Countdown to Publication: Negative Press
Written by
Lori L. Tharps
July 2010
Written by
Lori L. Tharps
July 2010
Hi SheWriters, I just received a Google alert mentioning my last book, Kinky Gazpacho:Life, Love & Spain. I clicked on the link and found an absolutely glowing review of my memoir by a random blogger. She loved my story, loved my writing and even mentioned that she couldn’t wait to read my next book. It was the kind of unexpected review that makes us writers feel like we must be doing something right. But before I could even take the time to bask in the warm, fuzzy feelings, I realized there was a comment on the review. So of course, I read it. Big mistake. The comment was longer than the review and for every positive point made, this angry reader had three or four in rebuttal. This person absolutely hated my book and took the time to carefully detail exactly why it is was the worst thing in the world she’d ever taken the time to read. She was quite thorough. So, as we creep closer to the pub date for my first novel, I am wavering between excitement and dread. I can’t wait for people to read Substitute Me, because I think it’s a really good story and I love my characters (And the New York TImes just ran an article yesterday that claimed nanny novels are still hot! Sadly my book wasn't mentioned in the article, but we can talk about that later.). But on the other hand, I know the book isn’t perfect. I know there are flaws. I’m sure some people will find the storyline distasteful. They may ban the book in certain libraries in the South (I’m exaggerating … sort of.). I did receive my first media mention in the just-out August issue of Essence magazine. It was a very positive review. I was thrilled. But just as quickly, I realized, this is just the beginning of ‘review season’ and I must prepare myself for the worst. I know if I’m not prepared, those negative comments can really wound my sensitive writer’s soul. What’s more, bad press has the power to curb my enthusiasm for my publicity efforts. Since this is my third book, I know the drill. I know everybody has the right to his or her own opinion and just because one person hates my book, doesn’t mean another person won’t fall in love with it. I have to remind myself of all of the books that I have hated, tossed aside in disgust or fallen asleep while trying to read. Some of those were the very same tomes that others gushed over and consider to be masterpieces. I know I can’t let one or two bad reviews derail my master plan for getting Substitute Me into the hands of every woman in America. I just have to be ready. I’ve actually been following another author, who like me, has only written non-fiction but has just published her first novel. She’s a social media fool and takes any and every opportunity to get the word out about her book. Just for fun I checked the reviews on her book and they weren’t so good. Clearly this hasn’t stopped her and it hasn’t stopped the robust sales of her book. Lesson learned. Deep breath. Bring it on. How do you all handle negative reviews of your work?

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

  • Farah Damji

    There are ways to have negative and defamatory or untrue comments removed from Amazon, contact , there must be a similar resource for Amazon in the US. And remember in the brilliant words of Maya Angelou, about the haters, they know your glory but not your story. Most of the really negative comments I had on my book, which has been brilliantly reviewed in all the international media outlets that matter to me, were actually from a deluded first time author who thinks that if she puts negative comments up about my book, then it somehow enables her to bask in reflected glory. DO something about it so you don't feel persecuted or powerless and all the best blessings with your book!

  • Zetta Brown

    Hi Lori,

    Let me tell you a funny story. My book, MESSALINA - DEVOURER OF MEN has received decent reviews on Amazon, but there was one reviewer who blasted it. I read their (original) review and soon realized that she is not the type of reader I aim for. It happens. What was funny is that someone responded to her review and challenged her reading comprehension skills. It was a disturbingly funny thing to see unfold. The original reviewer even went back and rewrote her review to try and bolster her case for not liking it during the sparring match! I knew better than to try to offer my $.02 because that, unfortunately, is the worst thing an author can do. But I didn't have to. Someone else had read and enjoyed my book was doing just fine LOL.

    But sometimes you have to consider the source. You may not be aware, but there was a news story about an academic author who slammed the works of his colleagues' books "anonymously" on Amazon while plugging his own work. One of the authors he slammed did some detective work and traced it back to this author. This man behaved totally unethically and unprofessionally. He embarrassed himself, his wife, his lawyers. Very ugly. You can read about it here:

    Tis the beast that is the Amazon review.

    Personally, I've learned to deal with negative reviews like every other author by developing a thicker skin. That and the fact that the positive reviews posted for all to see or the kind emails sent to me privately are worth more than any "bad" review. I save these comments and reviews and will read them when I need someone to come to my pity party. It helps perk me up LOL

    Also, the support of family and friends and other authors who know what you're going through are a BIG help. So write on, Lori!

  • Persia Walker

    Coming late to this discussion, but I have to add this: Try, try hard, to think of this negative review in a positive light. The worst reaction a reader can have is not dislike, but indifference. You obviously struck this reader in some deep way and that's a positive, right? (I also agree with Julie in that this reviewer must've had problems.) Having said that, I wish I could add that I don't let myself feel hurt by negative reviews. I do. But I don't feel bad about it being vulnerable. I once heard a bestselling author, someone who has literally sold millions of books, tell a room how hurt he was at the negative reader reaction he got to one of his books -- a book that also sold in the millions! Moral of the story: You can't please everyone. There is ALWAYS going to be someone who finds fault with what we do and no matter how successful we are, we might find ourselves vulnerable. My best advice for handling: Move one. Immerse yourself in your next book. By the time the reviews come out about book #1, you're already on to #2, and by the time the reviews come out about #2, you're already on to #3. Keep rolling and you'll be fine.

  • I remember reading once that Virginia Woolf didn't even read the negative reviews...Carleen: I think letting the bad ones go says a LOT about your mental stability!

  • Carleen

    It might not say much about my mental stability, but I do try to remember the good reviews and let the bad ones go.

  • Tayari Jones

    I'm trying not to worry so much about reviews- negative OR positive. There is nothing you can really do about them. And even if the criticism is constructive, there is nothing you can do to change the book.

