What do you do with infuriating reviews?


I won’t even defend the grammatical correctness of that statement in the picture: EVERYBODY has an opinion, most of them WRONG.

WRITERS put their opinions out into the world where anyone can read them.

Readers have opinions, too, and they get to express them in many places, one of which is the very modern REVIEW.

This is the system now, people.

Get used to it.

For all the complaints, the reviewing systems are not going to disappear because they have enfranchised the disenfranchised billions who never had a platform before, and now they do.

Moderators may keep the discussion to civil levels.

Insecure bloggers will delete or alter comments they don’t like from opinionated readers who disagree with them.

But I’m finding that I don’t spend much time reading the word of bloggers who don’t ever bother responding to their interlocutors. Not worth it. It has become a two-way street.

[Sort of. The pitifully awkward communication via mobile may be the ONE thing that destroys the system, because it is much harder to do on those tiny keyboards. But wait for good speech-to-text software and microphones that can pick up the speakers subvocalisations, and we may be back in business.]

Everyone’s a critic.

Today a writer whined about her first 1* review, on an FB group I participate in – after writing a bunch of books! Lucky woman. Most of us get a 1* on the first book!

I could tell you stories. In fact, I will. Below. Because one of those reviewers (not the 1* one this time, but bad enough) got MY goat. [Lovely thing, name of Billy, soft, intelligent, beautiful brown eyes… but I digress.]

Writers are asking for it

Literally. We want reviews. We want feedback. We want to know when our arrow has hit their bullseye.

But we don’t want their bullshite.

We want praise. Glorious and unstinting and erudite and literate (not the same thing) praise.

Because, to be able to write well (assuming that’s what the goal is; with some writers you wonder… but I digress), we have to sit at the keyboard and open all our veins to get enough blood to write with (takes lots of extra blood for all those sidetracks and failed attempts that occur with good writing… but I digress).

And being open is a target for, well, bullies. (Anyone who doesn’t like our prose is… darn it with the digressions today.)

Unconscious bullies. Jealous bullies. Bullies-who-had-a-bad-day.

What to do?


Nothing overt or aimed at readers or argumentative or likely to start a flame war online!

There is enough garbage on the internet already.

And we have the example of very popular writers: pick your favorite, and your favorite book, and go look at the reviews. All of them. ESPECIALLY the negative reviews.

And remember, on AMAZON a 3* review is NEGATIVE/CRITICAL. Don’t believe me? Check those reviews on your favorite book’s page again: the 3*, 2*, and 1* are CRITICAL/NEGATIVE reviews.

On Goodreads, 3* is good, 4* is great, 5* is ‘best book I ever read.’ According to their rubric (I don’t make these things up – what’s the point when you can check so easily?).

On Amazon, 4* and 5* are good, 1*, 2*, and 3* are bad. Just to summarize that neatly for you.

Got it?

Find a place where it’s safe to vent (your own blog should be such a place, even though it’s pretty public, as long as you don’t identify anyone specific or any specific negative/critical review). Better still, complain only to friends and on closed writers’ groups, but it may not be as satisfying.

The upside?

Another review is another review. They keep adding up. SOMEONE is reading.

And reader/reviewers write their thoughts and opinions in their reviews; other people may read the reviews and gain more understanding of what they may be choosing to read. This is good, especially with the negative reviews.

But it ALWAYS points out to you that your ad copy, cover, description, back copy, quoted editorial reviews – everything up until the sample/Look Inside – is attracting certain readers. This should make you pause and THINK.

I know I have a lot of thinking to do (I knew that already, but it was far down on the To Do list, and has moved up quite a bit) when I get a negative review from someone who probably should not have read the book. Because it’s really not their kind of book – and I can’t change it to BE their kind of book. The story’s already set in concrete, all the way to the end of the trilogy, even the parts I haven’t written yet. The style, tone, characters, plot – all implacably going to be very similar to what is already published.

