Dealing With Bad Reviews as an Indie Author

Dealing With Bad Reviews as an Indie Author

Posted by on September 18, 2017

No author wants one, but we all get them: bad reviews. Horrible, mean, grumpy, one-star reviews. If we’re working hard, putting out good books, editing properly, formatting carefully and marketing to an appropriate audience, we should get very few. But if we’re selling enough books, readers will start reviewing them, and sooner or later a reader who hates your book will take time out of her pathetic sad-ass day (sorry, I digress) to write a bad review.

I’ve found two ways to deal with bad reviews, and both have ended up with me both laughing and feeling (just a little) bad for the nasty, unkind, talentless and probably friendless (I’m digressing again) reviewers.

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Technique no 1: Look at other reviews by the same person

Ever heard that there’s a certain percentage of the population who will never be happy with anything? People who are constantly complaining and always miserable? Maybe one of them bought your book. I noticed a rare one-star review recently on my otherwise very well-received (though I say so myself) and long-term bestselling in category (Amazon says so) ebook Free Tools For Writers, Bloggers and Solopreneurs. I responded by checking out other reviews by the same reader. I wanted to see if this person was in my target market. If she loved similar books but hated mine, I would surely have something to worry about.

Know what I found? She hated almost everything she had ever read, used, or purchased. Here are some of her review ratings and headings:

One star: Junk

One star: Garbage

One star: Worst App Ever… Sucks!!!

One star: It was just ok blah rip off book (that was mine – she was quite kind, relatively speaking)

One star: Stupid App!!!

One star: Worthless

But… what was this? I found a five star review. The heading was “Great info”. The book was called 5-HTP – The Serotonin Connection: The natural supplement that helps you be in control of your mind and body now! The reviewer went on to say that she was now in control of her serotonin levels and ‘felt wonderful’.


I would never mock someone with mental health issues. It’s hard to be positive when you’re suffering from depression. Serotonin levels can affect mood and have a major negative impact on someone’s life and outlook. But… seriously? At this point I couldn’t help but laugh, while also feeling sorry for this reader and hoping that she had, as she seemed to think, managed to sort her health issues out.

Sadly the next review was another one star: “don’t waste your money!!! I would rate it negative stars if I could.”   I suspect this reviewer needed a more long term approach to managing her extreme negative attitude than a serotonin supplement.

Technique no 2: Look at one star reviews on your favorite books

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Or some of the people any of the time. No matter how well-loved and well-respected a book is, no matter how much you personally feel it is the bee’s knees, cat’s whiskers and King of all the books in bookland, someone will hate it.

Here are snippets of one star reviews on some of my favorite books (grammatical and other mistakes belong to the reviewers. I have copied word for word):

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Heathcliff and Catherine, and basically everyone in this novel, are just crazy, okay? Catherine is a raving lunatic, and Heathcliff seriously creeps me out, like, I’m pretty sure he is a serial killer. Just saying.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

i was forced to read this book in school and i absolutely hated it. the movie wasn’t that bad but the book was terrible. if i had a machine to erase every memory i had of this book, i would use it.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The narrator was female while the character was male. I couldn’t finish the book. uh

Room by Emma Donaghue

I accidently “bought” this horrible “book” when I was learning to use my Kindle (they don’t come with instructions!), so I started to read it. Oh my Gawd, written in the most annoying baby talk imaginable. And if a child can write an entire book at 5 , then he/she should be literate enough to write more adult. I got to page 27 and gave up.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Just wanted to check it out. It’s obviously written for children and poorly at that

There you go. Five books I love and their one star reviews. I was going to write a response to each one but my response to all of them was a kind of speechless bafflement followed by a well-known internet acronym that can also be used for the World Taekwondo Federation.

Being an author is hard. One star reviews suck. But we just have to putting our work out there and hope it finds its audience. Wishing you tons of luck with all your writing and marketing efforts.

Want some training on how to get high quality book reviews (plus courses on every other aspect of book marketing)? Check out The Book Ninja. She helps you market your book like a pro.

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