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Turning Negativity into Opportunity: Handling Bad Reviews as an Indie Author

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

When it comes to #reviews, authors need them. We ask for them. We know we'll get them. But they won't all be positive. Here are some of my tips as an #IndieAuthor on how to deal with negative reviews!

 

If you're thinking about publishing your works and one last thing is holding you back, I think I know what it is. It's other people's opinions. I can tell you right now that there is no way to avoid them. But if there is one thing I've relied on since the beginning of my indie author days, it's this quote.


"Nothing ever grows in your comfort zone."


Yes, publishing is uncomfortable. It's scary. It's anxiety-inducing and it's stressful. But ten years from now, you will likely be looking back with regret if you did not take that chance and publish your hard work. I know I would and that thought forced me to take the leap and I have not regretted it once. Even when I got my first terrible review...


Putting your art out there in any form is scary because no matter what, we all know that not everyone is going to like it and that hurts, no matter how confident you are. I get the sweats every time I put a new story out into the world. I can tell you that every author does, no matter their experience. It's all part of the process and there is absolutely no way to make everyone enjoy your work.


What's the secret then? Well, there is no secret. But here are the ways I've dealt with bad reviews in the past.


1: Realize it's only someone's opinion and not everyone's will be the same. You might get some bad reviews, but when the right people find your book, it will be worth it.


2: WARNINGS: I've found, particularly in the romance genre, people appreciate warnings in as much detail as you can provide. People's tastes are vastly different and things like murder, rape, abuse, and specific kinks need to be addressed before hand as to not surprise the reader in a negative manner. This is true in other works as well that might deal with anything that could impact a reader. This is not to say you can't write those things. Don't ever think that. Your art is yours and you are free to express yourself in any way you want to. The rebel in you might be saying "I shouldn't have to warn readers or give things away." But think of it this way; A reader who sees your trigger warnings and chooses not to read your book is better than one who does not realize trigger warnings, reads it, and gives you a terrible review. At least, that's how I see it. #TriggerWarnings


3: Do NOT reply to negative reviews. It might be extremely tempting to argue a review that sheds a bad light on your work. I know it was tempting to me. My first negative review stated things that, in my opinion, were untrue about the contents of my book. I also gave very clear trigger warnings at the beginning of the story and was called out for those triggers being undesirable to the reader (so I guess that proves trigger warnings don't always work). I wanted so badly to report the review. Respond to it. Address it. I did none of those things because I knew it would paint me in a bad light. We, as authors, cannot fight with readers because we don't like what they have to say. And before I knew it, my very next review on that book was in my defense and it cleared the air for future readers without me having to step in at all. I really appreciated that.


4: Realize that nothing will ever be for everyone. There will ALWAYS be people who do not like your work and people who love it. I've had people private message me telling me my book was the best they've ever read and I've gotten one star reviews on those very same books. You must be prepared to see both sides and accept them. Avoid the anxiety that comes with negative reviews by realizing it's a big world and everyone is not the same. AND, who knows! Many times as a reader, I've picked up a book BECAUSE of the negative reviews.


5: Seek support from friends, family, and beta readers. There's nothing like consulting friends/family and beta readers when you need someone to reassure you. Especially beta readers (if you have them) are there to read your work before publication and their job is to be honest. If they loved your work before, they still love it even after a bad review. It never hurts to be open and seek the support of others when it comes to dealing with the mental blows some reviews can deliver.


6: Avoid grammar reviews. Something I've learned being self-published is that many ratings have to do with grammar, especially in the indie author world. For the longest time, I did not want to publish because I thought I needed a pro editor. While a pro editor is ideal, they cost upwards of $1000 depending on the length of your novel. Maybe some people have that kind of disposable money, but I know I don't! Many blogs I found at the time almost shamed writers over the subject saying there is no hope for publishing a self-edited work. As an indie author, I can tell you that is WRONG. I know of many self-published writers who self-edit. Is it ideal for everyone? No. Is it sometimes our only choice? Yes. But if you're self-editing, you must be thorough. And if you have friends or family willing to give it a read, ask them to pick out mistakes if they see them because some of my reviews have said my stories are good, but grammar needs work. Is that forgivable to indie readers? Most times, yes. But avoiding grammar reviews is always preferable, am I right? #SelfPublishing

 

To conclude, there really isn't a secret to dealing with bad reviews. Your very first one will hurt. Maybe the next one will, too. but then the good ones will start overshadowing the bad and in the end, you'll begin to see that any review is a good one because they bring readers to you. Some of the most popular books out there hang out in a 3.5 star average pool. So don't be discouraged. Reviews are how authors gain visibility and they don't all have to be 5 stars. Have a glass of wine, reflect a little, and move on. It's all part of #writing and if you've made it far enough to get reviews at all, you've made it farther than most❤ Be proud!

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