What If They Hate My Book? Coping with Negative Reviews

Is fear of negative reviews holding you back? Everyone has doubts and trepidation before they publish their book and a big one is a fear of what happens next. When I was first published, some 17 years ago now, I recall having nightmares that people hated my book so much that they were chasing my down… [Read More]

how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comIs fear of negative reviews holding you back? Everyone has doubts and trepidation before they publish their book and a big one is a fear of what happens next. When I was first published, some 17 years ago now, I recall having nightmares that people hated my book so much that they were chasing my down the street, throwing copies at me. Seriously. Even now, after 16 books, I still have concerns that each book will be hated. I know I’m not the only one, and I’m sure this fear has meant that a lot of great books never get published.

When authors ask me, “What if they hate my book?” my inevitable answer is “They might. But they might love it, too.” Candidly, there isn’t much you can do to get past the fear except to publish your book anyway. And even if you have written the best book on the planet, someone somewhere will dislike it. It may be surprising to you now, but you may even welcome constructive criticism since it can help you improve in the long run.

I’ve experienced this first-hand with the first edition of Red Hot Internet Publicity. A blogger hated it so much (and wrote a scathing review) that it felt very personal. In fact, he could have written something a lot less angry, but a lot of his points were right on, and I incorporated his ideas (rants) into the next edition. My point is—some people want to hate, and they shouldn’t matter; don’t let a few bad apples spoil your experience.how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Your Essential Checklist

With that said, if you really aren’t sure if your book is ready to be published, here’s a checklist you can review to make sure you’ve done your due diligence:

1. Professional Cover Design - People do judge a book by its cover so get it designed professionally. If you designed your cover yourself, if it features art by your best friend (who is not a professional cover designer), or in any way seems amateurish, it’s time to hire a professional. Not sure? Ask someone who doesn’t know you personally and doesn’t feel obligated to sugar-coat their answer.

2. Professional Editing - Have your book professionally edited by someone you aren’t good friends with. You want someone who can give you honest feedback about the book. In fact, I personally feel that if I don’t dislike my editor at some point, she isn’t doing her job. Your edits should make you feel uncomfortable. Because that will help you grow.

3. Know Your Book's Topic - Is your book relevant and interesting? Is it worth killing trees over? Are you the right person to write the book? If you are not a credible expert on the subject, it may be worthwhile to get a co-author or find someone trained in the area to write a forward that lends you—and your book—credibility.

4. A Knockout Book Description - Your book description should be accurate and compelling. If it overpromises something that your book doesn’t deliver, it will show in your reviews. Need help? Check out my previous post for some great tips.

If you’ve check these four boxes off and you’re confident that you’ve done the best you can do, it’s time to publish!

How to Handle Book Bloggers and Negative Reviews

And, now that you’ve published and are starting to pitch book bloggers, the reviews are starting to come in. Readers’ opinions ultimately boil down to personal preferences, and some people probably won’t love your book. It’s easy to read reviews where people love your book, but what do you do about the negative reviews? I just spent the first half of the article talking about why you should publish anyway, so how do you move past a bad review?
In fact, this just happened with an author I know. A book blogger requested the book, then responded and said she couldn’t give the book a great review after reading it. She asked for feedback but found that the blogger’s reasons had nothing to do with the writing but more personal opinions and preferences.

Constructive Criticism -  Use Your Feedback

how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

If this happens to you, then the first thing you want to do is step back. This author did the right thing by asking for feedback. After you get this take a step back for a day or two. It’s not personal, but it can be hard to remember that and read through criticism clinically. Ask yourself, was it really about the writing? or a direct hit on the story? There’s a difference. Unless they are citing numerous grammatical or formatting errors, there isn’t much to do outside of chalking it up to a learning experience. Incorporate suggestions into your next book, or if nonfiction, into the next edition.

Know Your Audience

Did you pitch the right blogger? If they didn’t like it because they didn’t like the story, then make sure you are pitching the right blogger. Most of them are very particular, and if your genre is gray area or even outside their lines, that could be a big clue as to why they didn’t like it.

Reviews on Amazon

how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

There’s definitely some give and take on this site. Sometimes I see negative reviews there that just baffle me. I had an author who got a review from a reader who clearly thought they bought a horror book, when the book cover and description, clearly showed it was a love story. “I needed more gore,” the reviewer wrote. Sometimes people miss it by a mile, and there’s nothing you can do about the occasional hater. But if you find yourself getting a lot of low-star reviews, you may want to ask yourself why.

how to avoid & handle negative feedback for authors by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.comWhat everything boils down to is: did you write a good book or a bad book? When you pour your heart and soul into something, you want it to be something the world appreciates—whether as entertainment, educational, or something that will make a difference. Book sales, fame, and a movie deal are rare, at best. What ultimately matters is how your book stands up to others in its genre. And, in the end, if you’ve done your best, publish your book despite your fears.


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2 thoughts on “What If They Hate My Book? Coping with Negative Reviews”

  1. I will admit, when a reader left a one-star rating and bad review on my first published novel, it came as a shock and put a dent in my ego. My feelings were definitely hurt. I would like to say I’ve developed rhino-thick skin since then, and that less-than-stellar reviews don’t bother me anymore, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. They still sting. Just not as badly as they used to.

    1. I hear you — same for me. My first negative review had me rocking in a corner. Good for you for building up a good mental strategy to deal with these, when and if they happen! Good luck!

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