Friday, April 05, 2013

Dealing with Bad Reviews

It happens to every writer.

Makes no difference if you won the Pulitzer, or are taught in high school English classes around the world, or have sold ten gazillion copies.

We all get bad reviews.

Sometimes the review has nothing to do with the book. A reader may dislike you, and post a 1 star review to object to something you said on Twitter. They may give you a bad review because your publisher prices your ebook too high. They could be a competitor, and want to disparage the competition (thankfully, Amazon is cracking down on this by randomly deleting every review ever written by any author).

Sometimes you get bad reviews because people don't like your subject matter. Or they were expecting something else. Or they don't think you needed so much sex, or violence, or bad fucking language.

The point is, it happens to all of us. And sometimes it hurts.

So how should writers deal with bad reviews?

These are some tricks I've learned. I've gotten hundreds of bad reviews, and these tips make enduring them a little bit easier.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Find out where the reviewer lives, then beat the shit out of them with a pipe. A brick, crow bar, or baseball bat also works. Remember to wear a ski mask so they don't know it is you, and try not to kill them. If you do, make sure you don't leave any DNA evidence.

2. Respond to their review, explaining why they are an ignorant douchebag. Use a sincere, calm tone when exposing them for the asshats they are. If they respond to your comments, threaten to find out where they live and beat the shit out of them with a pipe.

3. Post their address online, and encourage your fans to mail them dog shit. Or horse shit. Pretty much any kind of excrement will prove your point. You can also sign them up for freaky porn subscriptions, hate group literature, and send them pizzas every hour of every day for a year. Also, arson is easy and cheap.

4. Target someone they love. Why limit your anger to the offending party? Many reviewers have family and friends. When you visit Grandma with your crow bar, make sure she knows it is her douchebag grandchild's fault she's getting kneecapped.

5. Make them retract the review. Some ways include coercion, extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, and torture... I mean enhanced interrogation techniques. You'd be surprised how many people aren't wedded to their opinions when a bit of electricity is applied to sensitive areas.

6. Review them. If you're a weeny wimptoast who finds the above methods too extreme, opt for something gentler. Send your reviews of the reviewer to their boss, co-workers, spouse, family, and friends. Something like:

"I'm just writing to let you know that [Reviewers Name Here] is a self-important pinhead who doesn't realize that no one cares about his stupid opinions and he wouldn't know art if it stood on his shoulders and shit on his head. You should be ashamed of yourself for being associated with this waste of carbon. Just because the Internet provides a buffer is no excuse for making thoughtless, ignorant comments in public. Little bitches who denigrate the hard work of others are the lowest of the low, and your life would be better if you got away from this bitter tool. Also, let him know I'm coming over later to beat the shit out of him with a pipe."


Remember, just because the Internet allows you to say things about a person you'd never say their face, doesn't mean you should. The cavalier dismissal of art has become one of the low points of our culture, with Joe Average whining his opinions to the world without backing them up with an iota of sense, proof, or logic. Because you dislike apples doesn't mean all apples suck. Because you didn't understand a movie doesn't mean the eight hundred people involved in its production didn't know what they were doing. Because you are a prude with a short attention span doesn't mean the book had no redeeming qualities.

What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul. Chances are you're the fail, not the thing you're reviewing.

If you want to post reviews, good or bad, make sure they are substantive and well-thought out. Defend your opinions. Know why you feel the way you feel, and explain it in detail. Be deliberate. And if you're going to trash something, remember there is a human being on the other side of that trashing.

A human being with a big ass pipe.


Of course, I'm kidding. This is satire, specifically aimed at writers.

The best way to deal with bad reviews is to ignore them. If they really hurt, talk about it with your support network, and have a beer. Never have any sort of contact with a reviewer. There's no reason. Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid to the person who has them.

Life is too short to worry about what anyone thinks of you, or your work. In fact, you shouldn't be reading your reviews at all.

Also remember that the pendulum swings both ways. You're a writer, so you know how difficult it is to write a story. Trashing your peers, or their work, shows a staggering lack of empathy. Be above that.

This post is dedicated to Roger Ebert. RIP.


Fin said...

Long time lurker, first time poster. also lives in the suburbs of chicago. i know where you live.


honestly though. thanks for this post. Last year, there was a crapload of authors who should've been muzzled. i suspect this year might also be the same.

i'd say it's a shame, but quite frankly, I could go for another author meltdown. i have to trim down my TBR list SOMEHOW.

G. M. Frazier said...

Someone posted a 1-star review on one of my novels in which he 1) admitted he had not read the book, and 2) based on the description and other reviews, accused me of plagiarizing another novel (which I had never heard of, let alone read). I do not engage in conversations with anyone who posts reviews of my books on Amazon, good or bad. I did, however, flag this review and ask why people who admit they have not read a book are allowed to post "reviews" of it. That was several months ago. Amazon finally got around to deleting the review last month, as well as all the comments this guy had posted to other people's reviews about how they had been "ripped off" by my work.

Monica Shaughnessy said...

Hey, even "The Great Gatsby" has a staggering 115 one-star reviews on Amazon. Puts everything in perspective, doesn't it?

Regan Wolfrom said...

I'm slowly learning this lesson... VERY slowly. I'm thinking of building a "scream closet" in my basement, because that's probably the safest place to scream, vent and/or sob.

Thanks, Joe.

The Other Stephen King said...

I suppose "well-written" is redundant to post on a Konrath blog, but I enjoyed your post tremendously. I also appreciated the dedication at the end.

Yeah, it sucks to receive a review that isn't valid/accurate/awesome/whatever. I've had a few 3-stars that said, basically, "great book but not by the same Stephen King."

bettye griffin said...

Books are like broccoli...some people love it, others hate it. It's that simple. No one can say they absolutely loved every book they ever read. So get over it when someone doesn't like yours, and never, ever respond.

I personally *do* believe in reading my reviews. I want to know what people perceive as strengths and weaknesses in my writing. A well-written, thoughtful review can be very helpful to a writer.

R.E. McDermott said...

This post was a hoot, thanks for the chuckle. However, I'm not sure you needed the sarcasm disclaimer. Then again, I suppose it was preferable to having the few crazies among your readership showing up at reviewers' abodes with big fucking pipes.

