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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Negative Reviews… and How this Author Handles Them

Today’s post was written by Adria J. Cimino, an Amazon bestselling author and co-founder of indie publishing house, Velvet Morning Press. 

Have my novels, Paris, Rue des Martyrs and Close to Destiny, received negative reviews? Of course. Thankfully, the positive has outweighed the negative, but that doesn’t mean I’m delighted when I see a new two-star or (cringe) one-star review happily waiting for me in the morning. Sometimes, my husband will be on Amazon and call out to me “You’ve got a new review…” My immediate reaction: Heart palpitations, deep breath, then the question, “How many stars?”

Since I was a journalist prior to turning to fiction full time, I was used to working with many editors and taking my share of criticism. Still, as I would learn, Amazon reviews are a lot different from an editor telling you “you need to liven up this paragraph” or “cut some of this extra material.” I was ready for reviews that would critique style, character development or plot. And there are some in that category, which is fine.

But unfortunately, and what I found shocking, is that there are also reviews containing anger, sarcasm or insults. And this applies to pretty much any book out there. Have a look at some of the one and two star ratings for a book of your choice, and you will see. (In my personal experience, this does not apply to book bloggers; they have always been professional and respectful, whether they’ve liked a book or not.)

As for the “mean-spirited” reviews, I don’t think it’s fair for a reader to sit behind his or her computer and lash out at an author with such emotion. For me, it’s simply about common courtesy and respect for a fellow human being. A reader can say he or she didn’t like the book for XYZ reason without getting insulting.

That said, no matter what the nature of a negative review, my way of handling the situation remains the same: I do not engage. In addition to being an author, I’m co-founder of a small publishing house, Velvet Morning Press. And that is the advice we give our authors. Even if the reviewer misunderstands your novel or reveals the ending without writing “spoiler alert.” Even if the reviewer says you are the worst writer on earth. No exceptions. You will always lose. Why? Because people have a right to their opinions, even if the opinions, in your opinion, seem misguided. You will always look like the “bad author,” who can’t accept criticism.

Writing is artistic, and artists of any sort face critics. Even the most well-known actors and musicians have experienced scathing reviews (some opera stars have even been booed right on stage) so you’re in good company.

And overall, chances are, there will be plenty of good reviews to balance the negative ones. In fact, readers often look at authors who only have five-star reviews with suspicion. Did all of those reviews come from friends and family? How could EVERYONE like your book? If you’ve garnered some negative reviews, it’s clear that the general public is reading your book—not just your personal fan club.

So now, if you want to see how my novels, Paris, Rue des Martyrs and Close to Destiny, have fared, stroll over to my Amazon page and have a look. (And to save me some shame, if you read a one- or two-star, please read one of the four- or five-star reviews as well to balance things off!)


Adria J. Cimino is the author of two novels, Close to Destiny and Amazon best-seller Paris, Rue des Martyrs. She is also co-founder of indie publishing house Velvet Morning Press and a member of Tall Poppy Writers, a community of writing professionals committed to connecting authors with each other and with readers. Prior to jumping into the publishing world full time, Adria spent more than a decade as a journalist at news organizations including The AP and Bloomberg News. You may learn more about Adria and her work by visiting her website at http://adriajcimino.com/.

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