Authors Attack: Dealing With Negative Book Reviewers

All Freelance Writing Podcast - Episode 3 - Dealing with negative book reviews - with Guest Co-host Princess Jones


In the third episode of the All Freelance Writing Podcast, I'm joined by Princess Jones. We chat about extreme cases of authors behaving badly by attacking negative book reviewers. And we offer tips on how you can deal with negative book reviews more tactfully (hint: there is almost never an appropriate time for you to take on a reviewer).

You can hear the latest episode below (warning: it contains profanity). Or you can read the show notes for the important takeaways.

As always, your questions are welcome. Visit the main Podcast page to submit questions to be answered in a future episode. The next episode, on December 4th, will be a Q&A special covering blogging-related questions. Get them in my the end of November, and I'll include as many as I have time for (others will be featured in later episodes).

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

5 thoughts on “Authors Attack: Dealing With Negative Book Reviewers”

  1. I have to admit Jennifer *such* a cool customer when it comes to negative book reviews. At least, like 3 times a year…lol! Not quite. But I have mini seconds/moments where I decide to agree with the reviewer.


    I agree, and laugh with them, at me. Why? Because all negative responses to negative reviews, including: feeling angry, feeling hurt, feeling rejected, feeling like your confidence has been blasted to bits….and the list goes on forever… because….

    ….you’re taking yourself too seriously!

    I take myself seriously some of the time. Which leads to reviews, which may sting me. Other times, I decide that I am simply typing words and selling them, and that’s something, when I think about it, well, it makes me laugh.

    When I’m laughing, I realize that even if I don’t agree with negative reviews, I agree with the moment, meaning, fighting reviewers mentally or physically only makes me feel like poop. So I laugh, and respond with an agreement, and most reviewers look like cartoon characters, with steam coming out of their heads. Not angry, not happy, just no clue in Hades what to do next 🙂

    Unorthodox approach here, but it keeps me sane, light, and at peace, and since I respond in this fashion 1 out of every 150 times I receive negative reviews (yeah right, 150 reviews :), I guess that’s why I blog from paradise? 😉

    What a fun listen, although I had to read the notes. Ubud connection speeds are a drag at times (tough life I have).

    Thanks Jennifer!! Very helpful share for authors 🙂


    • One thing you nailed here is in pointing out this this is a “moment.” That reviewer probably left their negative review in the moment, based on the gut reaction they had to your book. They aren’t likely thinking about you or the book anymore. The only one stuck on it is going to be the author. And like you pointed out, sometimes as authors we take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes it’s best to ignore, and then get back to doing what we love.

      It sounds like you have an interesting approach. Normally I’d recommend not responding at all, but like I said in the episode, I’m not one of those people who’s going to tell you never to respond. Just 9 times out of 10. 😉 Very few people have the personality to pull it off in a way that won’t put their reputation at risk (which is far worse than a review putting book sales at risk for one title at risk, which it’s unlikely to do anyway). But if it works well for you and comments are coming in at a reasonable pace where you can respond somewhat evenly, keep doing what’s working. 🙂

  2. Great topic Jennifer.

    Writers should simply expect a percentage of reviews to be negative. They are part of the process as a whole.

    We also need to realize that sometimes a negative review is correct. Correct in that the reviewer did not like it. If they did not like the book and then posted a negative review….it’s correct. Perception is reality. I think authors get offended because they consider the negative review to be wrong. That’s the authors fault not the negative reviewer’s.

    A good review is the same as a bad review. Both are a posted opinion of the reader. Nothing more, nothing less. If you write a great book, negative reviews will not impact your sales because the amount of positive reviews will override the negative. If that doesn’t happen…..write better books.

    I have trouble believing great writers care about negative reviews much.

    Thank you for a great episode!


    • “If you write a great book, negative reviews will not impact your sales because the amount of positive reviews will override the negative. If that doesn’t happen…..write better books.”

      Exactly Stephan. Companies don’t stop producing projects simply because a handful of people don’t like them and leave negative feedback. They focus on getting their hands into the products of people who do like what they have to offer (or those they expect will like their products). And if most feedback is negative, they often pull the product and go back to the drawing board.

      It all comes down to business. If a goal is to sell books, authors are in business whether they like it or not. That’s true of traditionally-published authors who independently contract with a third party to bring the book to market. And it’s even more true of indies who manage the entire process more directly. And a part of being in business is knowing when to stay the course and knowing when to make changes to make your product or service more appealing. The big difference is that authors tend to tie their personal egos into the products they release, so they can take negative feedback like a personal attack. Sometimes you just have to get over it. Use a pen name if you need to separate your identity from your reviews. And if people hate your latest book, get back to that drawing board and write something they’ll love the next time around.

  3. As a writer, I am the hardest on myself. And right or wrong, I find myself at times giving reviews on indie writers. Some I like and to be honest, many I don’t.

    Looking back when I first started putting my work out there for the public, I experienced some horrible reviews. One reader compared my writing to a seventh grader, really offensive to the seventh grader, but after I settled down, I went back and read it again. I pondered on the review. I decided to take the positive points. First, the reviewer finished the book, and second, the reviewer thought the story had potential. To me, that meant I had to go back and work the story more. I knew I had a future if I worked hard at it. From that point on, I have kept that review in the back of my mind. And for several years I have studied other established writers and any books on how to write.

    I actually find myself grateful for that reviewer. If it had not been for her comments, I might have gone on thinking my work didn’t need polishing or that I didn’t need sharpening my skills. So, I’m glad she gave her honest opinion.

    Lately, I find myself shocked by most reviews. Reviewers seem to be more geared in stroking the writer’s ego rather than writing the truth. I see ill-written books that in some cases, I can’t understand even a paragraph. The dialogue isn’t clear, the characters are poorly developed and I can’t tell if the book is first person, second or third. often I find the story falls flat and lacks clarity… etc…

    Keeping that in mind, whenever I’ve left a review, the author comes back at you and attacks your comments. I’ve even had the author coming after me under different names, pretending to be a fan. It gets crazy with some of these writers.

    I know it never feels good getting a bad review but it’s never good to go after the reviewer regardless. It’s best to take the positive, learn from their perspective and keep on working at improving your skills. I think when a writer gets nothing but good reviews, then he becomes placid and stops pushing to improve.

    Whether the reviewer is attacking or stating the truth, never respond back. It’s not professional and it makes the author look bad to potential readers.


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