Handling (and Embracing) Negative Criticism


It happened.

I got my very first 1 star review on one of my books.

Strangely… I’m ok with that.

Now, I’m certainly not going to lie to you and say that it didn’t sting.  Every five minutes, Periodically, i check my review stats from my author page on amazon. Well, when I checked this morning, Strictly Professional had 7 reviews. The last time I looked, it only had 5, so I was excited! Then, I noticed that the nearly 5 star rating had been dropped to barely a four.

What the hell?!

I knew immediately that it meant someone had left a 1 star review, to pull it that low.

While I’m waiting on the page to load, I’m wracking my brain, trying to figure out what this review is going to say.  Is it just someone being spiteful, or a troll? Did they think my writing was bad? Were there heinous typos? What could possibly be so bad that I deserved a 1 star?

Well, they just didn’t like it. They didn’t like my main characters, the secondary characters, the plot, the ending, none of it. They just plain didn’t like it.  And that’s ok.

Again, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me at all.  It’s always a bit of a blow to your confidence when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.  I’ve received so much positive feedback from readers that SUCH a negative one makes me wonder.  Are my friends lying to me? Do the people who enjoyed the book just have bad taste? DO I SUCK AS AN AUTHOR?!  The answer to all of those questions is no.

It just wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, and it’s her prerogative to share that!

If you’re an artist of any kind, it’s really important to have a thick skin, so that you don’t take every criticism of your work as a criticism of you. I’m still working on that, but I can honestly say that I’m grateful for every bit of criticism, good or bad.

My first book, Love and Other Things got pretty consistently positive reviews.  With that said, I received the same complaints over and over about the editing, and the fact that the 3rd section of the book felt rushed/was too short.

They aren’t lying on me!

didn’t make sure that editing was on point by having some other people go over it with a red pen for me. I did it myself, which I now know is not the best idea. I did rush through the last section a little, because I was anxious to get it published.  Those are valid criticisms, and you know what I did with them?

I used them to make me better.

With Strictly Professional, I recruited every friend that was willing (and if you want to add yourself to this list, lemme know) to read the entire manuscript for me.  Do you see grammar, spelling, consistency errors? Point them out.  Is my main character acting outside of her character? Point it out.  Does anything seem rushed, not flow well? Point it out.  We picked it to death, and sometimes I would open my document, see all of the callouts and just think, shit. This is a lot!  But I wanted to put forth something I could be proud of, and I did.

The criticism of that book allowed my second project to be better.  So, I embrace new reviews, of all types, good or bad.  The good ones always put a smile on my face, and the negative ones…. well, after I call you every type of bitch under the sun, I’ll go back to it, and really look at it to see what I can pull out of it to to improve what I do.

Of course, there ARE those people who will leave a negative review for a completely off the wall reason.  On my book’s UK page, I’ve got one bad review that was left because I’m not the Christina Jones that she thought I was, so she didn’t read the book.  Yes, you read that right.  She downloaded a book by the wrong author, so she left a 1 star review.  Then, there’s the case of a friend, who received a 1 star review because the reviewer didn’t like her cover art.  Some people are just shitty people!

Anyway though,  go forth readers, and leave reviews, but don’t be shitty about it, lol! Authors, especially us Indies, thrive on them.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and say “Hey, I liked this, but you use the word “greasy” way too much, or whatever bugged you about it.  We use this, and do our bests to give you a better product next time.

Fellow authors, try not to sweat the less than positive feedback.  As long as they aren’t just being assholes for the sake of doing it, you can learn so much from it!

What about you? Do you try to leave thorough, critical feedback when you review a book?  If you’re a writer, how do you handle negative reviews/comments?

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7 years ago

Well you already know how I feel about this since we discuss it often but like you, I appreciate reviews of all types. If you’re going to leave a negative review we do ask that it be something we can take away from it and use. It does help us become better at what we’re trying to do.

7 years ago

I have not read the second one as of yet but loved the first one.. You gonna have people who will love your book and some that will hate it. Same thing we go through with the logos and websites we do good gawd we have some wonderful customers that love what we do then we have some customers that I be cussing them out in my head. Keep doing you the world does not revolve around one star type people. Would love to get you on the magazine too to showcase your books let me know when you ready.

7 years ago

I’d love to edit, add me to your list.

Dahlia Savage
7 years ago

Well, I understand how you feel…I got a 2 star and it was roughly for the same reason you got your less than favorable. She didn’t like it, said it wasn’t what she expected in terms on length (though everything I’ve put out about the story clearly indicates it is a novella, not a full-length novel) then proceeded to spoil the whole plot. That was my first review and it was definitely discouraging, but then to receive all good feedback after that definitely helped me get over. At the end of the day, I know that everybody is not going to like what I wrote, and I’m okay with it.

Candace (NYStateofMom)

And this is why you won’t be Tyler Perry-ish! I cant tell you how many of his movies I sat through and thought “Why didn’t he yell cut and have them do that scene over?” or “Yea, he ran out of ideas and rushed the end” if you learn from critiques you can only get better, glad you took the good out of it.

5 years ago

After reading the current sample (thanks again for that), I saw the link to this story. I actually swore out loud (b*llsh!t, if you’re curious) when I read the title. Even though we don’t know each other, you are one of my BFFs in my mind and was offended that you received a 1 star review. Even if “Strictly Professional” or frankly any of your books wasn’t quite someone’s cup of tea, none (and I read them all) were even close to worthy of a 1star review! I’m happy you considered it and attempted to use it to improve your craft but my guess is that person hadn’t read enough books to know when one truly deserves such a low-scoring review. While there are books of yours that I love more than others, none of them are bad!

I won’t lie, after I read that you are accepting names to add to your list of prepublication readers, i didn’t finish reading the rest of your post. I was too excited…PLEASE add me to your list (if the offer still stands). Happy writing and I’m looking forward to “Inevitable Seductions”!!

5 years ago

This post should be shared with authors far and wide. As a reader, there is so much truth here and you hit the nail on the head when you said “an artist of any kind needs to have though skin”…. As much as I love reading, it’s subjective, and everything ain’t for everybody. More often than not, a review provides a lot of constructive cricitism to an author and nothing shows your appreciation more than taking that feedback and improving upon it. So for that I say, thank you!

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