight said...

*Chuckles* Really? I missed that exact quote from Wilde. But, I get the message and it's totally on point. Thanks for reminding us, Nathan.

Emily Hill said...

Have You heard what is happening to Michael Connelly?

Bad reviews for bad pricing! As a storm of protests roll in on his (some say) over-priced Kindle titles, he and his publisher are nursing a black eye this week.

Ouch! I'd love for someone to get a quote from his on this topic.

Steph Sinkhorn said...

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaha. Well-played, Nathan. And solid, simple advice, too.

Lyra said...

This is fantastic.

Now Nathan, does this go for positive reviews as well, or is "Thanks, Mom!" too much?

Anonymous said...

Wry wryter, ha, great quote.

jesse said...

He was eloquent, fo sho.

Stacey Thompson-Geer said...

There was also a study done that bad reviews can actually improve sales on a book too for a bit. I read that someplace and wish I still had the link. :P

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Or you can read Hilde's Top 10 thinks to to with a rejection letter and apply it to your reviews.
http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/hildes-top-ten-things-to-do-with.html

Anonymous said...

"reading a book is so subjective. Just because one reviewer hates it, doesn't mean they all will. It's one person's opinion. it should not be taken personally."

There's a lot more to it than that. I used to think the same thing. But then found out how competitive the world of online book reviewing really is. Many of these reviewers are constantly looking for ways to promote themselves. Some even have adds and make money. It's often more about politics than anything esle. And making money.

Leila said...

I think the best medicine is time and perspective. Time heals all wounds, as they say, and perspective allows us to step back and put criticism in the context it belongs. Away from our ego. (Even though it would feel as if one has been mortally wounded at the time)

The world doesn't revolve around a bad review, and it won't end either. And if getting a bad review is the worst thing that's ever happened in your life, then you are one lucky person.

ginapennfiction.com said...

Sometimes a bad review can sell more books than a good one.

MJR said...

I got a bad review in School Library Journal (ouch, ouch!), but I survived. I didn't think the review was fair so I wrote a polite letter explaining why. Next time, I'll write the letter, but won't send it! The bad review was tempered by the great letters I've received from kids...and a couple of other nicer reviews...

robinC said...

Love it!

Margaritas and singing the explicit version of Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" works in many, many, situations too...

Privately of course...

Anonymous said...

Krista D. Ball, funny! Cats are awesome.

Anonymous said...

Except - except! - when the "reviewer" steps beyond the story, and takes the writer to task for something she said in the Q&A, passing judgment on their life? Given that publishers ask writers to include these interviews, and one may say a provocative thing or two, it puts a writer in a very tough spot.

Also, what of "reviewers" who are bloggers, and fully admit to sloppiness, being rushedness, or just basically glancing at work you, the writer may have spent twelve years on.

While I appreciate your advice, the publishing industry's kowtowing to - for example - bloggers, who bring not much to the table except SEO value (and are often only looking for content to slap up on their advertising driven endeavors), is nauseating.

Oscar Wilde didn't live in a time when a "review" would go live, and then - vis the wonder of linked twitter feeds, metastasize all over the net.

Sharky said...

The guy who wrote this article:

http://www.theawl.com/2011/04/how-to-tell-a-playwright-you-didn%E2%80%99t-like-his-play

Should really read THIS article.

Because this article is far more helpful. And it has Oscar Wilde, which is a semi-automatic win.

(And seriously, that guy won't last two seconds on youtube)

Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the need to complain to my pet Tribble.

G said...

RAmen!

Danette Haworth said...

Haha! So true! Some reviewers don't like your book--okay--but mean spirited reviews are a different story. I'm going Sheen on this one: WINNING!

Nicole Zoltack said...

That's what I do. I don't respond to negative reviews. You can never do it and not come across as whining. Better to say nothing at all. Everyone gets bad reviews, it's the nature of the beast of putting your writing out into the wild and letting anyone and everyone read it.

Sally Hepworth said...

HA! Thanks for the laugh. Excellent advice.

Martha Ramirez said...

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kaily Hart said...

Simple, but invaluable advice.

The Team at Shelfstealers said...

