The positives of negative reviews

I review small-press and self-published books at the New Podler Review of Books, and I’ve unfortunately read my share of, shall we say, “challenging” books. I hate writing bad reviews. I’m an author, too, so I know how much blood, sweat, tears, love, and butt-in-the-chair time writers put into their work. I know how much courage it takes for writers to submit their baby to a complete stranger and say, “Judge it, please,” and then sit back cringing as if waiting to be slapped.

Peter Hassebroek at LL Book Reviews says authors (especially indie authors) shouldn’t sweat over bad reviews, and offers several positives they should take away from one:

* Something about your book enticed the reviewer to select it over dozens of others.
* Something made the reviewer spend time reading your book, foregoing reading or some other pleasurable activity, such as watching or playing football.
* After reading it, the reviewer cared enough to dedicate additional hours solely to craft a custom review just for your creation.
* The reviewer respected you enough as a professional author to be honest.

A glowing review, while nice to read and share, is useless for your craft and possibly dangerous in the way junk food is tasty but harmful to an athlete’s condition. A negative review, on the other hand, helps you grow by providing clues to what might be missing in your craft, what others may fear to tell you, what you need to hear.

Read the whole thing.

Two things I’d add, though.

First, all commercially successful authors get bad reviews, so if you’re a relatively new indie author, you shouldn’t take a bad review as a sign to quit. Keep writing, improve your craft, put your work out there, and the good reviews will come.

Second, take negative (and positive) reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews can be helpful if they’re thoughtful critiques of your book, offering points where you excelled along with suggestions for improvement. But if all a reviewer essentially says is, “You suck!”, then your only reaction should be pity for the poor soul whose self-worth hinges on tearing you down.

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