Skip to main content

How to Cope with Bad Reviews

Mary Lawrence, author of 2015 novel THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER, shares 15 pieces of encouragement and advice for writers dealing with bad reviews.

Not even 20 years of rejections from editors and agents prepared me for what came with the launch of my debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter. I assumed once I’d crossed the threshold to being a traditionally published author, no negative remark could possibly feel as lousy as two decades of cumulative self-doubt. Welcome to the world of snark.

GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free, signed copy of her novel to a random commenter. TRJohnson has won this giveaway. 

mary-lawrence-author-writer
The-alchemist's-daughter-book-cover

Column by Mary Lawrenceauthor of 2015 novel THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER
(April 2015, Kensington). Mary studied biology and chemistry, graduating from Indiana
University with a degree in Cytotechnology. She worked in the medical field for over
twenty-five years and now runs a small berry farm in Maine. Her articles have appeared
in The Daily Beast and Portland Monthly. Book 2 in the Bianca Goddard Mystery series,
DEATH OF AN ALCHEMIST, will release in February, 2016. Visit her on Facebook or Twitter

Never before have authors (and other creative types), been subjected to real time, stinging criticism in a public forum numbering in the billions.

As newspapers and magazines scrap their book review sections; blogs, Amazon, and Goodreads pick up the slack. We no longer read reviews written by editors who might offer a balanced critique of a work. Readers gravitate to reviews with caustic headlines and blinking .gifs that catch their eye and appeal to the cynic in all of us. Few of these reviews are well-written and almost all usually focus on some aspect of the writer’s story or writing style, the name an author chose for a character, the author’s eye color … whatever they find objectionable. Gone is the art of a well-written book review. Welcome to the world of snark.

So as a writer, here are some points to remember when you are feeling unjustly lambasted. I’ve collected these from other authors, friends and creative sorts, and have posted them next to my computer.

1. When you read a snarky review, replace everything that person wrote with “Look at me! I am so smart and clever unlike the idiot who wrote this book! Think less of this book and more of me!”

2. The best writers are the ones who get the most criticism.

(Do writers need MORE than one literary agent?)

3. Controversy is good, it means people have been affected enough to voice an opinion.

4. The majority of snarky reviews are written by frustrated writers, know-it-alls, or just plain miserable people.

5. A publisher didn’t choose you because you couldn’t write.

6. If you stick your head above the crowd, you are bound to be shot at.

7. It is very easy for those who fail to sit in judgment of others who have not.

8. You aren’t writing to make friends.

9. People can’t control what you write and you can’t control what they write in response.

10. Don’t let anyone rob you of the joy you find in writing.

11. “Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”--Terry Pratchett

12. People who write mean-spirited reviews unfortunately are the ones who have the inclination and time to write them.

(Book Payments and Royalties -- Your Questions Answered.)

13. "Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”—Steve Jobs

14." Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” --J.R.R.Tolkien

15. Get over yourself!

---------------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: Working With Literary Agents (Podcast, Episode 8)

In the eighth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we discuss all things literary agents—what to look for in an agent, how to best find an agent, and more! Plus, managing editor Moriah Richard sits down for a chat with Margaret Danko, literary agent with Paper Over Board!

Unlit Lighthouse

Unlit Lighthouse

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, the local lighthouse is unlit for the first time in over 100 years.

Ellie Marney: On the Unique Challenges of Writing Historical Fiction

Ellie Marney: On the Unique Challenges of Writing Historical Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ellie Marney discusses the history behind her new YA murder mystery, The Killing Code.

How You Know When the Time Is Right To Write a Memoir

How You Know When the Time Is Right To Write a Memoir

Choosing to write a memoir is no small decision. How do you know when the time is right for you? Here, author Peter Quinn shares how to know when to write a memoir.

From Script

Unearthing Historical Truths (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an exclusive interview with screenwriter Dana Stevens and director Gina Prince-Bythewood as they share their journeys as artists and of making of their latest film, The Woman King.

Dr. Cristina LePort: On Writing the Medical Mystery

Dr. Cristina LePort: On Writing the Medical Mystery

Medical professional and author Dr. Cristina LePort discusses combining her two passions to write her new medical thriller novel, Dissection.

Should We Write About the Pandemic in Fiction?

Should We Write About the Pandemic in Fiction?

Is it too soon? What’s the best way to incorporate it? Am I lying if I don’t? Author Deb Caletti discusses the tricky issue of whether or not writers should write about the pandemic in fiction.

Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

Amanda Flower: On Making a Sleuth Out of a Poet

USA Today bestselling author Amanda Flower discusses the very moment she had the idea for her new historical mystery, Because I Could Not Stop For Death.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 6 WDU Courses, our Poetry Awards Deadline, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce 6 WDU courses, our Poetry Awards deadline, and more!