Bad Book Reviews, Part 3

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Good grief, people. I keep telling y’all not to respond to bad book reviews, but you keep doing it anyway. And then you’re surprised when you end up being Writing Twitter’s main character of the day. 

And get this: the incident that set off the most recent Author Behaving Badly fracas was over a very favorable four-star Goodreads review. The author in question was indignant that her book’s perfect 5.0 score was ruined. She went to TikTok to trash the Goodreads reviewer, calling her a bitch. That…backfired. A lot. Her book’s rating was at 1.0 last I checked. And it’s not even being released until September.

For the record, I don’t love revenge-bombing a book’s reviews. The poor book didn’t do anything; it just wants to be read. But what this author did was catastrophically stupid.

OK, Nicole, why does any of this matter so much to you that you’ve devoted three blog entries to it?  Why won’t you shut up about it? We’re bored over here.

Thin-skinned authors who do this are hurting all of us—especially those of us with small publishers or who self-publish. How? 

Because the smaller book review sites are understandably fed up with this behavior. They give honest reviews of the books they receive, and for their trouble they’re mocked, insulted, and cursed out. More and more of them are saying “Screw this” and shutting down their sites. That means fewer sites where someone might discover my book. Or yours. And when you’re not with a big publishing house and its access to major book reviewers, and you depend on smaller sites to get the word out, that matters. You know what will really hurt a book’s chances of success? Nobody talking about it. People can’t buy a book if they don’t know it exists.

But Nicole, this person wrote a super mean review of my book. Shouldn’t I explain how they got everything so wrong and are incredibly stupid and probably just jealous of my blazing talent? 

Hell no. Listen up: Some bad reviews here and there will not hurt your book. 


I promise. Pinky swear. A few months before Tidepool’s release, it got a lukewarm review in a major trade publication. Even though the review could have been way worse, I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Here was one of the biggest trade reviewers basically saying Eh, it was OK, I guess about my debut. 

After Tidepool’s release, it was reviewed by a well-known genre review site. And that reviewer hated it. I tried to stop myself from reading their review, but I couldn’t tear myself away. I was devastated. I’ve gotten a lot better about avoiding bad reviews since that one. 

As you probably know if you’ve heard me drone on about it, Tidepool sold very well, was a finalist for both the Stoker and the Ladies of Horror Fiction awards, and got a very nice mention from Ellen Datlow in her The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 14 anthology last year. It was picked up for a Spanish translation, netted enough royalties to allow me to bump my HWA status up to Active Pro Writer, and overall vastly exceeded the modest hopes I had for it. 

I’m not bringing that up to be all “Neener neener!” to the reviewers I mentioned. I’m truly grateful they took the time to read my book and write about it. 

I’m just saying that the occasional negative review won’t destroy your book’s chances of success. Quite the opposite, in fact. There is no novel that is universally popular, and many readers suspect author and/or publisher fuckery when we come across a novel that has nothing but five-star reviews. That’s right: Bad reviews actually give your good reviews more credibility. 

Wanna know what will hurt your book? Attacking reviewers. If you send them insulting emails or call them out on social media, you’re liable to find yourself becoming Twitter’s main character of the day. You never, ever want to be Twitter’s main character. I bet that author I talked about at the beginning of this rant wishes to hell she’d left that 4.0 review alone. 

(She has since claimed that the video was a joke because she’s a comedian and geez, you dummies, how could you people who never heard of her until yesterday morning not know that? Are there any sociological studies out there on why people these days will never, ever just say “I’m sorry?”)

So for the last time (until this happens again): Leave your reviews alone. If you’re especially shaken by a bad review, go look up your absolute favorite book ever on Goodreads and check out how many negative, scathing reviews it got. See? You’re just like your favorite author! Cry, eat all the chocolate, slam the cabinet doors while muttering darkly, and do whatever else you need to do to cope—offline. 

Also, The Shadow Dancers of Brixton Hill comes out in less than two weeks and ARCs are winging their way to reviewers as I write this. So I’m going to be taking a crash course in Practicing What You Preach 101 over the next several weeks. 

Until next time…

(Postscript, June 1: The angry author’s book has been canceled by the publisher. Ouch. Like I said: Attacking reviewers will hurt your book’s chances way more than an occasional bad review will.)

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