"But it's OK! Konrath told me to do it!" :)

Unknown said...

Always helpful, I KNOW I'll be venturing into this area soon because there are people who won't like my subject matter...or at least how I presented it.

I knew this before hand but that doesn't help. Waiting for the anvil sucks and being squashed by one will suck. However, I'm keeping this post in my first aid kit.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hairhead said...

I always liked Isaac Asimov's definition of constructive criticim:

"Six pages of single-spaced, closely-reasoned praise."

Shaun Horton said...

One of the most entertaining blogs I've read in quite a while. I just published my first short novel on Monday and I am eagerly awaiting my first bad review.

It's hard not to care though, especially when you don't have many ratings or reviews to counter-balance that bad one. People do look at those things when considering your book to read after all and one bad review even out of ten can drop your rating significantly enough to put off some people. Not worrying about it is probably the best course, but when it can have that major of an effect, it's very hard to push it away.

Unknown said...

Funniest post ever!

But really, it's a shame that Amazon allows spoilers and libelous statements in their customer reviews. Amazon does a lot of things right, but their review system leaves a lot to be desired.

Derrolyn said...

Well said. As an indie who queries bloggers for reviews, I've found an increasing number of book bloggers have adopted an "indies need not apply" policy because of a few thin-skinned fools that attack reviewers for not liking their work.


I joined the "Anti-Asshat Indie Authors" group on Goodreads, and together with other like-minded writers (indie or otherwise) we pledge to never negatively comment on "bad" reviews. We vow to discourage fans from doing the same, avoid passive aggressive comments, avoid spammming, etc. It's a great group started by a great bunch of moderators and I hope the message catches on!

It always hurts when someone tears you a new one, but as Mama used to say... sticks and stones. :)

J.L. Murphey said...

Glad you added the disclaimer. I was beginning to worry about you.

Anonymous said...

You're right that what Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul. Last year I launched a new book with free promo. The first review that came in was a 1-star as follows:

I got a new Kindle so that I can listen to audio books as I can't read a book any more because of neck surgery. I am soo disappointed because all the audio books I got (free) are read by a computer and have no punctuation so that it makes no sense!! I can't understand the story because of this. I am used to audio books that have a person reading it. I would not have bought the Kindle if I had known.
I can't afford to BUY a book every time I want to hear one....

Basically the reviewer didn't like the fact that the kindle book was a kindle book and not an audiobook. The review sat, sales decline. I unpublished the book, republished it under a different name and now it's doing great.

James W. Nelson said...

Hey, Jon,
Thanks to Dave Sloban for sending me this post. I loved it and thought it was intensely funny, just what we writers need sometimes: To laugh.
One reviewer gave me 3 stars, then went on to say she likes Stephen King more, "...even though he doesn't write medical mysteries."
Go figure....
Thanks for the laugh,
James W. Nelson

James W. Nelson said...

Hey, Jon,
Thanks to Dave Sloban for sending me this post. I loved it and thought it was intensely funny, just what we writers need sometimes: To laugh.
One reviewer gave me 3 stars, then went on to say she likes Stephen King more, "...even though he doesn't write medical mysteries."
Go figure....
Thanks for the laugh,
James W. Nelson

D.S. said...

Very funny stuff! And, some good advice, too.

I usually don't read my reviews, as I think that's the best course of action. You can't please everyone, as the saying goes.

I did, however, take a look at some of my 5 star reviews, and that gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

YouTube comments on my videos can be brutal, too! But, the majority of those are positive, anyway, so I just ignore/delete the abusive ones.

River said...

On the other hand...I got a 5 star review and the person hadn't read it YET. Okay, that's cool. What?

Jill James said...

Joe, there are a few critique groups which could use this post.

Suzy said...

I got a shitty review a few weeks ago and my best friend was more upset about it than I was. I've been a standup comic for 25 years. Once you've had entire rooms stare at you without laughing only to do the exact same set the next day and have everyone laughing do you realize how subjective audiences are.

I don't know who said it first but it goes like this: "If you believe the good reviews then you have to believe the bad reviews so it's best to believe neither."

Diane Kidman said...

I am printing this and framing it on several walls throughout my house. Thanks to your previous advice, I don't read my reviews anymore, but sometimes I accidentally do. Like today. It's been months since I paid attention, then blammo. My eyes landed on it without my permission. I wanted to put my head through a wall, but I feel oh so much better now. Thanks, Joe. I needed that.

Joe Flynn said...

You're right, Joe. Every writer gets bad reviews, and when I get one I always want to ask two questions. Whose writing do you like? (So I can know where you're coming from.) And: Can you show me some writing that you've done that's better than what I've done? (That would stop most critics cold.)

Anonymous said...

Negative reviews serve a purpose for other readers.

If I did not like the book because it was not my taste, I don't bother to review it. But if it would otherwise be a good book for me, but has grammar or vocabulary errors, I will, since it really wrecks the book for me, and I know some others would want to know, as I would. If it is a poorly written or poorly plotted book by an author I have enjoyed, I will write a review to say why. I even dare to hope that the author might see it and factor it in to future projects.

Before I buy a book I look at the negative reviews. If they say that the book has errors, I know it will annoy me. If they say that children are being tortured, I skip it. Those types of reviews are useful to me. But if they are lame shreds by pinheads with too much time on their hands, I ignore them.

Merrill Heath said...

Elmore Leonard prints them out and reads them to the audience when he gives talks.

Darlene Underdahl said...

I don’t know why (well, I DO know why, I’m sick) but this tickled me no end. Thanks!

RIP Roger

Patricia Preston said...

This was such a funny post and so true!

Nancy Goldberg Levine said...

Loved this post! So funny! Last year, I got a bad rejection on a novella I wrote, and it had some bad typos in it. So my friend said, "Just e-mail her and say 'I may be tasteless, but you can't type.' And then send her a picture of your finger.'"

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

First one-star I got was painful (it was a man angry at my politics) and the second one less so. Two one-stars out of 62 I can handle. And actually, it makes your reviews seem more legit if you have some stinkers in there. My newest book has only 11 reviews, 9 5-stars and 2 4-stars. I'm concerned people might think they're all my cousins... but they're strangers!

