What To Do With A Bad Review

What? Somebody didn’t like my masterpiece? They gave me a 2 star review???


Oh, the pain of a bad review.

Hey, we all get ‘em. I’m a fan of a certain very famous author, but I don’t like everything he writes. I got one of his books over the summer on the recommendation of a friend who is also a fan of his.

And I couldn’t get into the story at all. The story sucked. I must have read that opening page six times. It absolutely didn’t interest me at all. So I put it aside and forgot about it.

What I didn’t do was write a bad review. I could have, but who cares what I think? The guy sells millions of books and I wish I had his success. This one wasn’t for me. Maybe I’ll pick it up again one day and force myself past age six, and discover that it’s the best thing ever. Maybe not.

And that’s why he should care, just like you – but not too much.

Somebody once said if you aren’t getting at least some bad reviews, you aren’t doing enough marketing. Okay, it was me. Sounds like crap to me now, but let’s look at it.

A bad review may simply be a sign that you reached some people you normally wouldn’t reach – and that’s a good thing.

You have to find new audiences, and when you try, you’re not always going to succeed. You’ll get some bites from people who won’t like the book and won’t become fans.

That’s fine. Of course, when we’re starting out, we just want some reviews at all, but one bad review thrown in with five (very hard fought for) good reviews can really bring your average rating down. So what do you do about it?

Usually, you should just ignore it.

Let it go, you can’t please everybody. Remember the good reviews – unless there aren’t any, and then you need to seriously look at the feedback the readers are giving you. But never – NEVER – make changes to your story based on any one review.

Occasionally, you should post a reply. NOT USUALLY.

I got a 2 star review on a book I’m currently advertising. Ouch. This lady mentioned that the book was not a good value because it was too short. She suggested that the synopsis should have mentioned that it was only a short story.

Hey, that’s fair. I usually do that; I just missed on this one.

I reread the synopsis. I also left out that it’s a book – well, a short story – by bestselling author and humorist Dan Alatorre. What difference does that make? Well, it’s a little helpful marketing, for sure, to remind potential buyers that they are perusing items that are from a bestselling author; it implies quality. People are willing to spend a little more on an item that they perceive to be of higher quality.

As an indie author, it’s always a challenge to figure out where your books should be priced. Sometimes we overshoot. Usually, we price ourselves too cheaply. It’s a give and take to figure it out. I’m still figuring it out.

This “bad” review even said she’d consider other books by me – so the marketing was a success. She also said she liked the book/short story! In her 2 star review, she said she “thoroughly enjoyed the story.”

I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot to like in that review. It’s like those interviews when you have to name a weakness and you say you work too hard, stating a positive as a negative. I’m okay with a negative review that, in the opening sentence, says how much they liked the book!

Now, if she had slammed me mercilessly, I might have reacted differently, and I’ve gotten those reviews, too. It’s tough to ignore, but The Long Cutie got a bad review and it hurt. Despite my best efforts, that book only has a handful of reviews. (It sells well, but folks don’t review it.) I was eventually was able to ignore the bad review, but I looked at it for a long time wondering what I could have done differently to make that reader happy.

Break down the points the reviewer mentioned into good and bad.


Focus On The Good Points, if any, in the review:

1. I thoroughly enjoyed the story

2. I enjoyed it enough to evaluate other books by this author for purchase


Folks, that’s a huge win. If I can get the pricing right, she might become a loyal fan.


The negatives:

1. (I) thought this was a book. I am disappointed. It was only a story – 32 pages long.

2. price

3. I enjoyed it enough to evaluate other books by this author for purchase, but I will do so warily. (Emphasis added) That’s fair. If the short stores say they’re short stories, that problem is likely solved.

4. I don’t think the synopsis of the book conveyed this was only a short story – she’s right. It didn’t. That’s easily fixed.


So I put in a comment on her review, and I said she made a good point and I’d fix it, and I was glad she enjoyed the story.

If somebody was being abusive, there’s a button to push to report that, but it’s for abuse, not bad reviews.

And this was actually a pretty good review. Yes, the page length is stated clearly in the book details that Amazon provides, but it’s not big deal to add it into the synopsis. That synopsis is designed to help sell the book, but I have no problem dropping in a line that says it’s a short story. It isn’t the first thing in the synopsis, but it’s in there. I did a quick edit, added the stuff about bestselling author and humorist, and added that it’s a short story. Those changes will appear in less than twelve hours. Anybody shopping tonight will see it if they look.

The takeaway is, not all reviews are good, but

not all bad reviews are bad.

(Wait. Not all bad reviews are bad – yeah, that’s right.) It shows you’re reaching new markets and it might provide valuable feedback. It can also say some nice things!

And having a 2-star review seems to validate the 5 star reviews. I always get nervous when a book only has 5 star reviews. Whether it’s ten reviews or a hundred, nobody disliked the book? Come one.

