New Writer Advice – Handling Criticism

In an ideal world of your own design, everyone would buy your book and love it. The reality can be pretty painful, especially when hearing negative feedback about something you’ve slaved away on for years. Just remember: you can’t please everybody, but you can minimize the heartache.

Step 1: Analyze your own strength. If you can’t handle criticism, you shouldn’t publish. It’s fine to write as many books as you want, but once it’s out there in the public eye, it will be scrutinized for faults. Sometimes people will make stuff up or post negative reviews just because they had a bad day or they like to troll people. You need a thick skin to survive this business.

Step 2: Get feedback from friends and family you trust to give honest responses. Don’t pick the people who will pat you on the head and give you a gold sticker for trying. You want the negative, but it’s best to get it from someone who cares than some random stranger who is more likely to use blunt, sometimes brutal verbiage.

Step 3: Find a small writers group where you can trade works and critique them. Not only will that (hopefully) help your own writing, you’ll get author-y viewpoints which tend to be more about story, plot structure, pacing, character development, and world building.

Step 4: If you have subscribers, some might beta read for you. It’s similar to giving it to your friends and family, but this time it’s complete strangers who are into your genre.

Step 5: Assuming it passes all this feedback, publish! If for some reason it’s not selling, you can read my other articles to see if your cover, blurb, or Look Inside are a problem.


What to do if you get a negative review:

First, take a deep breath and remember–not everyone is going to like your work.

Second, DO NOT REPLY TO THE REVIEW!!! This is important because you are trying to be a professional. Replying to reviews simply escalates the matter.

There’s a reason we say:

  • The Customer is always right
  • Don’t feed the trolls

The reviews are there for the reader, not you, the author. The reader didn’t like your book for whatever reason. That’s their opinion. Maybe they didn’t even read it and you want to point out that it gets better at point X. Don’t do it. The fact that they stopped reading means they found a place where they didn’t like it. Once again, that’s their opinion. They are entitled to it. And you need to respect it.

Maybe the person left a negative review because they could. This person might be a troll, in which case responding will only encourage them to reply with more scathing remarks. You could even wind up getting your own wiki page about how you can’t handle criticism. Don’t be that person!


All art is subject to opinions, both positive and negative. Savor the good reviews; pick yourself up after the bad reviews. If they have some merit, incorporate the feedback in your writing to improve. And never give up, never surrender! πŸ˜‰