If someone states unambiguously they don’t like Mexican food, don’t give them a coupon and invite them to rate your Mexican restaurant. ‘Twill end badly on Yelp.

So our signals are crossed.

I’m glad they tried something obviously out of their regular reading zone. I’m very appreciative of their reviewing – most readers don’t, and it is an effort I appreciate. I’m not particularly pleased they rated the way they did, but I’m very glad they pointed out in their review what they liked and what they didn’t. That’s data for me, not for writing, but for marketing.

Not sure this counts as a rant, but it is an attempt to bang my head on the wall. Without doing too much damage – I’m slow enough already.

As an author, I do not go to my reviews and down rate the reviews I don’t like. It’s better if readers do that.

Now I’m going to take a nap. All this ranting wipes me out. Especially the ‘tread lightly’ part.

A reminder that Quozio and Stencil provide me ways to make images, gratis, and I would get a subscription if I needed more than a few graphics a month. This little bit of advertising – and the things I create with their tools – will have to be my form of payment for now. I AM grateful. The words, of course, are mine.

What’s your favorite negative review?

10 thoughts on “What do you do with infuriating reviews?

  1. Widdershins

    I read ‘user reviews’ now more than I have in the past. I think the internet has thrown everything so wide open that the historical methods of determining if a product is good, bad, or otherwise, have been diluted to the point of extinction. Looking at you NYT ‘bestseller list, which used to have some semblance of a tenuous connection to reality, but with the advent of self-publishing and their inability to acknowledge its existence finally rendered itself obsolete.
    … but I don’t read just one review, I read a bunch to get a ‘feel’ for the product, then make a decision.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I read a bunch, too.

      I’m entitled to judge the book – because it is being placed before me, for money, and as a product.

      I try not to judge the author: for picking a particular topic, for giving it a particular spin, for having characters express or act on beliefs I don’t have or don’t get.

      I also judge the reviews I read – if the reviewer says something negative, HOW does she say it? Is it obvious from the review that the reader has an agenda? Do I want to attract that particular kind of reader – and his reviews? Did I raise hackles – in a planned or accidental way.

      Then I make sure I’ve looked at the sample enough to make my own decision.

      Unfortunately, I have little reading time, so that even if the topic is good, unless the author is also reasonably competent, I don’t read. My brain just can’t go through a whole book replacing it’s with its and vice versa! I did that once – great little book, but my brain never saturated. It replaced EVERY it’s with it is, and then parsed the sentence. That was years ago. I no longer make that effort.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. joey

    I don’t care about reviews. I rarely write them, and seldom read them. Certainly wouldn’t read reviews on a book I wrote. I suppose if I sold at a certain level, I’d be gifted some person who calls me every day to tell me a rave review has been received.
    There are always those people who don’t like puppies and ice cream, they won’t like me, either.
    It’s terrible, but most of my writer friends write things that don’t interest me in the least bit. Sci-Fi, meh, horror, no thanks, action adventure, blah. It’s terrible, as I said. But then I am forced to admit that I have, and do, sometimes read books in those genres and absolutely love them. Infrequently, but it happens.
    Loved the Mexican food metaphor. Spot on.


      1. joey

        I like to read stories heavy on imagery and character development. I enjoy a page-turner now and again, but mostly I like to read about the evolution of the protagonist.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          It’s not hard, if you’re a reader. It’s not all literary and flowery and navel-gazing.

          It is perfectly possible to read it a bit at a time. Which is better than skimming.

          Or maybe I’m deluding myself.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Probably best – but your books have been out for a long time, and anything you might have used to change marketing has been absorbed (or ignored). I’m still struggling to get what is essentially marketing feedback – am I reaching the Tribe? – so every little bit is examined as closely as tea leaves or chicken entrails.

      I hope to get to the place where I don’t even think about it. Not there yet.

      Also, skin not thick enough yet. Working on it.

      Plus it gives me something to blog about.

      Liked by 1 person


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