More reviews is more reviews, and more is better. A book with 10 reviews looks more legit than a book with 2 reviews. Everybody has a mom and a friend. That could be the two reviews. People want to do what other people have done; that helps sales. Twenty reviews look better than ten. Fifty look even better. More is better.

A “bad” review gives you the opportunity to look into who the reviewer was. I don’t mean for retribution, I mean for feedback. Does the reviewer reads a lot? Several books a week? Does she review a lot?

Enthusiastic readers are great. Enthusiastic readers who write reviews are worth their weight in gold.

I need a fan like that, and so do you! If I work it right, she might become one. I’d love for her to buy all my books and write good reviews for all of them. Right now, price seems to be the only issue. Maybe I can have a sale and put ‘em all at 99 cents and let her know somehow, you know? I might really benefit from that.

But I benefitted anyway.

People who complain give you a chance to fix what you’re doing wrong.

That’s better than not telling you and them just quietly going away – and you continuing to make the mistake over and over. It’s inexpensive education, usually. Take advantage of it. Be big enough to say thank you if you want.

I don’t know if I can make her a fan and I can’t send a lot of time trying, but her other reviews seem fair and she was actually pretty nice to me, so I appreciate the input.

Meanwhile, it helped create this educational post for you, and got my fingers warmed up for some writing.

Time to get back to it!

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

20 thoughts on “What To Do With A Bad Review

  1. Reblogged this on Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR and commented:

    I’m rerunning this because we need to remember we’re GOING to get a bad review on occasion, and that it’s not the end of the world. And because I just got one on The Navigators.

    (This post was from a while ago and isn’t pertaining to Navs.)

  2. Really good information, Dan. However, I’m like the actress who doesn’t/won’t watch her own films—sometimes and to a certain degree. For me, I have to get over the fear (period), whether for rejection or praise/acceptance, that accompany today’s struggle of writing a novel and, more so, successfully marketing it. On your advice, when I get a book out there, I’m going to force myself to at least skim the reviews.

          1. There are times to wear that sensible hat. Other times, the beanie with the feathers and made out of ribeye steaks and plastic-foil-duct tape with bug antennae.

        1. Oh, also, as a woman, which I am and you clearly are not, Dan (!), sometimes the reviews can get quite nasty and sex-based. I had a short story (blinded) in a competition of sorts and a couple different male commenters who identified as being males criticised to the extent that (my story and another in the group, authored by someone else—I don’t know whether that was by a male or female) were examples of ‘ooh, girlz be badd’ protagonists (and that was the exact dismissive misspelling). Maybe I misread them; maybe not. It’s not hard to imagine that other folks from LGBTQ communities or people of color experience that and much worse. In any case, reading the reviews, as you say, can sometimes help you improve, so you take the good with the bad and foundation-less, too.

          1. True. Basically, if you are going to put your work out for other people to look at, some are not going to like it. Some of those are going to say so in a review. Or by lashing out because of things that have nothing to do with you.

  3. I had one reviewer who trashed my book–everything from a character crying too much to how I used the word trudged to explain how excited, but tired soldiers arrived with some news. This woman actually used the sentence in a blog post of her own to further trash the book. Let’s just say I was devastated and a little surprised that anyone would take the time to tear my unknown novel to shreds. It seemed so over the top–until I took a look at her Goodreads page and her other reviews which were ten times more bitchy. I then checked her twitter feed–filled with bitchy and sarcastic tweets about EVERYTHING. I also read reviews of her book (made me feel much better–okay, I’ll admit that I really enjoyed reading the horrible review I found–childish, I know). My husband kindly suggested I stop after laughing at the tweets.

    After a week of showing the review to everyone I knew so I could rebut her comments I finally got over it. She did make a few valid points about proofreading (which I kinda knew I had to fix already) so I used the experience to push me to re-edit. I’m so glad I did. Thank you unhappy reader! 🙂

    The good thing is once you get a bunch of reviews you can read over the great ones and realize you’re not going to please everyone.

    Thanks for your insights, Dan.

  4. Personally, I’d be upset that they didn’t leave a three star review if they liked the story. Buuuuut that’s just me! 🙂 I need to give my book out for more reviews, but a) I have a fear of bad reviews (hence reading this post) and b) people I’ve offered my book to hasn’t bothered reading and reviewing. Boooo…Maybe I’m just too nice not to say “get busy and read! Lol and c) I want people to buy! Lol so far, all my Twitter followers are authors that aren’t willing to buy. I need normal, every day readers. *Whine* hehe Good article as usual! Don’t think I said that yet!

  5. I agree that not everyone will appreciate every book. The negative reviews can be helpful. I do pay attention to constructive criticism in reviews and try to address their concerns. But ultimately if I don’t agree wuth their opinion, or if I think they are being mean for the sake of it I ignore them.

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