Bad review? Good for you!

Getting a bad review can be hard, even debilitating – so, I’ve heard. I make it a practice to avoid them. I have been lucky in this regard. My outstanding abilities as a writer, nay – human being preclude nay-sayers from having their nay-say. In all seriousness, I don’t get bad reviews. But I try to attempt to maintain some form of humility (excuse me – the bikini girls are acting up again…so hard to find good help, non?) So, let’s assume I get bad reviews and have to deal with them as opposed to having my man servant deal with them – which is what I would do if I did…get bad reviews that is.

There are two types of bad reviews. There are probably more, but I hate math. One, the bad review where your novel/story/poem whatever is hacked apart. Two, one where you PERSONALLY are attacked. They are very different and must be dealt with in different ways.

If you get a bad review of your work, immediately ascertain the reviewer’s qualifications. Did they love Twilight? Then, relax, have a glass of wine…that’s a GOOD review. Do they have taste and human decency….ahh, this is where things get tricky.

When I was teaching creative writing workshops, I also wrote with my students. I always made it clear that since they were young writers, we would praise and then constructively critique. For me, the praise part was unnecessary. I wanted only the ugly…because I do not need praise. I need to improve my work. That is what honest, raw, critiquing does. Let me be clear here…this is something established writers say that is 94.3 percent bullshit. I mean, I really do just want the bad…but I will hate you for it. Make no mistake. Same goes for all the other writers who say, ‘skip the good, man, the good doesn’t help me’. They are helplessly delusional and probably alcoholics. Granted, it is your fault, but let’s move on.

In theory, this is good advice. I want to know what didn’t work (you stupid son of bitch). That is what helps me. Whether it is a critique, beta read, or review. So, embrace your well-done bad reviews. They can help you. For instance, the two major criticisms of my first novel, Joe Café, are that Michael, the cop, is weak and that the ending is abrupt. I agree with both these assessments. It was my intention to make Michael a sniveling weakling. And the abrupt ending was intentional as well. It doesn’t work for some people. That’s good to know.  I appreciate the honesty.

Now, the other kind of bad review. Personal attacks. This has only happened to me once. I commissioned someone to do a cover for me. I did not like the cover and tried to convey that (she complained that it would take her days to address the changes I wanted, and then sent the new docs within hours); I wrote her a long email – I offered to pay her extra to let it go. She went insane on me. She said I was trying to get her to buy my book for $50. She questioned why I would lie about working with autistic kids (I DID work with autistic kids). She went into my blog and pulled out bits of my stories and shredded them. She wrote a blog piece about me and about how I was ‘everything wrong with the indie-writing community’. I won’t lie. That hurt like a bitch. It was personal and vicious. Then I did a little research and found her Twilight fan page and let it go. (She’ll probably show up here. I saved all your emails, so bring it you delusional bitch).

You can’t please everyone. I can. You can’t. You shouldn’t try. Please yourself (not that way, at least close the blinds – Jesus). But really, there are people who love what I write. More than I do. And there are people who think an exorcism needs to be performed. People who think I need a straightjacket. People who think I need an editor – of all the nosense. I hate all these people. That’s the moral here, folks. Nice guys like McNally will tell you they appreciate hearing your point of view. They want to hear the good, but more importantly the bad and ugly. But we hate all of you. Sorry. That’s my review for you. I hate you.  Now, please go buy my books and give them creampuff reviews and five stars.

Seriously, if someone takes the time to write a thoughtful review, try and be happy. First, they read your work. Second, they cared enough to review it. AND, if you can put your feelings into a box and lock them away forever, you might learn something. Like how much vodka it takes to get to the hospital.

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JD Mader is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novels JOE CAFÉ and THE BIKER. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his


Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

74 thoughts on “Bad review? Good for you!”

  1. I laughed! 🙂 If I may, one other thing to take note of with bad "reviews" (opinions?) is if there are 40 grammatical errors in the review – and it's only one paragraph long!

