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What Do You Do With a Review?

 I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the topic of negative reviews lately. This was set off by one author’s inappropriate public reaction to a review. It was not even a particularly bad review, and it has cost her dearly — whether she fully realizes it or not. There are more than enough links to the site and it will probably be immortalized as the top result for a generic search like “bad review meltdown” for a long time. That is the curse of the Internet. That overreaction will never go away. Years from now, if she wants to be taken seriously, that poor professionalism is likely to turn up and ruin it for her.

Of course, no one likes a bad review. I had one for The Blood that Binds that I felt was entirely unfair and vitriolic. I went ballistic over it. It was my first book–my baby. I cried. I groused to friends and family. I’ve held a grudge for a decade, but I kept it off the net.

When I was editing some of that first book to be included in The Luckless Prince, I read that review again…and do you know what? That review had changed. This time, it actually had valid, useful points that helped during the edit. I still didn’t agree with everything the reviewer said, but time and distance granted me perspective enough to realize she might not have been totally wrong.

A second reviewer objected to Prince Roland’s vacillation, running hither and yon and back again. With this in mind, I strengthened his motivation for each leg of his journey, and it made a positive difference. Roland is a more sympathetic, likable character when he behaves rationally.

So, what do you do with a review? If it is a good review, thank the reviewer and link to it proudly. If it is a bad review, accept the lumps and move on. Making a spectacle of yourself is the last thing that you want to do. It will win you few friends, and sell even fewer books in most cases.

That still leaves the question of the genuinely destructive review, If this happens to you — whether it’s caused by a technical glitch, a sloppy reviewer or a jealous peer — you may feel compelled to take action. How do you deal with a review that’s beyond unhelpful, perhaps even damaging to your career? If it is actually potentially going to cost you money, as opposed to just something you don’t agree with, what do you do?


Apr. 1st, 2011 04:51 am (UTC)
Back when I was at Georgia Tech, seniors had a tradition of posting every rejection letter from potential employers or graduate schools on their dorm room doors. All of 'em, right out in the open for the world to see. It was often cathartic, sometimes amusing, but always a way of saying "it's their loss" and moving on. Don't let the bad review have so much power over you (and don't let the great review swell your head too much) and know that you can't possibly please everyone.
Apr. 1st, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Well said
You are absolutely correct. I don't worry about them too much any more, but it took some growing up. :)

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