Anonymous said...

Here's a good one. I write BDSM erotica. Got a two star review yesterday. Her complaint? That "the Doms were mean“ to the heroine.


Thanks for your post. It made me smile.

Unknown said...

I love this 1-star review I received:

"I am so glad that this book was on a freebie. If I'd had to pay i would be asking for my money back
You have been warned!"


Gotta love the haters!

Unknown said...

I've thought a lot about implementing #5. I researched it thoroughly for my books so I know the finer points of waterboarding--not to mention I do a variation of it in my day job. We just call it "lavage" instead. However, instead, I did respond to one 1-star review but it was well over a year later when I noticed a discussion going on about it. It was interesting and the review, while not great, obviously, didn't bash my actual writing, just the subject matter. I posted a response a few months ago and worried about a backlash, but there has been none. I didn't berate the reviewer for his opinion at all, just joined in the conversation.

Kiki Wellington said...

"Life is too short to worry about what anyone thinks of you, or your work. In fact, you shouldn't be reading your reviews at all."

This is what I'm trying to live by. It's hard not to seek this information out, but I don't want my mood to be affected by reviews (good or bad).

But in a pinch, I think #1 probably works too. I'm a big fan of equalizers...LOL.

Mike Langlois said...

Totally agree. It really has no upside. The best you can hope for is not to become a spectacle.

I posted something similar here:

antares said...

When I browse Amazon, I read the one-star reviews. If the review is cogent, I pass on the book. If the review is written by an idiot, I get the book.

I left a one-star review. Joe read it and said I was not an ass for leaving it. It was cogent. According to Joe.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the best ways to deal with bad reviews is to either not read them but acknowledge they are there OR read them and then sign in to your Amazon account and look at the money you are earning every month writing stories that some people deem to be crap or fluffy or the worst book ever written.

I'll use E.L. James as an example. She has mixed reviews on every review site including some pretty personal cruel reviews, yet she seems to be enjoying the success & money she's experiencing and I have not seen her respond to any poor reviews.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's good to check out a book that has a mixture of 5 and 1 star reviews for yourself especially when it's got just a few more 1 star reviews because you might just enjoy it yourself.
I've watched movies that the critics or some viewers gave poor ratings to and I enjoyed the movie.

Each to their own.

What I hate is when someone has clearly not read a book and they give it 1 star.

But i equally hate it when i see authors arguing with readers who have given them poor reviews on Amazon, e.g. Jamie McGuire and Jessica Park doubling up to reply to 1 star reviewers. That's just not professional.

Anonymous said...

Last part of my comment:

If several 1 star reviewers are all saying the same thing e.g. spelling mistakes or poor grammar, then I'd say take the book down and fix it but if it's one loan ranger who might be an envious author or just does not like you or any of your work, forget it and move on and write that next book.

Life is too short and this is a great side business or full time career.

Jaime said...

Such great advice! So...umm...I kinda need some bail money. There was an incident with this reviewer, 3 stars, and a lead pipe. ;-)

France Forever 24/7 said...

If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything = a good rule to use for bad reviews!

Kit Daven said...

Nearly coughed up my cereal this morning reading your post. Dealing with Reviews and Criticism in general has been something of an issue for me as I work on my first novel. One one hand, yes I'd like feedback from readers, but on the other hand,from what I read in comments on the Internet everywhere, there are a lot of people who seriously don't think about what they're saying or they're having a joke at someone else's expense or trying to get everyone riled up. It makes it difficult to take any review seriously anymore.

Anna_esq said...

I scrutinize every less-than perfect review for what I can do better next time. The beauty of self-publishing is that if someone complains about a typo, you can go right in and fix the manuscript. Pacing issue? Be more mindful on the next book. Something knock the reader out of your character's head? If it was something specific, fix it. If not, take a class in it and ask your beta readers to help you look for it in the next manuscript so next time you do better. As for the asshats ... I had one of THOSE reviews. Someone left a 1-star rating without a review on Goodreads and then sent me a PM lambasting me for writing about angels having sex. Um ... that's why they're called FALLEN angels! It would have been better if Goodreads forced everyone to leave an actual REVIEW so people could see why I got a bad review. said...

Great post! I laughed until my sides hurt! I have only given ONE one star review in my life and I really think it was earned. It might have been my fault for ordering a 99 cent special for my Kindle without really looking at it. But a first person story about a serial killer with a Cockney accent really turned me off.

I.J.Parker said...

Thanks. That was fun (I also laughed out loud), and it's certainly good advice.

Barbra Annino said...

Thank you for the laughs, Joe!

I'm in the "don't read reviews" camp. There are authors who respond to negative reviews in a positive way in the hopes of opening up a 'dialogue'- which translates to trying to get the reader to revise the review. Very good way to alienate a reader for life, not to mention causing other readers to not post a review at all, fearing the crazy author will hound them.

Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, in the "Customers Who Bought This" listing in Amazon, the star ratings for books that appear have been removed. Now all the books have is a picture and price but no rating.

Personally I think that's a great improvement because it eliminates the skews in both directions, from the sock puppets in one and the trolls/haters in the other.

Jen said...

I guess it's time to invest in a pipe or crowbar. Honestly, I'm trying to get to the point where I don't look at my reviews at all, but sometimes I just can't help myself!

Megan M. said...

That gave me a good laugh. Thanks!

Wickergirl said...

There's an excellent post about bad reviews on the J T Geissinger site:

Bad Reviews

It can be summarized as follows:

Bad reviews are the price of being published.

At least they paid for your book.

Have a sense of humor.

Move on!

Geissinger even quotes one of her worst reviews. And, yes, it's funny.



Unknown said...

That's a good idea. Let's all post some of our worst reviews. Here's one of mine:

Often, I regret finishing a book. This time, I regretted starting one. I wanted entertainment and the premise seemed entertaining enough--former rock star turned PI--so I downloaded it onto my Kindle. I found a disjointed plot, characters that were never fully realized, and some violence that was truly gratuitous. Sure, I can suspend disbelief, right to the point of preposterous, but Hardin not only crosses the line, he demolishes it. I'm shocked that this series has more than one title, and equally baffled that his editor accepted this manuscript.

