Last week Russian Lullaby and Pure Iron both received scathing, 1-star reviews. Wow, that stung!

Negative reviews and rejection are part and parcel of the trade. Authors, regardless of genre, must develop thick skins in order to avoid withering beneath the pain of harsh criticism. It behooves the author to remember:

  1. You can’t please everyone. Trite, but true. Even renowned author J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame received nasty, negative reviews from people who detested her books. I’m in good company, don’t you know?
  2. You can’t stop the haters. There are folks who thrive on negativity and spreading misery wherever they go. These are the people who will complain and badmouth your work for no other reason than they can.
  3. Your options are limited. Marketing experts tell vendors of products and services, such as hotels and restaurants, that negative reviews offer opportunities to show that they listen to their customers and to fix problems. An author’s situation is somewhat different.

Authors should heed the warning of multiple reviewers complaining of poor editing. That’s your cue to hire a professional editor to fix those issues and re-upload the content file. You can then post an announcement in the book’s description that the content has been professionally edited as of “this” date. Shoppers reading the book description will likely keep that in mind when they come across the reviews complaining of poor editing.

If you write romance, as I do, and you get reviewers complaining about explicit sex in your book, make sure that you haven’t misclassified your book’s category as a “sweet,” “clean,” or “Christian” romance. Readers expecting nothing steamier than a lingering kiss can be quite offended when they encounter detailed, premarital coitus.

Contrary to most marketing wisdom, oftentimes it is best not to respond to the negative review. Responses easily come across as defensive. Bite your tongue and ask yourself if responding is really worth your time and energy. The negative reviewer for Russian Lullaby mentioned she downloaded the book for free. That, I thought, deserved as response because, as of this date, the book has not been offered for free except through Kindle Unlimited. The reviewer has not responded to my question about her purchase, so, unfortunately, I have no lead in figuring out whether some other site has stolen a copy of my book and is compounding that theft with offering it at no charge to its customers. (That actually happened acquaintance and I helped shut that website down.)

The negative reviewer for Pure Iron accused me of plagiarism. While I freely admit to getting ideas/concepts from sources other than my imagination–in this case, a musician who plays both guitar and violin–the development of said ideas/concepts involves no plagiarism whatsoever. However, an indignant response would have been perceived as defensive and, therefore, not worth the effort. However, I do want to assure people that I do not condone plagiarism and will not be party to it.

While every author hopes for and wants only glowing reviews, it’s become another truism that a small percentage of negative reviews can also help sales. Negative reviews give the product authenticity by avoiding the perception that “the positive reviews are all from the author’s family and friends.”

Every reader has a right to his or her opinion. No author can prevent that. The author’s best defense is to write as well as he or she can and produce the best book of his or her ability. You’ll take your lumps, but that will make every positive review all the sweeter.