Self-Publishing Sunday: Reviews

When you publish books, reviews happen (hopefully, but that’s a topic for another day).

When reviews come in, they can be positiverating-153609_1280, negative, or somewhere in the middle. So, how should an author handle reviews when they come in?   Generally, they shouldn’t do anything but read the review.  Most people suggest not commenting on reviews. However, I will add that it’s never inappropriate to thank a person for reading your book and taking the time to leave a review (whether positive or negative). But commenting on reviews beyond that can often spiral into the negative, and leave people with a bad impression of the author.

Even thought I don’t recommend commenting on reviews when they come in, there are some things you should be doing. So, here’s a quick list of some ways to react.

Positive/Great Review.
There is no greater high than when you read a review where the person absolutely loved your book. You feel on top of the world because it means you totally accomplished what you wanted to accomplish. The person got the book; they got your vision and they not only enjoyed it, but they loved it. You feel completely awesome.

  • Savor it. When you get a positive review, savor it. Read it again and again and again. Enjoy your praise. You worked hard on that book and deserve it.
  • Save it. Save a copy of it for later, for those days when you’re tired and you don’t feel like writing. Look at it then so it can remind you that there are people who love what you’re doing, and people who want more. Let it remind you not to quit when you’re not feeling it. Let it remind you to give it one more shot because maybe that person will love this book as much as they loved the one
    they reviewed.
  • Spread it. Another reason to save it is to use it as a Review Quote. Many people use review quotes in the product description to lure potential readers. Some authors I know like to post new, positive reviews on social media. It’s a chance to show the reviewer they appreciated the review and to show the world an independent opinion about your book.

Average/So-So Reviews

  • Look for the positive. If someone gave you a three-star review (out of 5), and they say positive things about your book, then good. Some people aren’t overly effusive, and they can like a book very much and still only give it three stars. That’s just how they roll. So, if the review has some positive things, dwell on those.
  • Analyze the negative. If they’ve got some things in there that they’ve dinged you for, ask yourself if they’re right. Life First received a couple of reviews that liked the book but felt it wasn’t a tight genre fit (which it is not).  If you can read that and figure out a way to change your blurb to indicate that, perhaps that’s a way to go to avoid confusion. For example, some people will ding a book if they didn’t know it’s a serial novel that requires the reader to continue onto a second book. Again, adding information to your blurb, can sometimes alleviate some of the issues of lower reviews due to mismatched expectations.
  • Move on. Average reviews mean the people liked the book, but weren’t that into it. It happens. Not every book is for everyone.  Once you’ve gleaned the constructive information you can take from it, move on. You can integrate that information in the next book.

Negative Reviews

  • Remember you are not your work. If positive reviews make us feel awesome, should negative reviews drive us to drink? No. With negative reviews, we have to remember that we are not our work. The person is talking about the words on the page, not the author as a human being. It feels hard to separate from ourselves because we’ve worked so hard on it. But, we are not our books. The person who’s given a negative review is negative toward the book and something that didn’t resonate with them.
  • Analyze it. Is the person right? If their main complaint is a book full of typos, then go look at the book and see if they’re right. If it is, in fact, full of typos, accept that you messed up and try to get it fixed. If the person is upset because you used cuss words and they don’t believe any good God-fearing person would ever cuss, and you’re not of that belief, then disregard it. If they thought your heroine was whiny and namby pamby, figure out what you think about it. Was your heroine that way, or did they just totally not get her? If it was the latter, then ignore it. If there’s a hint of truth in the former, figure out ways you might want to address those concerns when writing future heroines. In general, I wouldn’t recommend changing a book based on one review. If you get several that point out a major missed issue, it’s up to you to decide whether to make changes.
  • Move On. Just like with so-so reviews, you’ve got to move on. Once you’ve gotten all the constructive takeaways, then let it go. There are people out there who don’t like your work. It happens. And they’re not your audience. Forget about them and go back to what you do best, writing.
  • Do not engage. Getting in a battle with a reviewer over their negative review is a bad thing. Don’t do it. The author never wins in these situations. People are entitled to their opinions about your book. You just have to get over it.  You can read about one author-reviewer exchange that went horribly wrong here: How not to handle a bad review.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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4 Responses to Self-Publishing Sunday: Reviews

  1. As with temptation, do not try to lead me to drink, for I will find it myself. I remember when the Hewitt fiasco erupted and thinking at the time, ‘I hope it doesn’t take too long to clean up the mess from her shattered glass bubble.’ Unless a reviewer deliberately maligns someone or makes a threat of bodily harm, there’s really no need for the writer to respond to a negative review. Some people are going to like your work and others aren’t. It’s the nature of the creative world.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Exactly, Alejandro. We have to just accept that some people won’t like our work. Some of the best selling books have negative reviews. So, not everyone will like everything.

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