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Monday, 16 April 2012

Don't Waste Time Dwelling on Bad Reviews

David Kubicek

It is never pleasant to get a bad review. In fact, reading a review that savagely eviscerates the novel you’ve spent months nurturing is one of the most unpleasant experiences a writer can have.

This might help: Getting a bad review often means that you have missed your audience.
Even if you haven’t thought about writing to an audience, one exists for your book. If you’re successful at finding your readers—and assuming your book is well written—most of your reviews should range from 3 to 5 stars, which is where you want to be.

But every author who has collected lots of reviews has picked up some bad ones—even the most popular books by the most popular writers.

Try this experiment. Search Amazon for your favorite books. If they have enough total reviews, I guarantee that some reviewers will rip them apart. Most of the reviews may be 3, 4 or 5 stars, but there will be the inevitable handful of readers who rate the books as forgettable, a waste of time.

The bottom line is: You can’t please everyone. This also is true of “professional reviewers”, those folks who are paid to review books and movies.

For example, one criticism of The Hunger Games is that the novel is not original, that a screwed up future world and a reality TV show where the contestants kill each other has been done before—the novel to which it usually is compared is Stephen King’s The Running Man.

Technically, everything has been done before. A fellow named Georges Polti analyzed lots and lots of literature and concluded that every story that has ever been written, or will ever be written, can fit into one of 36 dramatic situations, or plots. What makes each story fresh and different is what the author brings to the telling. Although The Hunger Games and The Running Man use the same basic plot elements, they are vastly different novels.

Does any of this make you feel better about getting bad reviews? Maybe the following chart will help. I’ve listed five popular novels and the reviews they’ have on Amazon (as of 8 p.m. Central Time on April 10, 2012): 

Total Reviews
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Remember two things:
·         Don’t give much weight to ratings without reviews telling why the readers didn’t like your book.
·         Don’t give any weight to mean-spirited reviews in which readers seem more interested in attacking you and your book than in giving constructive reasons why they didn’t like it.

A review is just someone’s opinion, and as long as you’re getting mostly positive comments, don’t waste time dwelling on the bad ones.

David Kubicek received a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He has published several short stories (his story “Ball of Fire” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses in 1989), hundreds of articles, a Cliffs Notes on Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and a Hollywood producer has optioned one of his screenplays. 

For nine years he wrote for MBJ Publications, publishers of the Midlands Business Journal, the Lincoln Business Journal, and the Mountain Plains Business Journal. As President of Kubicek and Associates, he published five trade paperback books, including two he edited—The Pelican In The Desert: and Other Stories of the Family Farm and October Dreams: A Harvest of Horror (with Jeff Mason).

He lives with his wife, Cheryl, and their son, Sean, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

 A Friend of the Family 
David Kubicek

In a desolate future, long after the nuclear war, practicing medicine is illegal. Health care is provided by Healers who treat patients using primitive methods like chanting and bleeding. 

Hank is a doctor who practices medicine only for himself and his family. His fear of being sent to prison has estranged him from the Underground, the loose network of physicians that tries to help people who have lost faith in the Healers. 

One evening a 16-year-old girl knocks on his door. She has a secret and the power to destroy Hank’s life if he doesn’t make her father well.

But there's a catch — Gina’s father is the brother of a Healer.

Excerpt from A Friend of the Family
Gina unbolted the door and lifted off the bar, set it with a bump in the corner, and went out. A cool breeze, touched with the smells of mildew and rotting wood, whisked into the room. It dried the perspiration on Hank’s face and rocked the lanterns. The door slapped shut. Maud went to bolt it. When she came back, she drew her chair closer to the bed, sat down. She touched her robe near the left shoulder.I’ve got a knife in here.”
I understand,” Hank said, feeling cold.
My own child doesn’t think I’d use it, but I would.”
Hank looked down at his hands. He tried to still the tremor within him.I don’t want to cause trouble.”
You bein’ here is trouble.”
Maud, stop it,” Vic said. Then he was coughing again.
Hank prepared penicillin and vitamin injections. His hands shook. He had difficulty grasping the syringes, and he couldn’t make his muscles do what he wanted them to.Hank put the syringes into his medical case. He didn’t want to give the injections until Gina got back. He tried to convince himself that it was common sense to wait until he had checked this man more thoroughly. But besides the blood pressure, there were no more tests he could do. He was afraid of what this old woman might do if he frightened her badly enough.


  1. Thanks for hosting this leg of my blog tour, Louise. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share my views on reviews.

  2. No problem, David. I enjoyed reading your post.

  3. That review graph should be on every author's bulletin board! I haven't had a low review thus far, but I know it will come at some point. Posts like these are essential in giving the experience perspective.

    (Louise--my book is posted twice on the Pininterest site by error. The most recent has the updated blurb.)

  4. Bad reviews are part and parcel of being a writer. Embrace them, I say. :)

    Can you let me know the genre of your book on Book Junkies, and I'll remove the double posting. Thanks.

  5. I agree completely, I tell all of my bloggers with the tour company that if they have issue with a book that they need to write what they did not like about it, why they did not like it and what they suggest may have been a better option. But at the same time there is ALWAYS something positive about a book and they should have those points within their review as well. A negative review should be both constructive and balanced.