A negative review hits like a bullet straight to the heart by Linda Rae Blair

Author Linda Rae Blair
Author Linda Rae Blair

One moment you are a self-confident author and the next you are a shaky, weepy blob of human being with your confidence smashed and a lump in your throat the size of your fist. Then your defenses kick in. Your brain child has been insulted for absolutely NO good reason. Some sadistic person has targeted your work unfairly, and you cannot understand how anyone can be so downright mean! Now you’re getting angry.

Okay, it’s time for a reality check here.

What does a negative review tell you, anyway? Really!?

Read it again…does it really say what your brain registered the first time around? Perhaps not. Perhaps the reader is saying more about him/herself than about your writing. Example: The reader complains that something was wrong with the formatting that made it difficult for him/her to “work” his/her way through the book. Rather than take the time to get through it, he/she gave up and gave you a 1-star hit.


But what does that really say? The reader put your book down after a few pages, so it really isn’t about your writing! There’s a problem with the formatting. This might be something you can fix. Unfortunately, you may not be able to tell what device the reader is using and may have to dig a little to find the problem, but this is probably something you can do something about, if you care enough about your work to do it.

If the reviewer says that he/she (okay, I give up…let’s call this dolt…uh, kind person a he)…he can’t take the changes in point of view. Think about your work. Did you change POV within a paragraph, page or chapter? Never in a paragraph…a POV change can be okay within a page or chapter if you warned the reader first by setting it off with “***” or use some other device to communicate the change to the reader. If you know you use ye olde ***, then the issue is with the reader’s lack of familiarity with the method or inability to mentally switch speakers. Personally, I absolutely LOVE using *** to bring in the thoughts of someone else at the scene of a crime or investigation. So, once again you may have a reader issue, not a writer issue.

Read the review carefully and determine whether the problem is really with the reader or with your work. Your work can be fixed. The reader cannot.

A dear friend once told me of a tee-shirt illustration his wife showed him.

“Take your dog’s example…if you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and move on!”

So either play around with your work to fix the issue, swallow hard and take the warning or–well, don’t take it tooooo literally–just move on.

A review can be a wonderful thing and not all work is appreciated by all readers at all times. Your reader may have been having a bad day. He may be of low IQ–alright, scoff, but you never know. He may read one book every five years, so what does his opinion matter? Or, he just might be impatiently and frustratingly honest about a real problem, but uses the star count instead of his comments to let you know what he thinks.

Reviewers Beware A writer cannot get useful information about his writing from a star, only from the honest comments provided about specific issues. If you’re having a bad day, please wait to do the review!

Writers Take a deep breath, read it again, do what you can, if you can…and move on!

And to that guy that gave me that recent 1 star without a single word…realllllly?

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Raleigh artist, Linda Rae Blair is the author of historic romances, modern romances, mysteries, and sagas that include all four. She has used her knowledge gained during extensive travel throughout the United States and her passion for art, history, mysteries, and scenery to create compact novels with rich characters so real you’ll miss them when they’re gone and places you’ll swear you’ve been.  You can learn more about Linda and her books on her Amazon.com Author’s page.

This post was originally published on Linda Rae Blair’s blog at http://lindaraeblairauthor.wordpress.com/, and is reposted here with permission.


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12 thoughts on “A negative review hits like a bullet straight to the heart by Linda Rae Blair”

  1. I just received a review for my second book – it was a four star so i was pleased. That said, like all of us,I would love it to be glowing, five star, and reflect exactly how I intended it to be understood. But what I gained from the new perspective is insight into ways my writing impacted that reader that I had not anticipated. It opened my eyes to aspects of my writing that I was not aware of. I will take what I learned from this to make the next book even better – maybe even gain that coveted five star review. And that, I think, is the trick when reading others' reactions to our work – to try to see it through another's eyes and learn from it. Perhaps I would not be able to say this so philosophically, though, if the review had been negative.

  2. I have received many reviews for my first book, but only one for my second. These reviews range from one star to five star. It's interesting to see how some people really seem to 'get' what I am writing about, yet others don't. I try to focus on the good reviews and learn from the bad ones. After publishing two short stories, I am hoping my upcoming novel will be more polished. I know it is impossible for everyone to enjoy every book I write, but if a story is written well, it's a step in the right direction. Writing for me is a passion. It takes me to another world and leaves me breathless so whether my reviews are good, or bad, I will stick with it!

    1. And I always seem to read it more harshly the first–okay, and sometimes the second–time through. Eventually, though, the content comes through more than the slap.

  3. Although reviewing is necessarily a subjective process, it serves a purpose, and not all negative reviews are the reviewer's 'bad'. If reviews were so useless, they would fade away. Since the recent influx onto the market of so many independent authors, they have gained in importance. But they have also suffered abuse and misguided over-use.

    Sometimes a negative review is deserved. There is an enormous number of really bad, very correctly written, books out there with glowing five-star reviews. The result of mutual back-scratching and comments by well-meaning friends, these reviews do nothing to inform a prospective reader of the quality of the writing. Correctness and good writing are not the same thing: one can have a really badly-conceived notion or premise held together by flawless typing, but it never really makes a good, engaging, enjoyable read. there's form, and there's content. Personally, I would rather read a whackingly wonderful book with a few typos than an anally correct one with no core, engaging knit of plot and story, or solid premise.

    Some negative reviews are very helpful, and even raise curiosity. The number of bad reviews received by The Da Vinci Code is legendary, yet it remains one of the most engaging, controversial books of our time. Many found it entertaining and certainly thought-provoking.

    Few professional readers give five-star reviews. A book must be exceptional to earn such a gong. Exceptional means up to the level of some of the best books of all time, and even they have their faults. Professional readers can get through a hundred books a year and find only one that is exceptional and sticks in the memory.

    A four-star review, from someone who knows a bit about the genre, the category, and the style, is brilliant. One can trust it much better than a five-star review of dubious origin.

    As a reader, what do YOU feel when a totally unknown writer with a very short track record receives twenty or so 5-star ticks for their single solitary novel? All by reviewers who have little under their belt?

    To some readers, it means exactly the same as no reviews at all.

    1. Rosanne-

      Excellent analysis of the reviewer situation. We are put in a very tough spot too. 'Real Professionals' as some would call the reviewers for main stream published books refuse to review most indie books, leaving us with scores of 'blogs' that are available with 'reviewers' for indie books. How do we know what their literary background is? I don't want dubious 5 stars as well as ignorant 1 stars. Submitting to agents and publishers is just as bad, because they reject sometimes according to their evaluation of the market, not the quality of your work. So, where does that leave us? I have a handful of 5 stars that is it. I expect that when my book is out longer I will get some negative reviews in addition to what I think are negative reviews, which is when a reviewer doesn't say anything at all. Readers alone are great most of the time unless its above their head, I love them. Reviewers, i wish they'd post their credentials sometimes.

  4. I agree completely. I remember giving a 1 to such a poorly executed piece of work–I've never seen worse in print. The guy was furious because he had a bunch of 5s. Before entering the review, I had given him very specific issues (a character who "thinks" like a college grad in narration, but speaks like a 17th century pirate, just didn't hack it; names spelled multiple ways, etc. etc. etc.) he could improve upon, only to find a prologue that clearly stated that those readers who are OCD about spelling and punctuation won't enjoy it. I finally gave up, refused to re-read, told him so and gave him a 1-star. He was surprised!

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