Negative Reviews – Don’t be the Idiot

So you’ve finally finished your book and you’ve put it out there for the world to enjoy. You’re cruising along nicely, pulling in several four star reviews.  But then some fathead comes along and whacks you with one or two stars, going on about how you should go back to elementary school or some such thing.

I mean, they clearly weren’t smart enough for your book, right? I’ll bet they didn’t even really read it. They probably read the first chapter and saw one thing they didn’t like and then whammo!  One star for you.  That has to be the only logical explanation because your book is a work of art. If it were that bad, you wouldn’t have gotten so many four and five star reviews, right?

Well, whether you are right or wrong doesn’t matter very much. There is a very simple piece of advice I can give you when something like this happens: do nothing. Okay, maybe not nothing. Go take a walk, or watch a TV show. Go play checkers. Go flagellate yourself. I don’t know. Do something. Do anything, but do not write a response. I repeat, do not write a response. Don’t write a smug thank you. Don’t tell them you hope they get run over by a gas truck. Don’t even write a genuine thank you. Do not say anything.

I was reading a forum thread on the other day and I watched an author implode before my eyes. The thread ran over the course of about twenty-four hours and it just got worse and worse as the day wore on. Some moderator had tagged his book in a derogitory way – something like not in this lifetime – and the guy started bagging on the mod.

He started questioning the site, wondering how mods could be allowed to do such a thing, never accepting the fact that they are volunteers. They have tastes and preferences and can express their opinions just like any other reader – probably because they are readers. Go figure. Anyway, after a few hours of this, he started ranting because another mod did the same thing. And then another and another after that.

By this point in the thread, I already had that sick feeling you get when you watch someone do something you know isn’t going to end well. I wanted nothing more than to have found that thread a few hours earlier. I wanted to get his attention and say, “Dude! Stop! Just walk away. Not another post. Not even one.” But it was too late.  He evenutally received a warning email from one of the administrators. His tone suddenly shifted and he offered a formal apology to the moderators and to anyone following the thread.

A total train wreck, right? I think so. But here’s the real question: how many readers do you think he lost? How many people do you think saw the way he was acting and responded in the same way as the moderators? Maybe they didn’t tag his book so creatively, but does that really matter? I’m going to say no, it doesn’t.

Then again, maybe only one person saw it. But what if one-hundred saw it? Or one-thousand? Or ten-thousand? That’s the thing about being a jackwagon. You never know how many people are going to see it or hear about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I do understand how he felt. We writers are people. Our feelings get hurt when someone doesn’t like our writing. We invest a lot of ourselves in it and we want people to love it. I get that. But we are public figures, even if no one knows who we are yet. People don’t like it when public figures dump on them. Remember the Dixie Chicks? No? I rest my case.

So, if you feel tempted to stand up for yourself when someone says something bad about your book, don’t. Not even a little. Even if the person really is a fathead. Especially if the person is a fathead. People will recognize an idiot when they see one. Please, don’t be the idiot.

And, as a final point, I should throw out the possibility that you’re just being defensive. Maybe you could learn something from their comments. Maybe they’re not such fatheads after all.


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  1. #1 by Peggy Strack (@peggystrack) on August 23, 2012 - 4:18 am

    Excellent points. My first book will be released soon and the reviews are starting to come in. So far, so good, but I’m sure the first one star I get will be sickening. Maybe I’ll just push delete. The first three star review I get, I’ll read carefully—probably some useful constructive critism. By the way, The Timekeeper’s Son looks fantastic. All the best. ~ Peggy

    • #2 by Mike E. Miller on August 23, 2012 - 6:28 am

      Thanks so much, Peggy. Good luck with your book, too!

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