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Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Reviews

So, you’ve received an angry one-star review for your novel? Maybe it’s something like this:

This is nothing like the brilliance that is Romeo and Juliet. I know everything about books and this one sucks balls. A Tale of Two Cities, it is not! More like a Tale of Too Shitty! AVOID! Do not waste your time and money!!!

Take a deep breath … Before you start digging a six feet deep hole in your back garden, read my solutions to the top five mistakes writers make with reviews:

1) Murdering the Reviewer

Your first instinct might be to find out where the RANTviewer lives and aim a grenade launcher at their home. But most people who RANTview have never written a novel and odds are they couldn’t write a good one. Well, not without years and years of practice and by then, they might think differently about giving out less than three stars.

STOP! Don’t do this. Killing someone because they wrote a nasty review is never a good idea. Yes, they should’ve thought about the hard work that goes into writing a novel and at least been polite, but they weren’t. Relax, my friend. MORE: Top 10 (Normal) Struggles Writing A Novel

2) Replying/Commenting

Your second thought might be to give the ranter a telling off or explain how much they hurt your feelings. That it took two years to build the world that they smashed down in two seconds.

WAIT! Step away from the keyboard. This ranter clearly doesn’t care about hurting people. Telling them off will fuel the fire, while telling them you’re hurt by their words will only bring them pleasure. Don’t feed the trolls. MORE: Top 10 Commandments For Successful Writers

3) Stooping to Their Level

You might think: I’m going to ruin this person’s online life. I’m going to spread gossip about them all over the net, see how they like it! I’ll tell people they read books about bestiality and if their goodreads shelves were accurate it would include novels about poop fetishes and goat shagging.

HOLD UP! Two wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t go there! They enjoy this sick sport and you don’t, so they’ll win every time. MORE: 5 Ways Writers Kill Their Credibility Online

4) Explaining Why You Should Be Cut Some Slack

Most people don’t slag off good indie films because they know there is often a tight budget involved and the film makers did the best with what they had to work with. However, if a big budget blockbuster movie falls flat people are understandably less tolerant.

The same rule does not apply to novels.

Novelists are all judged the same way, even though we’re not always on an equal footing. Some of us will have six figure advances; huge PR drives, multiple editors, beta readers and so on; some of us will have zilch. Most of us will be somewhere in-between on that scale.

Me? I had one editor; my friends were betas and proofreaders; there was no advance, no proofs, ARCs sent to a few awesome bloggers, a reasonable marketing drive. I’m B2W taught, and proud of it! My small (soon to be HUGE) publisher did a wonderful job but readers will measure my novel with the same yardstick as the person with unlimited resources.

PAUSE! No one is going to cut you some slack and they shouldn’t have to. Good storytelling is good storytelling and you can bet that lucky author with all the bells and whistles has got some RANTviews as well. Probably worse than yours or mine. MORE: 5 Things I Learned Writing My Debut Novel

5) Staying Silent

Never approach the person who gave you the one or two-star nasty but DO tell your writing community about it, they’ll be a huge source of comfort. You will find many of them have had similar experiences, even the most popular writers who sometimes seem untouchable. Your friends/family may love your writing regardless, but the proof in the pudding is when an unknown reader contacts you to say how much they loved your work. That is why we tell stories and that is what makes your blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.

THINK! Look at all the fab reviews you have, especially the ones from people you’ve never met. MORE: Revealed – 3 Surprising Ways To Sell More Books


I hope this article has been helpful, you can take the grenade launcher back to the store now, fingers crossed you’ll get a refund. Any reviewers reading this (I also write reviews) can now feel safe, you won’t be attacked by some crazed writer, or perhaps I’ve given authors some really bad ideas. Either way, it’s been fun!

BIO: Emma Pullar is a writer of dark fiction and children’s books. Her picture book, Curly from Shirley, was a national bestseller and named best opening lines by NZ Post. You can read her SJV Award shortlisted horror story, London’s Crawling, in the Dark Minds charity collection and her dystopian sci-fi story, Old Trees Don’t Bend, in The Anthropocene Chronicles. Emma has also written three shortlisted stories for Create50. Her debut novel SKELETAL published by Bloodhound Books is out NOW. Follow Emma on twitter HERE or visit her website

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Reviews”

  1. Sure, lots to agree with here, but in the final analysis if you write and want it to be read then the contract with the reader, whoever they are, includes the possibility you will get critical reviews. Bleating on about not being a best-seller or trying your best is all totally beside the point. If you appreciate praise for what you write you must also he ready to listen to criticism. Apart from the implicit contract in going public, criticism might be well founded and a chance to improve. After all, that’s all Creative Writing courses hope to do.

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