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Responding to Reviews: The Right & The Wrong

You slave over a manuscript for months (maybe even years) until finally, the day arrives when you release it to the cold, wide world. You wait for a bit and, if you’re lucky, the reviews start coming in; but at least one of the reviews is a DO-S: Dreaded One-Star!


What do you do?


What do you say?


Before I even get started, I want to tell you one of the most important things about being an author. The reading experience is for the reader, not the writer. This includes ratings and reviews. The purpose of leaving feedback, whether good or bad, is not a means to boost your ego, but a way for readers to engage with each other and analyze what works for them and what doesn’t.


There are two types of reviews: objective and subjective. Objective reviews point to issues within the writing itself (grammar, style, spelling, flow, etc.). This is compared to subjective reviews, which highlight a reader’s specific taste or preference (characters, dissatisfying ending, etc.). This is key to how you respond to negative feedback from readers.


So back to the scenario above:

What do you do? Nothing.

What do you say? Absolutely nothing!


When a review is objective, take it as a learning lesson. Try to glean what the reader is truly saying about your work. I believe there is always something positive to take away from an objective review. When a review is subjective, the best thing to do is take it with a grain of salt. Opinions are just that. But one thing you should never do is argue with a reader about a review you didn’t like.


If it’s an ARC reader, simply say something along the lines of “I appreciate your feedback, thank you for reading!” and move along. This shows that you are polite and open to constructive criticism, and will make readers more inclined to give your other books a chance, even if they didn’t like what they read.


If it’s a review on Amazon or Goodreads, don’t respond at all. I’ve seen and read horror stories where authors have gone back and forth with reviewers. None of them have ended well and at the end of the day, it’s the authors reputation (and royalty check) that takes a major hit.The last thing you want is to be known as the author who can't take criticism. This will turn people away from ever reading your books, and also cause them to make the assumption that your work isn’t good.


Accountability matters and if your review section is filled with 1, 2 and 3-star ratings, it may be time to reflect on why that is. Maybe you need to try new sub-genre tags to reach the correct audience? Maybe your explicit book on a drug-dealing stripper that’s 75% sex should be in urban erotica and not urban romance?


There will always be someone who doesn’t like your book. After all, we can’t please everyone. Get a beta reader, as discussed in a previous blog. The more time and patience your give to the writing process, the least likely you are to get negative reviews.


Either way, reflection is key. Being a writer is a job that never truly ends.


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