Dealing With Bad Reviews

There’s a ton of advice out there on how to deal with bad reviews. They like to say “dwell on the good reviews.” What if you don’t have any glowing reviews to off-set the negative/indifferent ones?

I’ve been having this problem. It’s not something I talk about much because I know how hard it is to get any reviews. I’m just happy people are reading and reviewing my books. But, most advice on dealing with bad reviews doesn’t help me. I doubt I’m the only one.

We like to think the writing life is like this:

Sometimes, it is. Mostly, writing life is like this:

It’s so hard. When a review comes in for any of my books, 9 times out of 10, they will be three stars or less. At this point, I just expect low ratings. 
Not all my reviews are negative, most are “it’s not good, but it’s not bad either,” which feel just as bad as a one/two star review. People will talk about books they love and hate. I doubt they’re spread word about a book they found so-so. 
Most, even the reviews that say the stories are interesting, focus heavily on what’s wrong my books. Now, my dilemma is how can I get people to buy my books and read them with all those uninspiring reviews? Free promotions do not work for me. 

I have gotten a few helpful reviews which I really appreciate, but I get more unhelpful ones. If all my bad reviews were concentrated on one book, I’d just assume that book was a fail. If the bad reviews were talking about something I could fix, I would take that into account for my next book.

Well, one story got a few “not enough action” comments, which I don’t understand. The book has no more no less action than any other fantasy book I’ve read. All my books have the same amount of action yet they aren’t getting that comment.

It also got some “complicated read” comments. I’m waiting to see if more people call it complicated, because I don’t understand that one either. The two most detailed reviews I got had some valid criticisms about that story, but they never called it complicated.

You kind of feel like a failure if you don’t have good sales and good reviews. How do you keep writing when most people are “meh” about your stories and there isn’t a consistent and fixable reason why they don’t love them?
Don’t give up
It’s fine to get discouraged. It’s fine to question why your writing at all. I’m not nearly as excited about publishing as I was a year ago. At this point, I’m pretty much running on auto-pilot. When I tell people I have anther book coming out, they get totally excited. I’m like “it’s just another one.” I sometimes think, “Great, another book to collect more three, two and one star reviews.” I try hard to keep down that thought. It’s not helpful. I can’t possibly know the future. 
It’s even fine to take a step back. When those negative reviews started coming in one after the other, I stopped writing. Didn’t do it on purpose. I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t stay away for long. I mean, I had stories to finish. My characters were stuck mid-peril. I couldn’t leave them there. 
Focus on what you love
I love writing, world building, creating book trailers and images, designing book covers, laying out my books, being on social media and sharing helpful resources with other writers. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to. 

Your book will never be for everyone
You need to know your audience. You cannot market to everyone. I thought my audience was one group of people. Now, I know it’s a different group. I was marketing to the wrong audience, which is probably why I keep getting those types of reviews.

The reviewer of a one star rating expected a straight horror story and instead got dark fantasy. They didn’t say the story was bad. It wasn’t for them.

Honestly, I don’t know why I keep getting bad reviews. My beta readers enjoy my stories. The reviews aren’t site specific, although Goodreads has more (in general) than Amazon and B&N.

I have no intention of changing my style. My books are for a very niche market, which I haven’t hit yet. I’m getting there, though.

Move on from bad reviews

Before I published my first book, I said I wasn’t going to pay attention to my reviews. Total, total BS. If was I was getting like double digit reviews every mouth, I probably wouldn’t read most of them because I wouldn’t have the time. But when you get one review every couple of months, you can’t help yourself, at least I can’t.

You keep hearing the phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business.” I know it’s business. Doesn’t stop bad reviews from hurting.

Articles like to point out the bad reviews of bestselling authors. On one hand, it does make you feel better knowing everyone gets negative comments. On the other hand, these authors have 2,000+ reviews and maybe 100 of them are three stars and below. They have a good balance. I don’t.

I don’t know if getting bad reviews will stop hurting. I don’t think so. I’ve gotten several and they all sting the same way. I’m getting better at recovering from them.

If those bad reviews don’t say anything you can apply to your stories, you spend the night drowning your sorrows in your favorite food and TV show, then get back to writing. If they’re constructive, you drown your sorrows and then consider their criticism.

Do not, do not dwell on them.