    How do you let a positive review make your day, but not let a negative review depress the hell out of you? It seems that if you establish a connection between your reviews and your emotions, you are vulnerable. I don't know if you can say that you only take reviews to heart if you like them. Does that make sense?

  • Julie Jeffs

    Lori, I can't speak from experience as my memoir is still in first draft stage but I think you have to really look at the negative reviewer. That she/he spent so much time and effort to trash your work says more about them than you, you obviously hit a very raw nerve. I mean you say yourself you have read books that you hated but really, have you ever thought to put that much effort into writing a negative review of it? I would think not. Chin up, the glowing review is worth so much more. Looking forward to the release of Substitute Me. She Writes will be here for you, to celebrate and be the support you need.

  • Maddie Dawson

    Yikes, Lori! I know just how you feel. My novel, The Stuff That Never Happened, is coming out on Aug. 3rd and already I am doing a bunch of deeeeeep breathing exercises just to prepare myself for what comes next. I have writer friends who swear they don't read reviews, and writer friends who hang on every word of them, and I don't know which kind I'm going to be just yet. One thing I do know: you're right to point out that bad reviews don't sink a book's chances, as in your example of the social media person who has a bunch of bad reviews and is still selling books. But the bad reviews do hurt. I had a "mixed" Publishers Weekly review, and friends have rushed to assure me that people will only see the good things they said. Why is it that I only see the couple of bad things they said? Luckily we have our She Writes community to comfort us and make us know we're not alone. And I'm going to go right now and order your book! I wish you the very best!!

  • Lori L. Tharps

    Wow! Thanks everybody. This was just the shot of confidence and good advice I needed (perhaps we all needed) to hear. It is really helpful to hear how others deal with negative reviews. And in the world of book bloggers now, it's true that there are going to be far more "reviews" out there. That being said, a random blogger who doesn't like your book certainly doesn't have as much impact as say a Booklist or PW. But even those don't usually make or break a book. I will keep my chin up...and if I do waver, I'll come right back here and cry at SheWrites. Thanks, Ladies.

  • Eunice Lipton

    If it's "bigtime" and BAD, i get mad, crushed, then very unhappy.i cry, i fume, i cry. i put it behind me, sort of. but it hangs around particularly if you feel it has a major effect on what happens to the book. if the negative review happens in a "minor" place, i don't think about it much. People are entitled to their opinions, after all. it's just when the book needs a chance to have a life and doesn't get it, THAT kills me. and that's what happened to my last book, french seduction. anyway, i really appreciate your frankness about all this and i wish you so much luck on your next book. EL

  • Lori, I know it's hard to resist reading reviews, but maybe it's a good idea. I don't mind critical reviews if they aren't hateful, but there is a whole class of reviewers, both in print media and the readers on Amazon, who seem to get off on writing scathing putdowns, and most of the time they are dead wrong anyway. You can't take them seriously if you do read them. If you're dumb enough to read them in spite of this excellent advice (I'm teasing you), then come back here to your writing family where you're sure to get some comfort and support.

  • *wicked grin* With a shovel, of course.

  • Lauren B. Davis

    Alice Munro never reads her reviews. Mavis Gallant once told me she had a friend who forwards great reviews, and that all bad reviews must be ceremonially burned. My own experience is that although great reviews brighten an hour or a day, bad reviews are corrosive and fester forever. (And I only received one mediocre review for my first still stings.) I put my husband in charge of reviews now. Almost everything is none of my business, and that goes double for what other people think of me, and my work. All I can do is write the best possible book. Congratulations on getting your book published, in these tough times. That in itself is enormous praise.

  • Chandra Hoffman

    This is a timely post. Congratulations on your novel and I will certainly look forward to reading it. Mine comes out next month and I have had good reviews, and two negative, one from a fellow writer in my MFA program who not only blasted my book, (not a 'shred of positivity', cliched characters,) but she didn't let people know the title so that they could form their own opinion!

    If you're interested, you can see the review and my thoughts on it on my blog:

    The important thing for me to take away from it is the lesson on the lens of the reader, that things will be interpreted in ways they were not intended. This is especially tricky when writing about topics that are close to reader's hearts. In my case, I tackled domestic adoption, and I think part of the reader's reaction comes from the fact that while I have years of nonfiction professional experience in the field, I also step outside the point of view of caseworker. In my opinion, this is the right of the storyteller.

    I took it as a good reminder that not everybody will love my book, that some will be offended and put off by it, but I remember my ultimate goal--to use unique and realistic characters to shine a light on a topic that was important to me, to touch people and spark conversation. Your reviewer's reaction is proof positive that you did just that!


  • Kathy Jordan

    Lori, congratulations on your new book! I will be rushing to Amazon to pre-order Substitute Me. Your post came at a valuable time for me. My first book (non-fiction) Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life will be out on August 3rd. In addition to the publisher's promotional efforts, I've had a number of requests to review the book. I've wondered, "What if they HATE it? What will I do?" Red wine? Stay in bed? Death threats to reviewers? (just kidding!) So thank you for providing perspective on this issue. I guess my greatest fear is not a negative review, but invisibility--no media mentions at all. Also appreciation to Angela and Cynthia for their comments. You all are my mentors!

  • Angela Henry

    Great post! Negative reviews are tough and many people aren't very constructive in their criticism. But I will say that as a reader I've never let a bad review prevent me from reading a book I really want to read. If anything it makes me want to read it more! As an author I try and take negative reviews in stride. I can't please everyone and would be crazy to try. You also have to take the source of the review into consideration. I recently noticed a doozy of a review for my first book and when I got to the end of it saw that it was written by another author who then proceeded to plug her own book!