How to Respond to a Negative Review: Lessons from #HaleNo

All right, boys and girls, it’s hard-lesson time.

Any of you who read my blog know that, while I’m happy to offer advice and share what I’ve learned, I tend to be fairly quiet about voicing strong opinions.

Not this time.

This time, I’m disgusted. Appalled. Shocked.

Heck, I’m darned near rendered wordless, and we all know how hard it is for a writer to reach that state.

But when it comes to authors stalking reviewers?

Get. A. Grip.

Here’s the deal: when you publish a book, you are asking to have it judged. You’re putting it out there into the public realm where people other than your mother/sibling/significant other/favourite aunt are going to see it, read it, and have an opinion about it. Some of those people will publicly express their opinions on the Internet via blogs, Goodreads, etc. Some of those opinions will be favourable. Some will not. Some will be downright nasty.

Tough noogies. Because your role in this as an author? You get to

Shut. Up.

That’s it. Nothing more. No polite appeal to a reviewer to ask them to withdraw their opinion. No explaining to him/her how they missed the point and here’s what your book is really about. No angry tweets or Facebook posts. No sniping on your own blog. No rounding up your friends to retaliate with a crapstorm of nasty comments on the reviewer’s blog/Goodreads post.

And absolutely no stalking the reviewer either online or off. Period.

(Sidenote: The fact that I’m even having to state that last bit boggles the mind.)

Now before you start accusing me of not understanding how difficult it is to have your book receive a bad review, let me assure you that yes, I do. I’ve had my share of one-star ratings and snarkily worded reviews. We all have. And yes, when they happen, they sting. But here’s the thing: reviews are about my book, not about me. And I am not my book. I repeat:

I. Am. Not. My. Book. 

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in, shall we? Heck, let’s all say it out loud. Several times. And then several more, because friends, you must, must, must understand this.

As soon as your book is published, it becomes nothing more than a product. It will be shelved (virtually or in the real world) with other such products. Consumers (readers) will come along and pick it up, squeeze it, test-drive it, hem-and-haw over it, and otherwise judge it as they — and you — judge any other commodity out there.

This is what every author implicitly agrees to when they sign a publishing contract or upload their book to a digital platform.

Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, it’s what is supposed to happen. 

And if you don’t want it to happen or you can’t handle it? Don’t publish. It’s as simple as that. Pick up your marbles now and go home. You can continue writing your stories if you wish, but do yourself and the rest of us a favour and keep them to yourself, because darling, if you can’t be a professional when it comes to reviews, you don’t belong in publishing.

And now I have a book to finish editing. End of lesson.


P.S. For a balanced view of yesterday’s #HaleNo storm, check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. And if you don’t buy into my advice not to respond to negative reviews? Chuck Wendig offers 5 Ways to Respond to a Negative Review.



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25 responses to “How to Respond to a Negative Review: Lessons from #HaleNo”

  1. Bea @Bea's Book Nook Avatar

    You ROCK! Well said Linda, well said.

    1. Alice Boschman Avatar
      Alice Boschman

      Again, well said, well said…..I am a reader but I do understand

      1. Linda Avatar

        Thanks, Alice! 🙂

    2. Linda Avatar

      Thanks, Bea…I’m just getting soooo tired of the lack of professionalism in this industry. 🙁

  2. blodeuedd Avatar

    I understand that it would hurt if someone said your book was crap, but as an author you are in the public eye. Keanu Reeves sure never stalked me when I said on twitter his acting was shit.

    I feel like there are too many speshul snowflakes and that we should all be nice…right, but then how would I know which books fit me?

    1. Linda Avatar

      And again, if they say your book is crap, it’s YOUR BOOK. It’s NOT YOU. Can you imagine if every inventor of every product out there behaved this way? Ugh. 😛

  3. Parajunkee Avatar

    Great advice. Crazy that you have to tell people most of this.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Unbelievable. 🙁

  4. D. D. Syrdal Avatar

    The really baffling thing is that the Guardian gave Hale a platform to spout all that. Unless it was intended as humor? One wonders if Blythe Harris might take legal action against Ms. Hale.

    1. Linda Avatar

      I don’t know what they were thinking, but it showed p***-poor judgment, imho. And I hope Harris does take legal action, because STALKING. O.o

  5. Reanna Avatar

    Absolutely wonderful post, Linda. Love it. Thank you for this!

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks, Reanna. Maybe if we keep repeating it often enough, authors will get it.

  6. Vicky L. Lorencen Avatar

    Now, let ME tell YOU what I think of this post!!! (trying to sound scary and critical–not working is it?) I loved it. See? Not a bad review afterall. Thanks so much for saying what needed to be said.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Lol, Vicky! And you’re welcome. 🙂

  7. Julie S. Avatar

    Well said. It boggles the mind that this even needs to be addressed, but some people are just unstable and common sense is anything but common. Thanks for posting this.

    1. Linda Avatar

      It boggles the mind, indeed, Julie — and you’re right. Common sense is becoming increasingly rare.

  8. Laura Steurer Avatar

    Totes amazbeans! {yes, I spelled that right 😉 } Reading this I can’t help but wonder what spurred on such a post. Insightful, helpful, and defiantly something to chew on as I have been struggling with my own writing.

    1. Linda Avatar

      I’m impressed, Laura…not everyone is able to spell that right. 😉 And the post was inspired by the whole Kathleen Hale fiasco, which really got my dander up. In case you couldn’t tell… 😉

  9. authorcjblack Avatar

    Bravo, Linda! Bravo. Your article is precise and to the point and hits the real heart of the matter — that you need a thick skin to be in this business. p.s. Your works are now on my TBR list.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Thanks so much, CJ — for both the kind words and the add to your TBR list! 🙂

  10. Leila Reads Avatar

    It’s wonderful to read an author’s perspective. I’m so glad you understand that as reviewers, we’re not reviewing you; we’re reviewing the book. I always try to be somewhat nice (or at least not mean). Wonderful post. Thanks.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You’re most welcome, Leila…I do my best to spread the word. 😉

  11. Mysterious Bibliophile Avatar

    It’s sad that you have to tell authors this. 🙂

    I think it’s also worth noting how readers use reviews. I have often decided to read a book based on a “negative” review by another reviewer whom I respected. I could tell, from the content of the review, that while this book wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, it might be a good fit for me. “Negative” reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

    And even Roger Ebert who is, in my opinion, one of the greatest professional film reviewers of all time, acknowledged that a review reflected his personal response to a movie. No author will ever create a book that is right for every reader.

    1. Linda Avatar

      So very true, Mysterious Bibliophile…and really would we want it any other way? Variety really is the spice of life, and quite a nice one when we give it a chance. 😉 Thank you so much for commenting!

  12. PWM Avatar

    It is sometimes hard to just ignore when they also attack you as a person in the review. I had someone call one of my non-fiction books “a Pathetic Excuse….” A few of my well-meaning fans/readers commented to the reviewer asking is the author had ran over her cat or something. At first I thought it was funny and appreciated the support; but those comments placed that 1 star review front and center on my Amazon page. That is the first thing you see now. That review has costs me marketing placements.

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