Waste your time with something, anything, else.

This on a book that got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly...

Wickergirl said...

Jude that is great.

Iain Banks famously put the bad reviews as well as the good reviews on the jacket of his novel The Wasp Factory.

We learn a lot about an author by the way he or she deals with negative reviews. I much prefer an author with a sense of humor.


Anonymous said...

I love this article. And I am deliberately not reading the disclaimer at the end.

Elena DeRosa said...

I don't acknowledge reviews, good or bad. However, if a reader sends me an email, or comments on my FB page, or on my blog, as long as they're "normal" I will reply to them.

Having been born and raised in Brooklyn, of course I also have a baseball bat by the side of my bed. Haven't had to use it...yet ;)

Mark Edward Hall said...

It only reinforces my belief that opinions are like @$$holes. Everyone's got one and they all stink.

Delilah Fawkes said...

Ha ha! Love this post :).

I also read *some* of my reviews to try to pick out some honest feedback so I can improve. I'm always striving to tell a better story, and sometimes there are some real gems in those 2 star reviews and 4 stars that help you improve.

But I've noticed that any 1 stars I get tend to fall into a few categories:

1. Argh! I can't believe this story is so expensive!!!1

2. Hated it. No, I don't have a reason!

3. I don't like this type of book and yet bought it for reasons unknown! And I'm MAD about it!

So, I let them roll right off and keep writing :). Besides, if you're not pissing somebody off, you're probably doing it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, as always.

Two for the Road said...

Teehee. Fun post, Joe. :-)

Glad you put the disclaimer. A cop friend advised me to take a joke comment off Facebook as it could come back to haunt me.

Simon Wood

Walter Knight said...

I get annoyed by poor reviews from people who picked the book up for free. I refuse to give books away because these people brag about thrashing authors and scoring freebees. They're not really customers.

Laura Resnick said...

99.8% of the time, I agree completely. Ignore bad reviews. Move on. People are entitled to their opinion (and to their ASININE opinion very RUDELY expressed, too, whether I like it or not).

Moreover, every single instance where a writer reacts defensively to a negative review ensures that the whole incident winds up being about what a deranged loon the writer is, rather than about how nasty the review comments were.

My father, a longtime career writer, also taught me that the best way, if one is going to respond, is to graciously say something like, "I'm sorry you didn't like the book, but I appreciate you taking the time to read and review it." On numerous occasions, a negative reader will react by mentioning (now that they've discovered the author is a mensch) what they DID like about the book and/or by deciding to give the author another try. (This, of course, mostly relies on the reader being sane. INSANE reviews--fugheddaboudit.)

There are a few (but VERY few) instances where I think some sort of line-in-the-sane action is warranted. For example, on my book REJECTION, ROMANCE, AND ROYALTIES, which was all about having a writing career in the traditional publishing world, an extremely nasty reader-review on Amazon claimed I'd gotten published by sleeping with editors.

If this comment were made about one of my novels, I'd probably shrug it off as garden variety viciousness. But since it appeared on a nonfiction book that was based on my long experience at getting work as a writer, I thought it crossed the line from bad taste into misrepresentation of the book. So I asked Amazon to remove it--and they did.

The other 0.01% worth mentioning is a hilarious YouTube video that I loved, made by a thriller writer. He took the bad reviews of his new book and had them orated aloud by kids on his son's Little League team and elderly people at his grandma's nursing home. It was so funny, and such a great way to react to AWFUL reviews, it made me want to read the book. :)

Anonymous said...

"In fact, you shouldn't be reading your reviews at all."

That's my take away from this post. Dean Wesley Smith says the same thing.

Thanks Joe.

Anonymous said...

This was hilarious, everytime you mention beating the shit out of them with a pipe made me crack! This was great because honestly the one time I try writing something controversial is the one time I accidentally spotted someone commenting my piece and completely hated it, I felt so hurt since I've never really heard someone not liking the things I write (granted they aren't too critcal usually) but it felt horrible, I just wanted to try something new and so I wanted to feel better about the aftermath of this situation and stumbled upon your post, this was really great as a pick-me up -definitely needed this rid obsessing on the negatives

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Trying for a second time! NooB here.

On or about May 1st of last year, I sat down to ‘Write that damn book’. In two months of nonstop effort I produced my first manuscript and the floodgates opened.

I then created a series, and the first one (in it’s third edition now; not 3rd draft, the changes were so substantial) is up. A year ago I thought that by now I’d have three or four books up and the money would be rolling in. I got to shake my head and smile…

I got some 5 stars, a bunch of 4’s, some 3’s and sadly, some comments that were scathing and just plain hurtful.

Even so, I’ve actually sold for money about 30 copies so far.

As a new writer- really, really new, my middle of the road reviews have made me a better writer. The terrible reviews are from people who simply don’t like my style, voice, or storyline or execution. They wounded me, but made me stronger. The 3 stars were opportunities for me to do some serious fixes and to learn things from a reader’s perspective.

The 5 stars are just heartwarming, and I’m so grateful.

As a new author, I needed Beta readers. I’m too busy trying to get my new career off the ground at this point to be able to Beta anyone else, so I can’t approach other authors. I approached my most valid and honest 3 star reviewers and they are happy to help me develop my craft. They’ve read and commented on my second novel, and their insight has helped me tremendously.

Has anyone else found good Beta readers in this fashion?

Unknown said...

And then there was this short but sweet five-star from yesterday, sort of like a kiss that makes the cut better:

This is the second book I've read by this author. His imagination amazes me. The characters are so well developed, you feel like you know them.

As long as you're getting more kisses than cuts, you're doing all right. :)

Fiona Glass said...

Thanks so much for the laugh, and for the serious message underneath. And if you think Amazon reviews are bad, try looking at Goodreads!

One of my recent books, 'Necessity's Door', has been consistently trashed on Goodreads because readers say the plot is completely unbelievable - yet it was based on not one, but several true stories!

