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Last week, we talked about how to overcome your fears that people will hate your book, and offered advice on being sure that your book was ready to publish. So, let’s say that your book comes out and the first review that comes in is someone who hates the book. You now have a negative review.

What do you do?

This just came up with an author I know. A blogger requested the book, then wrote her saying she could only give it one star and offered to not post a review. When my author friend asked for feedback as to why the blogger didn’t like the book, the reasons ultimately, had more to do with personal preferences, than with the story itself. The blogger didn’t even cite writing issues, which if you’re going to hate a book, seem like they would be a natural thing to hone in on, don’t you think?

So let’s take a look at how you would deal with this, if it happens to you. Let’s say you get a bad review. Most bloggers will tell you in advance, as opposed to just publishing something negative, when they do, ask then for specific feedback and then, step away from that feedback for a day or so until you can gain some distance from it. Remember, it’s not personal. Once you feel you can look at it again, more objectively, try to read it with an eye to the nature of the review. For example: was it really about the writing? or a direct hit on the story? There’s a difference. A blogger or reviewer may not like the story, but that does not make it a bad book. Also, understand that unless the reviewer is citing numerous typos, plot holes, poor storytelling ability (which would be caught by a good content editor), there isn’t a lot you can do but chalk it up to a learning experience.

Understanding feedback: Feedback, of any kind, is just that. It’s a (hopefully) objective opinion that you can either take at face value, or dig a little deeper. When I got the negative review for Red Hot Internet Publicity, the blogger cited numerous things I’d forgotten, as well as places the book could have been improved upon – like a workbook. And while he wasn’t nice about his delivery of any of this advice, after I had time to process his comments, I incorporated his “suggestions” into the next edition.

Make sure you’re pitching the right blogger: Most bloggers are very particular about the books they take, and you should be just as particular about choosing who you pitch. But what happens if the wrong blogger gets ahold of your book. Let’s say you wrote contemporary romance and they only review literary fiction, well then you may be in trouble. I’ve seen this happen – it’s rare, but I’ve seen it. “I hated everything about this book,” one reviewer said. Well, of course they gave you a negative review, it’s not their preferred genre.

Reviews on Amazon: I realize there’s a bit of give and take with reviews on this site. For one, it’s always a challenge to get them and keep them, but from time to time I see reviews that just baffle me. In fact, I had an author who got a review from a reader who clearly thought they bought a horror book, when the book cover and description, clearly showed it was a love story. “I needed more gore,” the reviewer wrote. I wanted to comment on their negative review: “Um, ok, so wrong genre sweetie.” (I didn’t, in case you’re wondering.) You just need to realize that sometimes, people are just stupid or ignorant. There’s nothing you can do about the occasional hater, but if you get a lot of one-star reviews, you may want to ask yourself why. We had an author contact us with (literally) 32-1 star reviews. No joke. He wanted us to fix that, by sending his book out to see if we could get better reviews. I told him we couldn’t and that he needed to reevaluate his book.

Did you really write a bad book?

In the end, that’s all this comes down to. We want to know we “did good” and put something out into the world that will entertain, educate, or somehow make a difference. In the end, that’s the most we can hope for. Book sales, fame, and a movie deal are rare, at best. The things that matter – and will matter to your future career – is how your book stands up against all of the other books in your genre.

An author once told me that publishing a book was like sending your kid to college. You can help them, teach them, and send them to the best schools, in the end, the kid has to walk on his or her own. And, you have to trust that you’ve raised them to make smart decisions as an adult.  Much the same way, the only thing you can do for your book is make it the best it can be, and then publish it to see if it has “legs.” More likely than not, whatever fears you have that everyone will hate your book are unfounded, and although you may get one negative review, most responses will be mostly positive.. Generally, I find that authors who worry about this have nothing to worry about. It’s the ones who shout from the rooftops how perfect their book is, and ignore any and all input — they are the ones that wind up with enough 1-star reviews on Amazon to sink their book.

So whatever fears you have, publish anyway. Move past any negativity and use criticism to improve your writing.  I wish you every success!

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