The study about the impact of a bad review on book sales (referred to in another comment) can be found here:

http://www.stanford.edu/~asorense/papers/Negative_Publicity2.pdf

Here's another reference to the study:

"Is all publicity good publicity? Are all reviews—even bad ones—good for books? The answer, according to a new study by the journal Marketing Science, depends on whether the writer is well known or unknown. The study examined the impact of a New York Times review on the sales of more than 200 hardcover titles. For books by established writers, a negative review led to a 15% decrease in sales. For unknown authors, a negative review increased sales by a healthy 45%."

Makes you wonder if debut authors should solicit bad reviews. (Just kidding.)

Cheers,
Sheryl J. Dunn
Chief Thief (a.k.a. CEO)
www.shelfstealers.com
publishing great books the majors missed

Magaly Guerrero said...

Indeed!

Cathi said...

I've decided if I ever get to the point where I get reviews...I'm not going to read them - good or bad. I think they would be terribly distracting.

Renee Collins said...

I was WONDERING who first said that phrase! ;)

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

I don't think I've ever responded to a "public" review, good or bad and I've gotten both.
But a bad review is more helpful, (once the sting is gone.) I take them more seriously than a good one (depending on how well the bad review is written.) I know I can learn something there.
The same way we learn more from reading bad writers than we do good ones.

djmorel.com said...

Another strategy in addition to all of the worthy advice above: if the reviewer is also a writer, go and read his or her 1-star reviews. I haven't had an official review yet, but I have got rejection letters from published writers, a few that seemed a bit harsh. I e-mailed a thank you for the personal response and feedback on my work, then had a good laugh as I read the 1-star reviews of that person's work... and then got back to the writing.

Ray Anderson said...

I believe he also said "Living long is the best revenge."

Other Lisa said...

What about, "Drink heavily"? Surely that belongs on the list.

And Kristen, I have to disagree -- my cats have been awesome!

Lizzie's Blog said...

Hahaha best Oscar Wilde quote ever. ;-)

chris said...

For Aussie-based readers you can watch an interview with Ken Follet here (http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/742120) talking about bad reviews ... and other writer-type stuff in general.

Sorry overseas viewers, address above is geo-restricted to Australia.

Cathy Keaton said...

Lol... Oscar Wilde knew somethin' 'about the haterz...

Jeff S Fischer said...

What have 'ya.

Liz Fichera said...

I heart Oscar Wilde!

C.E. Hart said...

LOL
And don't forget chocolate. ;)

Michelle Muto said...

Professionalism. Always. Remember that what goes on the 'net, stays on the net. That's not always a good thing. Not everyone is going to love your book. That's just the way it is.

Michelle Muto

traceybaptiste said...

AWESOME!

Tony Eldridge said...

I love it! You nailed it better than I could have said it.

terryd said...

Fine post, Nathan.

I have three responses to bad reviews:

Ignore, as per OW (99% of the time)

Swear that I'll fight for the free speech rights of all, whether or not they like my book (which can make human critics feel not-so-fresh, I think)

Write something akin to Toby Wolfe's BULLET IN THE BRAIN (which is about a critic running his mouth and thereby bringing about the lovely title event)

Andy R - UK said...

I had the misfortune of being given a book in the late 80's (thank God I didn't have to pay for it), by one of the bestselling authors at the time. I ploughed through two chapters of total s**t before calling it a day. I remember thinking, bloody hell, I was writing better stuff than this in fifth form; I need to find his agent NOW! Lah de dah de dah. Lah de dah de dah. No punctuation other than full stops; not my cup of tea, I'm afraid.
I never did get to read a review of that book, shame really. It was another chart topping bestseller though! ;-)

Jeanettethewriter said...

If by a bad review you mean the reader didn't like the book, but gave constructive criticism, then I say take it in, and realize that not everyone will love your work. A successful author once told me, never argue with someone who's read your work, and criticizes it. However, if the review is simply mean-spirited, without any helpful suggestions, then I agree, ignore it, and feel sorry for the reviewer. It must be hard to be such a jerk.

Tiger Princess said...

Perfect!

clindsay said...

I would say to ignore even in private. I've heard too many third-hand stories of writers who complained about a bad review "privately"; it never remains private and inevitably the writer comes off looking juvenile for not just sucking it up and moving on.

Karen S. Elliott said...

Excellent (and concise) advice. I'm going to link to this post in a blog of my own. Thanks, Nathan.

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