Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Dipping The Quill Deeper: Overlooking Those Nasty Book Reviews

by Eva Marie Everson

Let’s be honest—we love our own work. We gave birth to it, after all. We slaved over it. Bravely took it to our critique groups and partners and allowed friends and family to read it before sending it to the publisher. The publisher loved it (obviously). The editor at the publishing house helped to make it the best it could be, and they loved it too. 

Once the book comes out, we anxiously await the reviews. We sometimes even pay for them—offering our hard-earned coins by sending Advanced Reader Copies (ARCS) to services with folks who love to read and who then post their honest reviews to their social media sites. 

The first reviews are released, and we are thrilled! They’ve mostly come from our hand-selected “street team” but we are still delighted. They are, by and large, 4- and 5-star reviews. When we read these lovely paragraphs of praise our shoulders straighten as our chest puffs out. Yes! The reader “got it.” They understood the message of our work. They enjoyed the way our words flowed, the lyrical melody they played. Oh, yes, yes, yes!

And then . . . someone along the way has the audacity to tell us that our baby isn’t as pretty as we believed. Or, they say things about our baby that just isn’t true. What do you do? What . . . do . . . you . . . do?

First . . .

Before I go any further, allow me to share some of the funniest one-star reviews I’ve had on my own books:
  • I’m giving it a one-star because I didn’t have time to read it.
  • I’m giving it “this rating” because I bought it for school but never opened it.
  • This was better than having nothing to read at all.
  • The last chapter was missing on my kindle.
  • The author introduced too much Bible worship and psalm quoting.
  • There was not enough of a faith element.
Now, if you will, allow me to share some of the best 1- and 2- star reviews a few author friends of mine have received.
  • I only bought this book because my niece is on the front cover.
  • Enough military jargon to choke a horse. (Eva Marie: it was a military-based book.)
  • I love the work of [writer’s name here], but she wrote this book in first person.
  • I couldn’t put this book down … but I didn’t like the ending. Please write a sequel.
  • This was a great book! (Eva Marie: so then why the one-star review?)
  • I spent about as much on the book as a Starbucks coffee, and feel like I spilled the coffee and wasted the $4.00.
  • I guess I will have to try something else from this author. I [sic] going out to eat a donut now.
Understand—those reviews were for books that were published by top houses, sold well, and written by some of the best writers in our industry.

Now … 

What do you do when you receive these reviews? Allow me to give you my best advice as well as the advice of those I’ve spoken to about this:
  • Do nothing. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You will be upset. You’re going to pout, and you’re going to call your best friend and you’ll tell them why this person should be booed off the face of the planet. But that’s all you should do. In fact, recently while scanning my Goodreads reviews (and always commenting to and thanking the reviewers for their glowing reports), I came across a less-than-complimentary review. It wasn’t a bad review; it simply wasn’t a glowing review. I clicked on the comment box to thank the reader when suddenly a Goodreads posted note came up. It said: Okay. You received a bad review. It happens. Don’t respond. Don’t even say anything nice. Just ignore it. (Or something to that effect.) So, that’s what I did. As badly as I wanted to respond with kindness, I said nothing. (Note: Amazon has removed the feature that allows authors to respond. This is probably . . . no, definitely . . . a good thing.)
  • Ignore bad reviews. Don't engage. Love them in this by steering clear. You, the object of their abuse, are not the person to fix their issue. Many trolls live to antagonize. If you engage, you are only feeding their addiction.
  • Honestly, don't even read your reviews. Instead, listen to your editors and agent about the direction of your books and writing.
  • Remember, if all of your reviews are 4- and 5-star reviews, it is then assumed that you paid for these and they are not legit. Receiving 3- and 2- and 1-star reviews means you are a real author.
  • Go eat donut now.
Finally . . .

As Goodreads said: It happens. Expect bad reviews for your precious baby. And, if I could offer one simple bit of advice more—when you read them, pray for the person who left the review. Because, typically, it’s not your baby they don’t like. Your work struck a nerve of some kind. This is their issue. Not yours. So, pray for them. Jesus knows best of all what rejection feels like, so . . . leave it to Him.


Eva Marie Everson is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of its two conferences. She is the multiple award-winning author of nearly 40 works and has received awards as a speaker and Bible teacher. Eva Marie is often seen at writers conferences across the States. She served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild for several years, and taught as a guest professor at Taylor University in 2011. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy their grandchildren. They are owned by one small dog and a princess cat.


  1. Eva Marie,

    Thank you for this wise advice about reviews. I've often told my authors when they call about a negative review, those validate the 4 and 5 star reviews. It happens to all of us and we need to know how to handle it (or not handle it).

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

    1. Terry, that's right. Without them, we appear phony, don't we?

  2. Eva Marie, this is a 'file this away for when I need it later' kind of post while still crafting my first novel. ;)
    However - your last paragraph is spot on for today. How many irritating people are allowed into our life because our Heavenly Father knows they need prayer? Lol
    We might be the only one to pray and open a door for Him to help them. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Eva Marie, I've been there. "You will be upset. You’re going to pout, and you’re going to call your best friend and you’ll tell them why this person should be booed off the face of the planet. And being one who needs affirmation, I cringe at criticism. But I've learned that some people just don't "get" the book, and that you can't please everyone all the time, nor should you, because different people have different tastes. In my book club, for example, sometimes some of the people love a book and others disliked it. Those funny reviews are hilarious, and I had one myself which I'm very proud of. I received a one-star review on my book of devotions that read, "It's all about God! Stories involving Jesus, God, Christ." Hmmm. Well thank you, you're right!

    1. Isn't that strange??? What did they expect? That's why I laughed at the ones I received that said "too much God" vs. "not enough God."

  4. Best encouragement I've read thus far ...
    "Your work struck a nerve of some kind. This is their issue. Not yours. So, pray for them. Jesus knows best of all what rejection feels like, so . . . leave it to Him" Thanks for sharing what we are ALL feeling and struggling to articulate. And can you give articles star ratings? This would be a strong 5 :)

  5. Great advice for authors. After I read this, I googled "worst reviews given to famous authors" and found this review by the New York Times about "Gone With the Wind."

    "Very nearly every reader will agree, no doubt, that a more disciplined and less prodigal piece of work would have more nearly done justice to the subject-matter."

    I wonder what Margaret Mitchell thought about that one. A review is just somebody's opinion, and we all know you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but ... (You know the rest.)