Bad Reviews & How to Handle Them

Cartoon of Christina Rossetti having a tantrum after reading 'The Times' review of her poetry, 1862 (pen & ink on paper)

A cartoon caricature of Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, reacting to a review of her poetry.

I’m pleased to say that I haven’t gotten a single negative review of my book.

That is largely due to the fact that it is still in production and no advance copies have gone out, but hey, not one single bad review. (You have to take your positives where you can find them.)

It is possible to give a book a rating of three stars or more and yet still write a negative review: [This book] is utterly adequate. It has a beginning, middle and end. Ouch.

I am preparing for how to handle the bad reviews when they come. (I gather they’re not avoidable.)

  • Read negative reviews of books I really, really liked. Not for schadenfreunde* but for perspective. It’s Not Just Me.
  • Read articles like the one from Literary Hub, where publicists advise on how to handle a negative review.
  • Read satirical articles like this one from J.A. Konrath, which contains a lot of really bad ways to handle a negative review.
  • Climb on the elliptical and fire up the Rejection playlist. I’m still putting it together, but so far I have collected the following songs:
    • As tears go by
    • I’m still standing
    • Handle me with care
    • (It is time for you to) Stop your sobbing

Do you have any good songs for a Rejection playlist? Or other coping strategies?

Of course, there is always the approach that Nora Roberts uses.

How can sensitive writers steel themselves against the negative reviews? Stop reading reviews. Stop now.  -Nora Roberts, ‘A Chat with Nora Roberts’, RWA 2015

*If you’re interested in writerly schadenfreude, then you might like Clive James’ poem, The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered.

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