Sunday, July 25, 2021

Step Away From the Review by Annette Dashofy

I, like many authors, have a love/hate relationship with reviews. We do what we can to get them early so Amazon algorithms will smile upon us. We search out flattering turns of phrases that we might be able to pull and use in social media to entice prospective readers. We (I) breathe sighs of relief when those first reviews come back saying wonderful things about the new book.


And yet, I implore authors, especially new authors, to avoid reading their reviews. As in, avoid it like the plague. Because, here’s the thing—as soon as strangers start reading your book, you are going to start getting those dreaded three-, two-, or even one-star reviews.


I can tell you from personal experience, you can have a hundred glowing five-star reviews, but the solitary one-star will put you in a funk for at least a week.


Or maybe that’s just me.


Some of the lower-rated reviews can be laughed off. The reader gave the book a one-star because it arrived damaged. Or because they didn’t like fantasy when the cover clearly shows wizards and dragons.


The sad truth is some people are mean. They not only don’t like your book, they want the entire world to dislike it as well.


I have at least one review out there (a one-star) in which the reader rants about every aspect of the story and proceeds to give away every plot twist, every reveal, including the ending. That one makes me break out in hives. Dude, if you disliked what you were reading so much, why not toss the book in the trash and move on? Why immerse yourself into the story so deeply that you felt the need to re-tell the entire thing in five long paragraphs on a review site?




Most of the time, I put on blinders when I’m looking at my books on those sites. I avoid the reviews, find what I’m there to look for, and close the page. Unfortunately, the other day I got lured in. I clicked on the reviews. And as I said above, in spite of all the lovely five-stars, the handful of one-stars are what captured my eye and made me question my career choice.


At which point, I gave myself the same advice I’ve given others over and over again. Step away from the reviews. I did, but they still stung.


I’ve always been told those reviews are not for us. They’re by readers, for readers. Fine. Lately, however, there seems to be a new social media trend. Readers post reviews trashing a book and then tag the author. Why on earth do these people feel the need to do this? We’ve already faced truckloads of rejections from agents and editors to get to this point. It’s not like we need to learn what that feels like.


So I’m putting these questions out there: To my fellow authors, do you read your reviews? Have you ever found yourself tagged in a bad one? To my fellow readers, do you write reviews, even if you dislike the book? And if you’ve ever tagged an author in one of those bad reviews, can you please explain your reasoning? I’d really like to understand.  


  1. I do read reviews because they help me in marketing to emphasize what people like. I don’t recall being tagged for a bad review, but if I were it wouldn’t bother me because it just shows what a small person the reviewer is, and I refuse to waste my time on those I call psychic bleeders.

    ~ Jim

  2. I would like to say no, and I discourage writers from reading their reviews, too. That said, yes, I do read them. Sometimes they are helpful, other times, well, not so much.

  3. I will not post a musing of a book that I did not like. I will not shout-out a book that I did not like, period.

  4. I’m with Kait. However, the occasional bad review doesn’t bother me since it’s hard to know the reviewer’s motivation. Having taught high school English for decades, I understand the wide variation in readers’ reactions to the same book.

  5. As a reader, I don’t review a book I didn’t like and, if I did, I would never tag the author.

  6. Oh, so true, Annette. One of my daughters is a review buddy and will let me know if there's a review I should see. I have to admit that often, among the ones that sting, there will be a review from a reader who gets what I'm trying to do. Those reviews are gold!

  7. Jim, good for you! You're much tougher than I.

    Dru, you know I love you and this post isn't aimed at you at all. I ALWAYS read your reviews because you lift authors up rather than tear them down. And, as you know, you're one of the reviewers I love to quote in my promotional posts!

    Chris, thank you for that.

    Shari, I must admit, I never thought of a "review" buddy. What a fabulous idea!

  8. I write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for every book I finish reading. Always positive, always mention what I liked.

  9. What drives me crazy are the reviewers who seem to have the star system backwards--and give a book one star after they've raved about how much they enjoyed it.

    I have also encountered people who revert to an older rating system (maybe from TV Guide?) where a 3 is pretty good and a 4 is outstanding. Applied to the bottom end of the 5-star system, this translates as mediocre and pretty goo, with no room for outstanding.

  10. I read all reviews to see if there is anything I can glean from them....When my first book, Maze in Blue was published, I received a horrible review arguing that among other things I'd even gotten the layout of the University of Michigan's campus and the way a road ran wrong. I sat on my hands -- we'd all been told not to respond. Lo and behold, the next reviewer gave me five stars, wrote that her father was now a professor emeritus but she had grown up on campus, and that if he did a little research, he'd have discovered that I got all the details right -- they didn't reroute the traffic pattern and build the new dental school smack in the middle of his complaint until almost a year after the book was set. Made my week!

  11. I'm with Annette. I've gotten some lovely reviews for my debut mystery. But what I remember is the one blogger who didn't like The Turncoat's Widow because there was no sex in it and the "detectives were stupid." Maybe I'll be able to read reviews with more equanimity in the future. But for now, with a few exceptions, I'm avoiding them!

  12. My first book comes out in March, so I don't have any bad experiences with reviews yet. (The anthology my short story was in had nice reviews and a blogger did a very nice review on my story.) I'm sure it'll happen, though! As often as I've heard "don't read reviews" I know I'll have a hard time not reading them. Too bad we can't put a disclaimer at the end of the book saying "If you leave a review, BE NICE!"

  13. Reviews are subjective. Everyone has an opinion, and that's not including the trolls who take pleasure in posting a negative review because—actually, I've no idea why they do this. I appreciate the many wonderful reviews that my books receive, and try not to take to heart the few reviews that aren't as good. In truth, they don't bother me as much since the day I checked out the reviews of some best-selling, award-winning authors whose books I love to read. They too had a few 1-3 starred reviews.

  14. Marilyn, YES, reading the reviews of some of the big-name authors' books and seeing they get hammered too does help.