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a: The Hack’s Guide to Dealing with Book Reviews

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:00 AM

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

The whole point of publishing a book is so that others will read it. The problem with people reading your books is that they insist on having opinions about them, rather than simply stating the objective fact that your book is better than the complete works of Hemingway and Rowling combined. Whether positive or negative, whether penned by a professional critic in a literary journal or hastily typed by some rando on Amazon, you’ve got to prepare your ego for how to handle book reviews. Here’s how to cope:

What to Do When You Get Good Reviews

  • Celebrate with pizza and beer, or your preferred pie and carbonated beverage.
  • Leave a comment thanking the reviewer for their time, attention, and good taste.
  • Do a brag post on Twitter about how many great reviews your book has. Some people find this annoying. You can safely ignore those Philistines so long a your book averages 3.5 stars or above.
  • Follow up with folks who left positive reviews when you release your next book. You know, just to let them know it’s out there.
  • Ping those good reviewers to ask if they’ve read your next book, and if so, if they’d mind leaving a nice review for that one as well? And, by the by, is there anything you can get for them while you’re up?
  • Follow up, and helpfully send them a list of superlatives that are easy to spell and very evocative of your book.
  • Follow up again, including a sample review you wrote for them that they can just sign their name to. (It’s not plagiarizing, it’s ghostwriting.)
  • Facebook-friend them, and nonchalantly ask them what they’re reading, *winky emoji*.
  • Call them on the phone. I’d offer tips on how to track down their phone number, but if you’ve made it to this stage, I trust you’ve figured it out on your own already.

Hmm, something tells me this is a good time to segue into dealing with bad reviews.

What to Do When You Get Bad Reviews

  • photo by Alan Levine

    Okay, stay cool. This isn’t the end of the world. Believe it or not, you want to have a few bad reviews for your book. Seeing a book with nothing but five-star reviews is like the person in a job interview who says their greatest weakness is that they work too hard; it just seems fake. A few blemishes here and there, however, will make you look authentic. That naturally means that if dozens of strangers are yelling at you that your book is garbage, you’re just to EDGY for them.

  • Remember, it’s natural if your feelings get hurt. You’re not weak, you’re just human. Take it as a lesson in humility and an excuse to crack open another bottle of Jim Beam. If you’re worried that drinking is just a way to hide from your problems, that is exactly the sort of problem that drinking will cure.
  • Write your critics into your next novel, then destroy them. You can kill every last one of them in as bloody a manner as you like on the page, with no fear of repercussions other than looking like a passive-aggressive jerk. But beware making your books too gory, or you’ll wind up with even more bad reviews for your next book. (This is what’s known in the industry as a death spiral.)
  • If you’re feeling especially petty—haha, I said “if,” lol—you can share someone’s negative review on Twitter and let your followers pick them apart like birds eating Prometheus’ liver. Of course I would never really advise you to do this. Not because it’s mean, but because you’ve already frightened away all your followers by bugging them to review your book.

How do you celebrate good reviews? How do you cope with bad ones? Share your experiences in the comments!

About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

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