I haven't responded to any of the reviews but I'm worried they could affect sales so I did post links to news articles about the true stories on my blog, which has a direct feed to Goodreads. Sadly, it did nothing and the negative reviews are still rolling in. I'm not sure what else to do...

JA Konrath said...

Sadly, it did nothing and the negative reviews are still rolling in. I'm not sure what else to do...

Put those links in the foreword to the book, and explain it is based on real events, unbelievable as they are.

Unknown said...

Okay, that was one of the funniest posts I've ever read. Thanks the laugh!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post, Joe. I'm getting much better at not reading my reviews, especially on GR. But I do read the ones on my blog (all positive so far) my fans encourage me and I so appreciate them. Bad reviews can really hurt one's pride/muse, but the focus is to keep writing.

Unknown said...

Put those links in the foreword to the book, and explain it is based on real events, unbelievable as they are.

I'm not sure that would help, Joe. As Mark Twain famously said, "The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible."

There are plenty of real-life events that just don't translate well to fiction. A story needs to be plausible--within the setting of the world you've created--or readers are going to call foul. Every time.

crw said...

OK so I shouldn't be so sensitive but I'm a writer. Anyway no time now, the police have got my house surrounded.
Sorry that wasn't for you. The police are getting kind of agitated because I won't come out with my hands up. I didn't mean to beat the **** out of him. I just wanted to talk about his review of my book.
Us writers have to expect bad reviews every now and then. Let's be grown up about this.
That'll get the police panicking. OK So I can't take a bad review like the next writer. But did he have to get so personal? I sweated blood over that book. He deserved everything he got.
Will you be a character reference at my trial? He wrote 'a great read but not for me' and only gave me 4 stars. How dare he? You understand don't you Joe?
By the way great post - I might not be around to say that for 15 to 20 years.

Robert Bidinotto said...

My way of dealing with bad reviews is to cast the reviewers as targets for mayhem in my next vigilante novel.

After all, murder is a fleeting pleasure. But ebook murders are forever.

Regina Richards said...

My pet peeve is reviews that contain spoilers. I've gotten 4 and 5 star reviews that contained spoilers. Though well-intentioned those are just as damaging to sales as a 1 star review. Maybe more damaging.

While I'm glad the reviewer enjoyed my novel, I wish they'd let the next reader enjoy it as well.

Fiona Glass said...

"Put those links in the foreword to the book, and explain it is based on real events, unbelievable as they are."

Thanks Joe - I might just suggest that to my publisher. :)

Aimlesswriter said...

When posting a review I hear my mother's words, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I review to tell people what I liked, not to trash a book that wasn't to my liking.
I've only had two reviews (something I have to fix!) but they were good so far. I'm waiting...

suzybazaar said...

Great post that cheered me no end!
I won't go into the reasons why, but while I'm on here - can you recommend any wholesale pipe sellers? รดรด

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoy reading the negative reviews of books before I buy them. It's usually the most telling part.

A lot of them that I see come from unmet expectations. If I can find out about the tone/violence/language, etc right up front, I'm usually happier with my purchase.

Alan Spade said...

Joe, I'd like to have your take concerning the audio books Amazon prices at $1,99 if you buy them with the Kindle ebook version.

Do you think it's a reasonable price for the audiobook ? As an author ?

It raises the question of buying the same content different times on multiple platforms. If I refer to your previous posts, I would say that if the vehicles of the content are really different, and provide a different journey, to buy them separately and at different prices seems justified.

But I don't want to put words in your mouth, of course.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Oh. My. God. This was SO FUNNY!! Shared to Facebook and Twitter.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Another writer bashed two of my books. I friended him on twitter :)

Amazon didn't delete his, even though he is an amazon writer, but they did delete the good ones I got from other writers. Go figure.

Unknown said...

Curious about your take on Scott Turow's piece in the NY Times yesterday.

And I'm betting that my take is a lot closer to yours than it used to be. :)

JA Konrath said...

I'm widely pirated. You can find all of my ebooks and audiobooks available on every torrent site and file locker. I also give hundreds of thousands away for free.

In the last six weeks, I made $137,000 on Kindle.

Piracy isn't the enemy. Free ebooks aren't the enemy.

Publishers are the enemy. They price too high and take too much and do a poor job selling books.

Turow is in a gilded cage, and his opinions are skewed by his unique (extremely fortunate) perspective.

But I can't point to anything he's done as President of the Author's Guild that has been in the best interests of the majority of those the guild purportedly represents.

And that's all I have to say on that topic.

Unknown said...

Ace Adkins (who I admire a great deal, btw) posted a link to the article on Facebook, and this was my reply:

AUTHORS actually have more opportunities now than they've ever had in the history of publishing. The article should have been titled "The Slow Death of Publishers and Literary Agents and Anyone Involved in the Sales and Distribution of Paper." E-books are the future of publishing, and the future is now. More authors are earning a living from writing than ever before. And that's a good thing.

Of course the agents and publishers who take a progressive stance and start working FOR their authors are the ones with the best chances of surviving. Unfortunately, a lot of them, like Scott Turow, are stuck in The Land of Ago (as Stephen King might call it) and will ultimately fail.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

FABULOUS piece and thanks for the snark. It's true - as an author we should and must hold ourselves to a higher art form and respond or not respond accordingly. In the end, it makes a better name for all authors in general.

Richard Schiver said...

Got a not so great review from Hellnotes. Found the reviewer on Facebook and sent them a private message thanking them for their honest review. Told them that a writer cannot expect to hone their craft when everyone's blowing sunshine up their rear with glowing reviews. We learn more from the bad reviews, than we do from the good.

JR Adams said...

Thanks, Joe. Gritty and right to the point, as always.

I haven't got any reviews for my new espionage thriller short, A Spy's Nightmare, which is available on Amazon this week for FREE:

Care to be the first one to leave a comment? I hope you'll enjoy it.


Sharon said...

I laughed and had tears streaming down my face. I've had bad reviews; some are constructive, most don't make sense. I don't bother with the latter...what's the point?

Thanks for the laugh.

Helen Ginger said...

This post was SO funny.

