Top Tips For Responding to Bad Reviews

As some of you know, I’ve been actively reading and reviewing a lot of indie short stories in the past few weeks and have previously discussed why I think writers need to be reviewing other people’s work more.

Today, I’m going to quickly chat about the other side of the coin – how to respond to a bad review.

We can all be magnanimous when we get a positive review. In fact, if any of us have a problem it is with finding different ways of saying…

‘Thanks for taking the time to review it. Yes, I know I’m brilliant…’

But responding to a negative review is a very dangerous thing and should be approached very carefully and, to help you do this, here are my top tips for commenting on a particularly bad review.

1. Take some time and distance before replying

I get it, you’re really annoyed. You have just had a scathing review and your blood has boiled. You’re ready to leap on in to protect your honour and the integrity of your work. And that is precisely why you shouldn’t do it.

Always remember, you put your work up for public scrutiny, not the reviewer. No one said that everyone had to like your work and, just because this person doesn’t, you don’t have licence to vent any anger on them. Leave the review alone, take some time out – go for a walk, have a sleep do whatever to kill a few hours and then return to the review when you are feeling less annoyed by it all.

No one likes being on the receiving end of an angry author tirade at the best of times, least of all when they have taken time out to review your work…

2. Even Negative Reviews Deserve Thanks

Even if it is the worst review anyone has ever given a writer, always make sure you thank them. As I said before, they have taken time out to review your work and, regardless of how horrible the review was, they still deserve to be treated like every other reviewer. If you start getting a reputation of only thanking the reviewers who leave good reviews, you may find that potential readers may turn away from you.

3. Don’t assume your reviewer is stupid

This one happens more often than you’d think. A writer has written a great piece of work and a reviewer doesn’t seem to get it and leaves a bad review. The writer then launches into an explanation about how they intended such and such but manages to do it in such a way that implies that the reviewer isn’t intelligent enough to know that..

That may be what you feel like doing, but don’t do it. It doesn’t help anyone. I have seen so many writers lose a lot of street cred for doing that to reviewer; I have even seen instances where the reviewer turned out to be a top university English Professor that (as a casual observer to the back and forthing of the comments) was painful to watch. I have even seen an instance where a writer tried to counter a reviewer comment by saying that she reads her story aloud because that is the only way to know if the sentence structure worked – what she didn’t expect was for the reviewer to go ahead and read the whole thing out loud and then report back. Unfortunately for her, by reading it back out loud the reviewer found that it made the sentence structure even worse…

The point is (no matter how clever you think you are) don’t assume that a reviewer is stupid because they didn’t get it. Once again, they have taken their time to give you a review – they don’t deserve to be treated like an idiot in return.

4. Make them feel like they’ve made a difference

A large amount of reviewers are genuinely trying to help. They are not saying things just to annoy you, they are responding to a piece of work that you have written.

I always like to think of reviewers this way…

If they have written a review and they obviously didn’t like it, we should be grateful that they not only got to the end of the work but also then gave time to write about it. Ultimately, they have had to suffer reading a work that they didn’t like and, despite this, they then put their experiences to paper. The least we can do as writers is to thank them by suggesting that we will be looking into the issues they raised for our next project (even if you have no intention of doing so). That one idea that the reviewer might have made a difference may be all they need to compel them to buy your next novel or story, even if they absolutely loathed the one they reviewed.

Always remember peeps, what you do in public all contributes to your marketing of the next project. If you alienate a reviewer over a bad review that is one person you can guarantee won’t read your next piece. If you treat them with professionalism and kindness even the biggest hater might be tempted to read stuff from you again…

Just a thought…

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2 thoughts on “Top Tips For Responding to Bad Reviews”

  1. I really appreciated your article on how to respond to bad reviews. Its positive approach to negative reviewing was absolutely to the point. Wise and comforting words of advice!


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