Friday, August 21, 2015

What to do with a bad book review?

I recently read a good article called Confronting Bad Book Reviews. It sited some famous novels and quotes by now famous authors, but a portion of the subtitle text really grabbed me:

Just celebrate you are being noticed, and be sure your name is spelled right.

I've heard that any publicity, good or bad, is good for the author. Case in point, author Jonathan Franzen. There was some seriously bad publicity that went out around his semi-biographical novel The Corrections and Oprah's Book Club in 2001. Fourteen years later he's still selling books like hot cakes, my fellow authors. He's still all over social media and the news. So, perhaps bad publicity is better than no publicity?

An author mentor of mine wrote a dynamic book (Petersburg) about the Russian revolution era. I loved it. But one reviewer felt some of her facts were not correct and slammed her for not doing a proper job of research. Like a good author, she did not debate with him, but she was crushed. We all know how much of our "blood, sweat and tears" go into our stories, so when someone doesn't like what we've written - it hurts.
Book reviews are an author's link to the reader, but is their good opinion vital to our craft? We all want our stories to be heard, to touch our readers, to be enjoyed and passed along - it validates what we spend hours of our lives creating. But not everyone likes the same things and every author has a different voice, so we can't possibly please all.

What we can do is write the best story possible. Edit it. Rewrite it. Edit it. And if it is good enough a publisher will give us a contract and publish it. That IS validation that we have written something the publisher thinks is worth taking a chance on. And that's pretty darned good.

After Feisty Family Values hit the book shelves I poured over every review. I do enjoy a good review and most of mine have been good. When a reader gave me a bad review and didn't explain it I can't help but wonder what I could've done to make the story work for them, too. Sometimes people just don't like "contemporary" novels, or novels about non-traditional families, or maybe they hate cats, or wrecked their car that week and had to walk to and from work in the snow uphill both ways. We may never know why a story works for one person and not another. We will get good and bad reviews. What to do? I'll read them, try to learn from them, and keep writing the best I can. How about you?

To find out more about Bonnie Tharp's books go to  


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

I read the same article you did and had similar thoughts. I do believe that even a bad review is preferable to no review. Many fine books have gotten poor reviews and vice versa. Not all of the people who read our books will appreciate them. As the saying goes, you can't please everyone.

As I see it, reviews aren't just an ego trip for the writer. Good reviews draw readers and publicity which translates to sales and future book contracts. But we can't control how our books will be received, only hope for the best, and as you said, write the very best books we can.

Bonnie Tharp said...

You are so right, Jacqui. Thanks for the comment!