I'm hoping Amazon is not taking down reviews written my authors. I get a lot of books sent to me by authors and publicists that I read and review. My reviews are always good because I made the decision not to review books I don't like. Some may think I should review the books I don't like, but I figure that my not liking the book does not mean that everyone else will not like it. There are plenty out there who will love it.

eBook Booster said...

Personally I think the occasional low review makes yoru ebook look a lot more credible as far as its overall review score. Nothing raises a red flag more than a book with NOTHING but 4 and 5 star reviews.

That said... low reviews still suck though!

Unknown said...

My reviews are always good because I made the decision not to review books I don't like. Some may think I should review the books I don't like, but I figure that my not liking the book does not mean that everyone else will not like it. There are plenty out there who will love it.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

This is the correct answer. This is the proper attitude toward reviewing books.

Thank you, Helen. I hope many others follow your example.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I almost forgot...

GO CARDS!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Okay… I want to weigh in here on a recent experience (back in Feb)…

I re-released my first novel, and contacted over 300 romance book bloggers on the web to review my book. Yes, I was expecting manna from heaven, yes I was in the head space of all new authors (b/c I am…)

Thirty wonderful and generous women took my book on and reviewed it. All were honest. With some, the theme etc of my writing resonated; with others not so much.

I got an email from one reviewer who told me it was so bad she didn’t finish it (I am so new I had to look up what the TLA DNF meant…). She then stated she wasn’t going to review my book.

Good decision or not, I decided to play the integrity card in that it was I who approached her for an honest review, and if that was the case and was her genuine take on my work, didn’t she owe her blog readers her honest opinion?

She agreed I guess, and put up her review.
Hurt like anything.
But sometimes… well sometimes the decision that hurts the most is the one that’s right.

Both she and I walked away at least with respect for each other. I probably won’t ask her to review another one of my books; and she probably wouldn’t accept it anyway- I don’t know. But she was honest to her own readership, and besides having a wound or two to lick; I learned some things as a new writer.

Okay, a LOT of things!
I don’t regret the experience. I also don’t regret roller coasters; but please don’t ask me to do it again!

I’m new. I’ll be saying that until I have a full year writing under my belt; then I’ll say I’m sorta new or something. I treasure the readers I have- those that bought and read my book. I also treasure…. Aww hell… cherish… those bloggers out there trying to tell others about books they love, and books they not so much love.

Those reviewers like the previous posters are generous and kind to new authors when they don’t post reviews of books that need work. This author is asking people to give me a few bucks, and more importantly, hours of your time, to read my work. Sometimes I need a slap upside the head or something maybe… :)

Since that exercise, I took the book down, made fixes, and I'm even prouder of my first book than I was when I first published it.

KD McLean
My Blog:
The Story of Rachel on Amazon:

Ripley King said...

"Dark and raunchy. I like it!"

My latest and only review at B&N. This one is for 5, a free selection five short stories, plus two bonus stories. Five stars. I can live with it.

Unknown said...

> can you recommend any wholesale pipe sellers?

Hey Suzy,

They're cheap enough retail. See for example -- only $14.95.

It might take awhile, but I suppose you could beat the hell out of someone with it.


JA Konrath said...

I'd like to have your take concerning the audio books Amazon prices at $1,99

I think all audiobooks should be under $5, and have repeatedly told my publisher that's the pricepoint I like.

Tamara Hogan said...

--> What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul.

THIS. Some reviews are clearly more about the reviewer's personal issues than my work.

Alan Spade said...

"I'd like to have your take concerning the audio books Amazon prices at $1,99

I think all audiobooks should be under $5, and have repeatedly told my publisher that's the pricepoint I like."

That seem very risky, Joe :

- you don't have so much people who enjoy audiobooks
- if you want to have a professionnal audiobook as an indie author, you have to spend at least $2000.

Of course, the risk depends highly on the success you already have, but still, it's a limited market.

I, for myself, wouldn't recommand authors to make themselves their audiobook (too much time wasted), and therefore,they have to be careful with price.

The problem is, the cheapest solution, Amazon's Audible ACX, doesn't allow you to set price (even a price below $5).

Lee Lopez said...

Just remember,opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
I only know about my good reviews when a friend or family tells me, because I don't read any review, good, bad or in between. Of course I'll go on Twitter and announce a 5*, because my sister called to tell me. Don't have a clue what they said, but its out in the universe somewhere. Or my sister is lying and making fool out of me, yet again.

JA Konrath said...

That seem very risky, Joe

Audible did it for one of my books, at my request. I believe I sold 10x as many as normal.

I believe the reason audiobooks aren't as popular as text is because they're price prohibitive. Lower the barrier to entry, hook more readers.

But what do I know about that? ;)

P.I. Barrington said...

I once had a reviewer tell me ahead of time that she had a serious issue with one of the scenes in my novel (not graphic) and that she would try to review the book anyway. The review was the worst one I've ever gotten, including the scathing remark that she'd figured out the ending immediately. What could I do? I'd rather have someone be honest and she did take the time to let me know what the problem was and that it would probably influence the review. I thanked her personally anyway and then moved on. Professional courtesy means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

K.D. McLean said...

"... contacted over 300 romance book bloggers on the web..."

How did you get a list of book bloggers?

Jan Moran said...

Thanks Joe, for giving us all great perspective and a good laugh!

Oh, and for telling us that bit about the pipe :)

Alan Spade said...

"I believe the reason audiobooks aren't as popular as text is because they're price prohibitive. Lower the barrier to entry, hook more readers.

But what do I know about that? ;)"

I think you are right, but still, it makes more sense to let the authors set their prices and run their experiments by themselves.

William J. Thomas said...

GREAT Salon article on the real story of self-publishing by Hugh Howie - author of the WOOL series.

This should be required reading for people like Scott Turow...

(I shortened the link using tinyurl web program.)

Jeff Menapace said...

A little off subject. Sorry.

Joe, your new book Haunted House sounds awesome. Is it a stand-alone book, or do I need to check out Afraid and Trapped etc. first?

David L. Shutter said...


I wired you the money weeks ago...where are my 3 luxury cars at???

Adam Wollaston said...

