How to Respond to Negative Book Reviews

By Award Winning Author Valerie Biel –B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Telling an author to ignore a bad review is like telling a dieter to ignore a cookie sitting in front of them. Rarely do we have the willpower to just walk away. We stare at it, we wonder about it, and it might become all we can think about for a while.

I get it . . . I’ve been both that author and that dieter (and God forbid if you get a bad review while dieting—that just not fair.)

But I’m here to tell you bad reviews are bound to happen and you should be happy (YES, HAPPY) when you are staring down that two-star or (cringe) one-star review. (Seriously!)

  1. That means your book is being more widely read and the more people who read your book, the more likely it is that you will attract a naysayer or two. Intellectually, we all know that not everyone will like what we write. But that is hard to remember when that first stinging review comes in. Remind yourself that you’ve written a great story (because you did) and the vast majority of reviews will cancel out the few who didn’t like your book.
  2. You might learn something that helps to make your writing better.

Whenever I receive a bad review, I ask myself (and, yes, sometimes agonize over) whether there is some truth to what the person is saying. I had to admit that a few reviews included some wonderfully constructive criticism that has been very helpful to me—once I was able to step back from the sting.

So what do you do if a reviewer is being a jerk and the review is unwarranted?


(The only exception is if this is a pattern of harassment that appears to be an attempt to make you look bad, each website/retailer has a way to report this type of problem.)

But for the isolated bad review, assure yourself that your potential readers are smart and they will be able to see jerky behavior for what it is. Or, if you’re like me you could take a trip to prove you are right.


Well, to be honest, I was already planning a trip to Ireland, when the worst review I have ever received came in. Ouch, this one still stings!


Pseudo-Celts and Kitsch 

From the kitschy cover image, with its too-tall megaliths for Ireland’s usual stone circles, to the misuse of the Tuatha de Danaan as a “Celtic” group much less a “tribe” , it is difficult to know where to begin to adequately skewer this dreck.

The loose plot and pandering to the trendy YA market have been remarked upon already in other reviews.

What is distressing is that young readers’ minds are being fed this pablum. Archaeology has moved on from the pseudo-nationalist “Celtic” paradigm. Why can’t authors catch up? Also, this narrative is not historical fiction. It is fantasy, albeit scrambled, and giving it that much is doing it a great favor.

So here was my reaction that only my family got to hear—although, now I am sharing it with all of you fine readers.

One—The megaliths from the actual Beltany Stone Circle are only slightly shorter than depicted on my book cover. See the picture from the trip I took for comparison. And, by the way, this is fiction and I allowed my cover artist to take some literary license. (You can read more about my awesome research trip here).


Two—The correct spelling is actually Tuatha De Danann.

Three—In the many books I read to research the background of this novel, the Tuatha de Danann are referred to in every single instance as one of the four mythological founding tribes of Ireland. The only truth to this criticism is that in Irish mythology the Celts came after the era of these four founding tribes, so calling them Celtic is not accurate except that in modern terms Irish and Celtic are viewed interchangeably.

Four—“skewer this dreck” who says this? Is this person even part of my target audience?

Five—Loose plot? I beg to disagree!

Five—Of course, I pandered to the YA market. It is a YA novel!

Six—Pablum? Again, who says this?

And I could go on . . . but let’s just say I ranted and raved a little more and then I set it aside . . . I DID NOT REPLY TO THIS REVIEWER OR OTHERWISE ENGAGE WITH HIM. (I hope he is not reading this blog post, because I am not trying to create an enemy here. I am only using this for educational purposes!)

But if you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what you can do. You can’t get rid of a bad review (and I say wear it as a badge of honor.) BUT that doesn’t mean you have to look at the thing on your main Amazon book page.

Ask your fans/readers who haven’t reviewed your book yet to please do so. This way the bad review will get bumped down a bit and will no longer hold the position as the most recent review.

If you have the bad luck that a not-so-great review has been given some helpful votes, it may be in the position of the first review that visitors to your book page see. You can take action here as well! Ask your most trusted reviewers/readers to please choose one or two of your most positive reviews and vote for them as “helpful.”  This usually works and moves better reviews into the more positive position on your page.

My final and most important advice about reviews is — Don’t forget to ask for them!                                 At the back of every paperback book, I have an author message that asks readers to please leave a review on the website for the retailer where they bought the book or on Goodreads. In the electronic book formats, I make sure to include a direct link to the websites for reviewing to make it as simple as possible.

So here’s your challenge today. Be brave and share the worst review you ever received in the comments below. Remember it is your badge of honor and means you have arrived as an author!

Author Website

The comments, advice and opinions expressed here are those of authors whose books have been honored with a B.R.A.G. Medallion. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners, management, or employees of indieBRAG, LLC.

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