How Writers Can Benefit from a Negative Book Review

negative book review

A negative book review is a fact of life. They will happen. But being prepared for such an experience doesn’t make the pain any less real.

[This guest post about getting a a negative book review was written by freelance writer, essayist and book review writing expert Steve Aedy. Steve has read all of Dostoyevsky’s stuff, so you know why he wears a beard.]

My mother always taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Growing up, I wished more people abided by that theory.  Even today, I still tend to get my feelings hurt over the occasional nasty remark. And nowhere are those nasty remarks more prevalent than book reviews.

Negative book reviews are a fact of life

They will happen.  But being prepared for such an experience doesn’t make the pain any less real.  A negative book review can feel like a dagger to the heart.  And often times, the pain can put us off of writing for weeks – or even years.

In a perfect world, all readers would come to the end of our book feeling completely satisfied with every aspect of the piece.  That may be the case – until the book falls into the lap of a complete stranger who is willing to evaluate the book after just a cursory glance.  Without having any emotional attachment to the book at all, this stranger is willing to pick your precious writing apart.

After receiving a negative review, what can you do?  Contact the site owner and ask for the review to be removed?  That’s not likely to happen.  Most retailers need a valid reason to do such a thing, and your delicate ego won’t suffice.

And why would you even want to do that?!  Negative reviews might be a necessary evil, but that doesn’t mean they are without value.

Here are three reasons why bad reviews are good:

1. A Bad Review Can Be a Learning Experience

Writing a book is a very emotional experience.  A bad review can feel like a personal attack, making you experience anger, hurt or both.  Take a moment (or several days) to work through those feelings.  When you can breathe again, move on.

Resist the urge to casually dismiss a bad review.  Ignoring those hurtful comments might be the best solution for your mindset; however, forgetting what your critics said could seriously hinder your writing.

As you were writing your book, you probably developed a sort of tunnel vision.  Now that the writing process is over, you must remove the blinders.  Find a way to look at the piece objectively and you can turn the bad review into a learning experience.

Sift through all the “I hate this book,” sentiments.  Find the real substance of the review – characters are flat, grammar and punctuation wasn’t perfect.  Take these tips to heart the next time you pick up your pen.  Look for ways to improve your writing.

2. A Bad Review Can Boost Book Awareness

You’ve heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, right?  Why has that particular literary piece drawn your attention?  Because of all the controversy!  People are reading the book just to see what the fuss is about.  Let me tell you, this is the ultimate example of a bad review doing good things for a book.

If you were to go to Amazon right now, you would see Fifty Shades of Grey has received 15,987 reviews.  Of those, nearly 30% are one star reviews!  And guess what, nearly half are 3 stars or less!

3. A Bad Review Can Enhance SEO

Do you know what search engine optimization is?  If you don’t, I’m not going to take the time to explain it to you in great detail.  It’s complicated.  Here is the gist:

When someone enters your name (or your book’s title) in an online search, you want your author or book site be listed towards the top of the results list, right?  Everyone knows the first few results are the ones that get clicked on.  No one wants to hunt through pages and pages of results. The process of moving to the top of that list is search engine optimization.

So, what do a negative book review and SEO have in common?  Every time someone posts a link to your website on their website, it makes Google happy.  This happiness results in SEO. Google doesn’t care about the reviewer’s scathing remarks. All Google cares about is the link that reviewer posted.

Therefore, even a one-star review that links back to your author or book site will be beneficial.  In theory, you could get so many of these links that your site surpasses the reviewer’s site in the search results and no one will ever know it’s there!

At some point in your writing career, you will get a negative review.  That’s life.  The question is: how will you react to that negative review?  Will you let it enhance your writing skills or let it end your career?

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  1. I have always understood from Goodreads, that bad reviews should be ignored. The reasoning behind this is that reviews are for readers not writers. The only step I have taken in response to a bad review was to make sure that the future reviewers knew my books were written for children, as obviously more than one reviewer didn’t know that.

    • Even if we are an enthusiastic book lover, we don’t enjoy everything we read. If you are asked to write a review on a book you don’t like, it is important to make sure not to feel guilty. You just make review what you have read. Before going to write a negative review, you have to keep in mind certain points:
      1. Consider the author’s perspective
      2. Balance weaknesses with strengths
      3. Be specific and provide examples


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