As a reviewer I am already biased towards the books I review. They are in a genre I like to read and usually I have received a copy free. Therefore I want to write a positive and useful review. If I really dislike a book there is no review. If every review is totally great then it is meaningless. Most books have something that could be improved.

Joan Reeves said...

Joe, best post I read today! Still laughing which makes me feel immensely better than the crappy mood I've been in lately.

Thanks! You rock.

JA Konrath said...

Yeah, Fahad! I'm waiting for my Cars with Girls and Cars like helicopter!

Kevin Michaels said...

Well said!

Although, given Amazon's scorched-earth policy on removing reviews (based on their "guidelines" and algorithms), I'd be happy at this point to have any kind of reviews.....

Susan said...

Funny! I am not getting rich with my writing, so perhaps I should think about selling lead pipe, cut into appropriate lengths and imprinted with the book cover of the author's choice.

Anonymous said...

LOL. VERY funny. Sadly, it is not always prudent to ignore them on Amazon. There are people there who are deliberately trying to manipulate the system by posting fake 5 star reviews of their own books and equally fake low reviews of competitors' books. They will do this to jockey for position on the bestseller lists in particular. They also have multiple accounts and then vote on their reviews as helpful so that it looks like a lot of people agree and there is 'social proof' that the reviews are useful when in fact it is the same person and their cronies over and over again. There are ways to try to clarify misunderstandings, such as in the comments area under each review, but a drove of deliberately planted 1 star reviews and helpful votes will sink a title unfairly.

Anonymous said...

Now that Amazon has taken over GoodReads, will need to watch to see if the scam reviewers will vanish, o get worse, or just find a new way to scam?

Anonymous said...

G. M. Frazier - good for you in getting it taken down. Quite right, it is NOT right for reviews to be posted by people who admit outright that they did not even read the book. Or are beefing about Amazon, not you. As for the 'plagiarism' aspect of it, as I recall, in the whole Janet Dailey fiasco, it first came to light because people were posting bad reviews and writing to Nora Roberts saying that SHE was the thief, rather than the other way around, so you might want to check out the other book you supposedly copied from and see if they are the ones who stole from you. All authors should respect the work of others and not steal it. And if there are bad reviews being expressly written in order to do damage to your business or reputation, you might want to check out tort law on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the writers who say to read the reviews and see if you can learn anything from them in order to make your writing better. But if the reviewer clearly has an agenda to damage the book or you in some way, there is nothing to learn at all except how mean-spirited some people can be. In which case, work to try to get Amazon to take down the review. And yes, you can republish under a whole new title at Amazon if you have been the victim of a fake review attack. The only review being 1 star means that that is all people will see when the titles are being sorted in an Amazon search, and so if there are 4 or 5 star reviewed titles, your book will rarely get a second glance.

Margaret said...

I'm going to print this out and tape it to my bathroom wall. Loved it!

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Funny post, Joe! Thanks for the laugh. When you wrote, "Joe Average whining his opinions to the world without backing them up with an iota of sense, logic, or proof. I'd add "correct spelling, proper grammar and punctuation."

I'm someone who does read my reviews. Mostly they're positive, which is something that still is wonderful and amazes me. I've also learned what readers like, which I feel helps me with new books.

I don't want to bludgeon stupid or ignorant reviewers, but I would like to have a conversation. I would ask questions like, are you sure you're talking about MY book. I didn't have (whatever they accused me of) or I did have whatever they said I didn't(did you read chapter 10?) Or, in one case, it's not my fault my (traditionally published) book didn't download to your Kindle. You should complain to Amazon and work with their customer service to fix the problem.

A couple of times readers have pointed out errors that got past my developmental and copy editors, and I have responded to those reviews, thanking them for the feedback and saying I'd correct it immediately. Thank God with self-published books you can change things!

One of my favorite bad reviews is a two star where the reader accused me of being living in Southern California and never visiting Montana (the setting for my Montana Sky Series.) I do live in California, but I can TRAVEL! How in the heck would she know if I've been to Montana? Has she followed me around my whole life? So, on my next visit to Montana, I made sure I blogged about being there and included photos.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry - a reviewer of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy gave it one star and wrot " 1.0 out of 5 stars nonsense
By e: D. A. D Orlins (boca raton, florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso) (Paperback)
I last read Dante's "Comedy" in college. I thaught it might be rewarding to read it again, 40 years later. Now everybody finds out what a low-brow I am. "The Comedy" is a collection of nonsense from an age so seeped in religious nonsense that nothing was in excess in the name of God. Considered a "Classic" by generations of Christian zealots. I consider it (brace yourselves) trash. "

Feel better now????

Do not read the reviews of your books, please!!!

Mary Marvella said...

Too bad you were kidding, 'cause I was takin' notes!

nj layouni said...

Very funny post. One of my buddies directed me here after I received a harsh crit. I can usually take a few punches, but this particular crit hit home.

Anyway, I laughed so much while reading this, I had tears running down my face. THANK YOU!

Nicola (now a devoted fangirl) :)

C. Gockel said...

The post is funny. However...I often find negative reviews to be the most helpful.

I got a two star review for one of my stories, and after thinking on it, I realized they had a point. I changed the cover and let the reader know I appreciated her input. Then she changed her review to 5 stars. it looks like all my reviews are fake. (I'm trying to make the transition from fanfiction to original fiction -- please feel free to laugh -- most everyone who has bought my stories followed me from fanfic and like my style).

Shehanne Moore said...

LoL It's brill

Patricia said...

Thank you for giving me the first and maybe the only laugh of the day.
I'm a writer and this really is good.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Thanks for the first laugh of the day. Brilliant fantasy list.

Geoffrey A. Feller said...

I wish I'd get some bad reviews. I wish I'd get any reviews, as a matter of fact! I've had almost no reviews at all, which makes me worry that I'm neither good enough to get a lot of positive responses nor bad enough to inspire attacks. Mediocre and ignored? It's hard for me to see what could be worse than that. If I had reputation for bad writing, at least people might want to read for themselves to find out what the fuss is about.

Unknown said...


I took the briefest look at your link and couldn't find your email address, or I would have written you privately.

> I wish I'd get some bad reviews. I wish I'd get any reviews, as a matter of fact!

