Negative Reviews Are Good For You

See full issue for 2016 06-27

When did we become a nation of back-patting do-gooders? Why is it so wrong to tell someone we don’t like something? When did we decide we’re never going to say anything negative ever again?

Screw that shit. We’re grownups.

What was that thing someone said one time? Oh yes, you’re not a special snowflake, so get over yourself. Or something like that. Basically, you’re not five years old anymore, and pats on the back aren’t given freely just to spare your feelings or to make you feel special. We aren’t given points for “effort,” nor should we be. You’re an adult who has decided to offer a product in exchange for money. The consumer, your reader, will decide how she feels about it, and your feelings don’t matter.

If everything said about your books was sunshine and awesome, then what’s the point of a review? Negative reviews are a good thing and here’s why:


Because we get lazy.

Even the most talented writers will stop trying so hard if they know their work will never be criticized. And that’s natural. If you can just phone it in, why would you bother putting on your pants and going outside to physically do it yourself? Right? Right. Knowing someone, somewhere is going to call us on our shit makes us try not to put said shit out there. We work to be the best writers we can be. That’s good. Negativity is a powerful motivator.

Because ego is bad for writing.

I’m not going to stroke your ego just because it makes you feel bad when I don’t, and I don’t want it done for me. Feeling like you’re the shit is bad for your writing, because you stop caring about the reader. Why do we write? That’s right, we want to elicit a reaction in the reader. Good or bad, our goal is to make readers feel something. If I think I’m the cat’s ass, I’m not going to grow as a writer. If I think someone out there thinks I’m a piece of shit, I’m going to try to prove him wrong and in doing so, I will question my writing decisions and make changes where necessary. That Negative Nancy did me a favor, so thanks, jerk, for your negative review.

Because it’s good publicity.

No, seriously. Negative reviews really are GOOD for your book. I know, you’re trying to get people to buy it, so a negative review seems counterproductive. However, it actually makes many readers curious; more curious than if they see nothing but butterflies and cute fluffy bunny words. A well written critical review, even if it’s just a star or two, makes a reader want to read the book to see if they feel the same. Or maybe they see something the reviewer didn’t like that actually appeals to them. Having a mix of good and bad reviews can make your book more appealing. It’s science.

Okay, it’s not science. It’s just a thing that is true. I don’t know why or how. Because humans, okay? Let’s move on.

Because you learn.

Negative reviews help authors learn where we need to beef up our skillset. It hurts. I get it. However, if no one ever said anything bad about your writing, how would you know where your weaknesses are?

Besides, the reader has the right to voice his opinion. Yeah, you busted your ass writing that book. I get it. There’s value in your effort and to have it shredded kind of kicks you in the nuts. But grow up, sweetheart. The reader also put a lot of effort into reading your book. If he didn’t like it, he should feel free to say so.

The bottom line is if the review isn’t attacking an author personally (as in it relates to the book/writing and only that), there’s nothing wrong with a negative review. As long as the reader finished said book, is making valid points, and is being honest about why she didn’t like it, then you, dear author, need to suck it up and learn from what she’s saying. If you can’t learn anything from a negative review, don’t take it personally. Just get yourself some baked goods and eat the pain away.

Oh, is that just me?


Renee Miller

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