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On Getting A Bad Review

It’s important when promoting your book to get reviews, from credible reviewers. But remember this: credible reviewers are only credible because there’s no guarantee they’ll like what you wrote. Some may hate it.

Some reviewers who don’t like your book will simply refuse to review it. Others will give negative reviews. You can imagine my feelings when I read this little beauty:

Firstly, he didn’t even finish the book. So how he makes comments such as, ‘the footnotes….are universally unnecessary’ escapes me. The ones he read might seem that way, but he obviously didn’t read many.

Secondly, contrary to his claims, Scar was professionally edited. Nor is it ‘a collection of first-draft ideas rushed to completion’. From conception to publication, Scar took the best part of a decade to write, and about thirty seconds to trash.

Finally, all of his criticisms concern the font or layout of the book. He’s the only reviewer to comment that the book was physically difficult to read, and the only reviewer to write a review that doesn’t mention anything about the writing or the story, concerning himself only with the physical properties of the book.

I could go on.

But here’s the thing: I asked this reviewer for his opinion. In fact, I hounded him for it; you have to when you’re a self-published author trying to get reputable reviews. He gave his opinion. I don’t agree with him, and I don’t agree with writing a review of a book you didn’t finish, but that’s really his call.

Once you put your book out into the public domain, it becomes vulnerable to exactly this. Some people are not going to like it. This is what it means to be published; the public are free to read and judge your book in any way they see fit, bringing to it their own tastes, preferences, prejudices and biases. This goes double for reviewers, who usually have a stack of books waiting to be read, and don’t have a lot of time to devote to fully understanding every nuance of your project.

So take it on the chin. Know that this is all part of the game. The best response to a bad review is silence. I managed that, more or less, until this post. Do as I say, not as I do, I guess. It’s hard – no, it’s impossible not to take it personally when you get a bad review, for me at least. But I asked for this; firstly by publishing a book at all, and secondly by aggressively seeking reviews for it. This all goes with the territory. If you’re not ok with that, don’t publish.

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