    I have a "review" like that – and in the middle of it, the author of said "review" states that they are writing a book.

    It starts: "its was a god book" and goes on to say "it seem to need a death am sorry to say maybe hs siister should have died"

    Good post!

  2. Awesome post. I love your sense of humor. 🙂

    And this – "If you get a bad review of your work, immediately ascertain the reviewer’s qualifications. Did they love Twilight? Then, relax, have a glass of wine…that’s a GOOD review." – is priceless. 🙂 (And yes, I admit, I do just that…well, minus the wine.)

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I skip the wine part, too. Strictly blood for this sparkly…I mean, thanks for reading my post. Um. Yeah. Thanks.

  3. Very well put, my writing friend, but allow me to make a few minor points. When I review, I ALWAYS talk about what I liked in the book, as well as what could be improved. That's because reviews (at least mine) are for the reader, as well as the writer. The reader wants to know why he, she, it or they should get the book. If the review is unrelieved crit, then the writer may be well-served, but alas, the reader is not, and may miss a good read because the reveiwer neglected to mention the good. However, I think praise is also valuable to writers — it is useful to learn what worked, and why. It's also a terrific morale builder that can help give our writing careers momentum. Many thanks for your thoughtful, and thought-provoking analysis, JD. Hope to see you over at Honest Indie Book Review sometime.

    1. Thanks Gary. I was being a bit disingenuous. I agree of course. Any form of critique or review should address the good and bad. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. 😉

  4. Meant to leave a smiley face with my comment. So here it is. 🙂

    My favorite bad reviews are the ones that say they didn't read the book, but know it's bad because it's self-published. Oh, and the one that called my sexy sci-fi romance "bad porn." My question is how much porn do you have to read to tell the difference between good porn and bad porn? 🙂

  5. My ebook "In the Shadow of Death: Reflections on a Chronic Illness" got a review that killed sales for awhile. Unfortunately the reviewer was articulate and didn't love Twilight. But, she wasn't my target audience.

    It took me awhile to realize that the woman wanted to FEEL my pain. When you are on the drugs that I was on for the extent I was on them, YOU DON'T FEEL PAIN. You are totally numb. The ebook reflects that. Plus I have been given many personal reviews of people thanking me for writing that book, mostly other chronically ill patients.

    So I let it go. The reviewer was not my target audience and had never had a chronic illness, ergo she wouldn't understand why I wrote it the way I wrote it.


    PS I call it my lesson in reviews.

  6. Ha! This is great. I've bookmarked it should I ever actually publish anything that anyone might read. 😀

  7. Got to love the bad reviews, I had one review that gave me 3 stars and all it consisted of was my synopsis, no feedback whatsoever, all because I refused to buy advertising on the blog.

    I think you mentioned it before JD, that bad reviews are good because they bring credibility so that people know its not just your friends leaving reviews.

  8. I will admit that bad reviews sting for a bit, but I do like the ones I can do something about! The one lovely lady who informed me that an eight-year old child could write better was my favourite.

  9. I haven't had a bad review yet, but I had someone remove their review of my book on Amazon, which is weird. I wouldn't consider 3-star reviews bad reviews. That's 60% after all, which will earn a movie a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so, you know…

    Agree with the distinction between a constructively critical review and something that basically says your mother is a hamster and your father smells of elderberries. But I would also add, hard as it might be as we are only human, do not engage with either type. Let it go, ignore the latter (unless your mother is indeed a hamster and your father… etc) and learn from the former if you can.

  10. Hi JD,

    Someone once told me, 'there is no such thing as bad publicity’; that’s a just plain incorrect. I’ve only had one bad review and the reviewer really tore me a new one. He started off by saying ‘This self published book’ and that was the best thing he said about it, before following up with a spoiler that, had anyone bothered to have a look after his (don't even bother reading thiscrap) review, would have been disproved on the first page.

    He tore my book to pieces in regard to just about everything: the subject matter, the story line, technical accuracies, you name it he ripped it. Rather than a constructive crit; it was more a destructive crit. He sounded like he had a vested interest in one of the big six publishers and a definite hate for Indie authors.