If you are serious, send me a review copy of one of your Natalie Dvorak novels and if I can stand to read it all the way to the end, I promise I'll write a review to post on the Nepo Press site (and possibly Amazon). A mobi file emailed to would be best.


Nightingale said...

I needed to read this today! I got such a laugh and my two 3-star reviews didn't hurt as bad. Thanks! PS reminds of me Christoper Walken's "prank him to death with a tire iron."

Unknown said...

Violence can be such an eloquent message. Tingly with the thought of like-minded people that have blogs.

Much respect,
Woman with a pipe whose husband has a brick.

Raymund Hensley said...

Thanks for advice, man. I almost gave up on my dream due to my one-star ratings....Your post helped to restore my confidence.

We all need to go through this "reader filtering system" to find our ideal audience. It's a big world. They're out there somewhere. Maybe even a lot of them.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the awesome post. It is always a nice reminder to realize that no matter what I do people will hate me and that is okay. Life goes on.

As Gandhi said, "Nobody can hurt me without my permission." Unless of course JA Konrath beats me up with a baseball bat then I beg to differ.

Kaye Draper said...

Love your humor so much! My favorite Amazon review so far was a reader who gave my book 2 stars, but in the actual comment section gushed about how much they enjoyed it and how they hoped there would be a sequel. Hmmm.... so it was so bad it was good?
I just remember how many times I've not liked a best selling book. Reading is so subjective :)

Marttha Emms Cognitive Dreamer said...

LOVE this. thank you came at a good time :) We all need to not take it so personal and remember we, ourselves do not like everything and can't expect everyone to like what we've written. But they can write a negative review in a respectful manner.
I don't know why it is, but we tend to give more credence to the one bad review than 8+ great reviews. We need to rethink that :)

Christine Aurigema said...

I love this blog. Stayed up nearly all the night catching up on posts.

Laura J. Kendall said...

I just did a give a way of my book Witches Enchantment on Goodreads... all I can say is ouch. I have 2 stars from 2 of the people who won so far. The first one starts off that she doesn't read this kind of book (paranormal romance) doesn't like romance at all, but won it in a giveaway... the second reviewer picked it apart as well. Although I like to learn from my reviews ( the book has some good reviews on amazon thankfully) these reviewers were lucky enough to win this book out of nearly 700 people and I spent money on postage and a personalized thank you card they shouldn't trash a book. It was interesting also that one of the reviewers had one multiple books to review.. interesting how she won mine out of 660 entries. This experience is beginning to make me wonder if I want to be on Goodreads at all. I bet neither of them has ever written or published anything and opened themselves up for critique from strangers. If they had I bet they'd think twice about leaving negative reviews. I do think I will adopt the don't read your reviews way to handle my writing career.. expect for the 4 and 5's which thankfully I've got plenty of on Amazon.
Thanks for letting me blow off steam and it made me laugh, smile and want to go buy a metal pipe.. just sayin :)
Laura J. Kendall

Anonymous said...

I've self-published three books (all nonfiction) and I've noticed that the bad reviews of them (one for each of them) come from people who are incredibly ignorant! Like the one I just got. I'm asking that it be removed because 1) he admits that he didn't read the book and 2) he says he gave it one star for the author who was "too lazy" to publish the book as a Kindle so he could get it cheap. (Amazon says it doesn't allow reviews that make personal attacks, so we'll see how long it takes them to agree with me that this person posted just to attack me.)

At any rate, I looked up the guy's previous reviews. He has posted a bunch of one-star reviews, all of them pretty ridiculous. Now this guy obviously isn't the brightest penny in the pile because the city where he lives is listed in his profile. A quick google found his webpage on where, according to him, he's an "egspert web developer who went from being an amiter to a perfessunole" a couple of years ago. And Amazon recommends that authors personally contact these people and try to reason with them? We don't even speak the same language!

West Coast Media said...

Thanks for posting this,I just started on Kindle last month I already have 10 titles up I finally got 2 really bad reviews this week due to spelling and grammar errors.
But know I see clearly. If JA.Konrath gets hundreds of bad reviews as successful as you have been on Kindle.Hell what are 2 bad reviews for a rookie like me. Thanks a million for posting this.Now I'm Good!

Anonymous said...

Don't know if these comments are still open, but it's good advice. Either don't read them, or ignore them, and if you have to respond, be polite. There's been a lot of bad press lately from authors chasing down people who gave them negative reviews on Goodreads especially.

For me (I write non-fiction under a pen name) the most frustrating are those reviewers that don't understand the star rating on Amazon: "great book, lots of helpful advice: highly recommended": and then rate the book one or two stars.

Very frustrating.

These days, I just don't read them.

John Ellsworth said...

If you find me curled up on a city sidewalk, huddled inside a doorway, ten day beard, blank expression, empty eyes, jonesing for a meeting, you'll know that I went back to reading my reviews. Gotta get down to the mission, say a prayer to be relieved of this addiction, work the steps, get a sponsor, read the Big Book, one day at a time, one minute at a time, but whatever happens, don't take a review. Never. Cold turkey. Thanks for letting me share.

Fox said...

I wish I'd seen this on Saturday before I'd attempted suicide with a rusty hollow pipe. In fact the pipe was so light, I'd die from tetanus before a head injury.

Reviews are ugly and often, unwarranted and unjust. Sometimes they are true, or at least, they may have some truth to them.

The laughs you gave me, even though you wrote this a couple of years ago it is still valid, were enough to pull me out of my self-imposed misery.

The reality is, a tough review should be a learning curve. If there's any truth to it, implement it. If not, ignore. But I do think you should read them.

Now, let me see if I can put that pipe down and attempt to pick up my laptop and try and write again.

Emily Dickinson said...

Walter Knight is correct. When people get free copies of books they often give not only lousy reviews but also enjoy being vicious and cruel about it. In short these cheapskates are cynical, unhappy twats. Reviewing someone's book is the only time in their pathetic lives that they have a modicum of power. How they negatively use that power reveals just how mentally stunted they are as individuals. It's actually quite sad. Here's hoping these sub-human turds get un-treatable ass cancer.