Got a Bad Review on Your Book? Here’s What to Do Next

As a self-published author, getting bad reviews on your book is a huge bummer.

It’s never easy to see a glaring 1-star review attached to your beloved book. You put in all that hard work, only to be dragged by a critic.

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Plus, bad reviews on sites like Goodreads or Amazon can affect the opinions of other readers. 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from close friends.

And while one lone bad review isn’t going to ruin your chances of ranking among the top books on Amazon, reviews are something you want to pay attention to as you move forward in your writing career.

Believe it or not, there are some great lessons to be learned from the critics and “haters” out there, and you might even improve your writing practice because of it.

What Can You Do if You Get a Bad Review?

As an artist, writer, or business owner, getting a bad review isn’t a question of if, but when. Even the most prolific authors in the world have gotten their share of bad reviews.

Like any other artform, writing is, of course, incredibly subjective. What one person finds beautifully written and heartfelt, another reader might find drab and emotionless.

C’est la vie!

There’s really no equation to determine who’s going to react to your book negatively, or positively for that matter. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it when it does happen.

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine what kind of negative review you’re looking, at. Or in other words...

Separate the Nonsense from the Useful

You should be able to tell pretty quickly which bad reviews are just pure nonsense:

“Book cover was too red.” — 1 star

“I thought this book was going to be about whales.” —1 star

“I don’t like how the author spells their name.” —1 star

These are just fictional examples, but many authors might receive similar reviews. Unfortunately, just about anyone can post a review on Amazon, and the ridiculous ones are not always filtered out by or removed by Amazon’s HR people.

Obviously, reviews like these don’t have much to do with you. Some of them are utter nonsense, in fact.

For these kinds of reviews, it’s best to pay them no mind.

Then there’s the other kind of reviews, which might be a bit more critical of your writing itself, like if there are too many typos or run-on sentences. Or perhaps they found a loophole in your plot, or a discrepancy in your characters.

While these are tough pieces of criticism to receive, it might be worth it to take note of your reader’s feedback, and look for potential patterns.

If you’re getting enough of this feedback, it might be time to get another set of eyes on your work before it goes to print, or sending out ARCS to select beta readers.

How Do You Respond to a Bad Review?

You might be tempted to rush and defend yourself after a bad review comes out, or to even try to delete it.

We get it. Nobody likes a troll!

But there’s actually some benefit to leaving a not-so-great review up on your page. It shows that your book is authentic and read by a wide audience. Readers might smell something fishy if they only see endless 5-star reviews about your book.

On Amazon and Goodreads, you can respond to all your reviews, good or bad. But we advise you do so cautiously, and with as much compassion as you can muster.

It’s better to thank your readers for their review (even if it’s harsh) than to engage in a frustrated back-and-forth that everyone can see, potential future readers included.

To save your mental bandwidth, focus on responding to well thought-out ones — be they positive or negative — by simply thanking them for reading and leaving a review.

If the review is clearly smearing your image, or contains offensive language, go ahead and feel free to delete it. This is pretty easy to do from your Amazon Central or Goodreads Author page.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you!

What Can Bad Reviews Teach You?

As an author, ruffling feathers is kind of part of the deal. You certainly can’t please everyone. And at least a bad review means you’re engaging your readers, right?

Some authors even like to celebrate their 1-star reviews. Think of it like a rite of passage in the publishing world!

But some critical reviews (especially popular 3-star review) can actually be helpful by letting you know where your book is missing the mark with certain audiences.

While not all reviews are helpful, your readers can help you uncover things like typos, plot holes, or character flaws that you might not have been able to see in the thick of it.

Be sure to thank them for bringing these things to your attention, and make a note to be better for the next book!

Increase Your Good Review Karma

If you want to boost your author karma and gain some friends while you’re at it, leave honest and kind reviews to other self-published authors and small businesses whenever you can.

When you do this, you engage with your audience and peers in meaningful ways — and you might just make another author’s day.

You can do this outside of reviews as well by responding to blogs or social media posts by other writers you admire.

The hashtag #WritingCommunity on Twitter is a great place to connect with other authors, share resources, and get inspired by what others are doing.

Most of All…Keep Your Head Up!

As a self-published author, there’s likely nothing you wouldn’t do to make your book as successful as it can be. You’re just awesome like that.

But don’t let the haters get you down. If it makes you feel any better, one reviewer once left the following review for a little-known guy named Walt Whitman:

“It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.” – Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Atlantic, 1867

At least you’re not the only one (and you won’t be the last!).

Keep doing what you do best…write!

You know your story better than anyone, and with the right feedback you can be confident that you’re putting out your best book yet.

When you’re with us, we’ll always make sure it looks amazing.

Try Our Consultation Services

If you’re looking to enhance your book (to avoid some of those nasty reviews), or need guidance on self-publishing, we’d love to help you out.

We offer individualized coaching for self-published authors, as well as detailed evaluations of your manuscript.

We’ll tailor a plan to your specific writing goals and make sure you feel great about your publishing journey in one-on-one coaching sessions.

Need some help getting your self-publishing career on track?

Schedule a consultation with us!>

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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Printing our books at Steuben Press has been the easiest step in the very hectic journey of publishing a book. They were friendly, accessible, and delivered a quality product right on time. Will definitely be working with them again in the future. 
– Josiah Hesse, Denver, Colorado
Pick up a copy of Josiah Hesse's latest book in his Carnality series at