My Bad Book Review

Bad Review

Writing Life

Last week I was appalled when I read what I considered a bad review of one of my books. My first thought was, that’s it, I’m done, no more novels for me. But my love of writing immediately took over, and I decided to get whatever I could out of it.

First, I reviewed the review, and realized it wasn’t a review as much as it was an editorial report or critique. That probably came from the fact that the person who wrote it sells author services and was eager for me to pay her to help me.

The second thing was that this person liked to make broad generalizations that led me to believe that I had repeatedly made the same mistake, which wasn’t true. Conversely, in her view, I never did certain things she thought I should have done. That was one of the reasons I felt judged and condemned.

That’s not a good feeling, so instead of continuing to think in that vein, I looked for a compliment. I found one, too. I’d like to have found a few more, not that I believe in false flattery. I just happen to know that politeness oils the wheels of communication. Mother always used to say, “Think before you speak. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say is true, is it kind, do I have to say it?” In others words why be harsh when you can be gentle?

The one thing I liked about the critique was when the reviewer spotted and commented on the way I had rushed through the book. What that observation did was to allow me to give myself permission to work at my own pace and do a thorough job without hurrying for the several reasons I had hurried. When a critic agrees with something you knew about yourself, but didn’t want to face, it can be helpful.

Yes, at first I was angry. But that felt awful, and I wanted the Holy Spirit’s help to feel me better about myself, to be encouraged, to go on. He reminded me to thank God for the entire experience (I Thessalonians 5:18). Next, I prayed for the reviewer and forgave her. When I did that, I saw that the way she treated me may have been the way she had been treated, and that she needed loving kindness as much as I did. I sincerely asked our Lord to give them to her (Luke 6:28). I felt a lot better after that.

I’ve recently read two articles from the big book distributors, Amazon and Smashwords. Both say we writers must not respond to hurtful reviews. They also say that even a big writer can receive a one star review. I was surprised at that. I went back and looked at my stars and there were three of them. A three star review is not a bad review. Yea!

In the days since, I’ve been rebuilding my confidence. Using the Message and the Amplified Bible, I wrote out passages from I Peter 5 as if our Father God were speaking them to me personally. I took the liberty to add some thoughts that came to mind. It was so refreshing, and I was able to cast this particular care on Him as He said to do.

Here’s what that looked like: I’m teaching you to cast your cares on Me. You need not fear any kind of punishment. There is no punishment, only My loving, gentle correction of error so that you will not be hurt. I know you love Me. You love Me because I first loved you

From all that, I learned that receiving the review wasn’t a bad thing after all. I had learned more about my writing and myself than I could ever have learned any other way, and I am grateful.


  1. I really enjoyed your comment, It was well written, and you are so right. Thanks.

  2. I have received enough bad reviews now across all four of my titles to know how to handle them internally, but I still remember the nauseating twinge I felt following the first bad review.

    I’ve learnt now how to review the reviews. The most important thing I look for in a review is – does it have anything constructive to say. If it doesn’t, then I file it away and (try to) forget about it. I then remember that the overwhelming body of opinion regarding my work has been positive, so I find it easier to dismiss a bad review out of hand quickly.

    By all means, draw strength from your God but also draw srength from the fact that you have done something not many people have done and that is to have written a book.


  3. You managed to make lemonade out of lemons. Still, no matter how you size it up, someone who uses a review platform to make it their own platform to point out why people should hire them is annoying. I tend to vote those reviews down. I have little patience. But you’re right. We *should* try to learn from the reviews and not shrug it off so readily.

    • My mohter always said to let hurts roll off like water off a duck’s back, but I’ve never been good at that. I admire people who can do it, though. I suppose each of us has our own best way of dealing with things. Whatever works.

  4. A bad review is so painful, but the biggest bit of advice is to never, ever respond. The good reviews will outshine the bad, so you must find a way to move past them. I’ve been there and boy, do they ever hurt, but you can’t win having an argument on someone’s opinion (even if it is malformed). Great post!

    • I had a knee jerk reaction to respond, and to explain myself, but I read your kind of advice before I did it, and was I ever glad. Thanks for commenting. It means a lot.

  5. I can soooo relate to this and really appreciate how you sought comfort from the Holy Spirit! Every writer faces this at some point and you have modeled how to handle it with grace. God will use you mightily. Thank you for such an inspiring post.

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