Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Got bored. Didn't finish this.

These five little words literally ruined my day and several days following. Five words! It was a review of my novel, Women of Washington Avenue. She gave me two stars. I didn't know what to do with this cold slap in the face. I wanted to get angry, but I knew how ridiculous that would be. Everyone has different tastes. 88% of my reviews were 5 stars.

As the day wore on those five little words still haunted me. So I did some sleuthing and checked out her other reviews and found she has only reviewed five books, including mine. Five stars were awarded to a book about a liver-eating mountain man. Another was a WWII survival story, also five stars. Then there was a five-star book about the Navaho code. 

Well, no wonder.

Obviously she liked historical books, which prompted another question. Why the heck did she buy a feel-good book about four fifty-something friends who were too old to be young and too young to be old getting a second chance at love? Of course she got bored. Even worse, none of my gals ate liver. Maybe she heard me speak at a conference and took a chance on me. I'm sorry it didn't work out for her. 

All kidding aside, I had to step back and give some grace. It would have been much better if this person had been more gracious, writing something like, not my style of book and given two stars. But she didn't.

Years ago I entered my historical manuscript in a Publishers Weekly debut novel contest. It had won second place in a previous contest so I felt pretty good about it. I made the first two cuts in this contest. But then reality hit. The reviewer SLAMMED IT. At least he took the time to give the reasons he didn't like it. After I stopped the bleeding and recuperated, I took another look at his review. That's when I learned how to turn a negative into a positive. 

So what should we do with a bad review?

  1. Look for any merit in the critique. There may be some credible adjustments that need to be made. The PW reviewer said my protagonist was whiney. Hmmm, come to think of it, she was pretty much a brat.
  2. Realize not everyone is the same. My bored reviewer is a perfect example. My friend, Normandie Fischer, got a weird review recently. The person gave her book, From Fire Into Fire, one star and wrote, 'unread.' Unread? Really? Thankfully, Amazon deleted the review, but not before Normandie's fans came to her defense. 
  3. Never explain or defend ourselves. We shouldn't give any credibility to the negative review by our hurt feelings. 
  4. Don't give up. A bad review is one person's opinion. It certainly does not mean we cannot write. Again, learn from it. 
  5. Re-read our  good reviews. 
I just gotta tell ya, there is a bright side to my two-star review. She only gave John Gresham's book a one-star. Hey, that counts for something, right? 

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  1. Great way to look at bad reviews. They're going to happen, because you just can't please everyone. I remember trying to explain to my daughter why there were different churches on every corner--the same reason that folk like different kinds of clothes--variety of taste. Now, if we face a preponderance of negative reviews, perhaps we ought to go back to the drawing board!

  2. Enjoyed your take on bad reviews. As writers we're told to have thick skin. I'm here to tel you, I could grow 5 more layers of skin and a bad review will still hurt. :) But we write and learn, taking the good with the bad. Thx for a great article. Helpful!

  3. I love the last line! Great tips as well as encouragement. ��

  4. I love the last line! Great tips as well as encouragement. ��

  5. I hope John Grisham knows what great company he's in--or is that "I hope JG knows in which company he's great"? At any rate, thanks for a wonderful post, Linda :-)

  6. I felt the same way after getting my first 1-star a couple of months ago. It's crazy, but it feels better knowing that 1-stars happen to all authors. And most reviews are positive. As an author, I never leave negative reviews. But my 1-star was from another author, so you never know why and how people rate the way they do. Thanks for sharing your experience!