    I was quite confident about my book in regard to his subjective criticism, and one or two objective remarks he made, one of them was totally incorrect as I have already said and another reinforced my belief that he knew much less about the subject matter that did I; however, one of the things he mentioned was the ‘less than polished editing’, which particularly annoyed me because it had been professionally edited.

    This is a long story I know but, hang with me, it’s worth it. I had uploaded and ePublished the book two months previously. The book I had uploaded was the unedited draft!

  11. I got a meh review from a young lady in UK who sent it to me first and said she'd post it AFTER I'd "approved it." I wasn't thrilled with the review, but what the hell, I asked for a review and she wrote one. I got no beef with her posting it, and I oughtn't to.

    One criticism: The title was "misleading" because it includes the word "diary" and wasn't written in diary format.

    So far, no psychos haunting me.

      1. See, this attitude is how those sly dogs managed to own over half the globe at one point. NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN AROUND THEM! THAT SUAVE DETACHMENT IS A @#$%ING RUSE, I TELL YA!

  12. On the strength of that last post, JD, I shall tape five gold stars to my screen and bring up my book listing every day to gloat! Thanks for the tip!

  13. Another great post, JD,

    I love the 2 star I received who said she couldn't get over the hero's preoccupation with the heroine's swearing. and that after all, this is the 21st century.

    Another 2 star who said my sex scenes were 'cheesy and lackluster' and she thought conflicts were downright flimsy and overplayed. 'Lyn smokes and cusses, oh my!'

    Well I've met plenty of men who don't like to hear women swear and it was a major conflict within my first marriage as well as the smoking. And the book is set in the 1970s, over 35 years ago and I don't even think these two were born yet. The last one wrote a review for a place I submitted my book to for a contest, so she posted one review there, a similar one on Goodreads and a totally different one on her blog.

    I also received a 5 star on Goodreads where the woman is an author and but the review is written as if she were in grade school. I tried to dissuade her from posting it just because I feel bad for her writing of it. 🙂

    1. LOL. Most of my sex scenes are cheesy and lackluster. (I don't write sex scenes) 😉

      Man, I love cursin' (can't do it much here). It's my hobby.

  14. I used to pray for a bad review by some hefty Church official for According to Luke… but now I'm not so sure. 😎 A bit of controversy never hurt a religious thriller. But I was told it wasn't a thriller at all, by one reviewer… so there you are. This is a wonderful love story, he wrote. So I believe him.

    I had a meh review too, about one of my best short stories, but I researched the writer and she never gives good reviews. She tears strips off authors, but she ended her bit about mine with "Not bad at all." So yeah – she did me a small favour, after all.

    Because, in the end, I'd rather have a bad review than to be damned with faint praise.

    1. Hey Rosanne. Reviews are great, weird, silly, frustrating, etc…but at least you know you're making the connection, right? 🙂

  15. I'm seeing more 3 star reviews for my free ebook than 4s and 5s. OK, it wasn't perfect- it was a "get to meet the character a bit" before the big sequel comes out. Maybe I fell a bit short, but I'm hoping maybe the readers will come back for more. If not, at least my backcatalog did get some hits for a while. Such a crazy game.

    Great post.

  16. I have seen one reviewer on Goodreads who slams everything. Some people just get their jollies tearing others apart. So I agree that it helps to know where the negative is coming from. As for me, I just wish people would READ the things. And I agree that I want to hear the bad, but I want it to be balanced. All bad is not believable – at least not for MY books. lol

  17. Dan a good reviewer asks himself what the author is trying to do and did he achieve it. A good review is based on this and is impartial. If someone does not like a genre they should not review it. There a lot of people out there with mental problems who pick on writers as your experience testifies.

      1. I saw the creepiest balloon animal clown the other day. And there were *no* kids anywhere within a good distance of him. They *knew*.

        Just thought I'd share that piece of only very vaguely related trivia.

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