Rejection and Bad Reviews: What’s to Be Done?

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“What began the change was the very writing itself. Let no one lightly set about such a work.” – C. S. Lewis

Negative book reviews certainly aren’t a walk in the park for an author. Yes, the book that took you years to research and write; the one that was finally, finally published was rejected and trashed by a reader, and they couldn’t leave it well alone. They wrote, in excruciating detail, mind you, how much they hated your book, and how no one should read it for many reasons that you find awfully unfair.

Okay, breathe. First of all, the reader isn’t rejecting you personally, unless perhaps the review was written by your disgruntled neighbor with the precariously leaning tree that you’ve complained about to everyone and anyone who will listen. Or maybe the negative review was written by your ex under another name. Well, that’s another story.

Let’s take a look at negative reviews. In truth, most authors will receive one or more negative reviews for each of their books. Rejection and negative reviews can sting and feel unfair, and sometimes what the reader says in their review might really tick you off. I’ve read some pretty mean-spirited book reviews about other books that raised my eyebrows, elicited a quiet “damn”, and reminded me of Thumper’s father’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” If you dislike a book that much, stop reading, put the book down, and say nothing. That’s what I do. Wouldn’t that be kinder to the author? Of what possible value is a negative review?

There is value in every book review. No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know experiencing rejection through a negative review can hurt and sting, but at the same time, the experience can be helpful to a writer–if the writer chooses to view and understand it from another angle.

My debut novel garnered a few negative reviews; they’re part of the writing life. We writers put ourselves out there with every book, so buck up; it’s going to happen. Did I like reading those less-than-glowing reviews of my book? No, I didn’t; I’m human, but deep down I knew I could learn something from them. And besides, my sage writing mentor told me to in so many words to quit whining, ignore all reviews, and keep writing because I am a good writer. He was right. I never whined again.

What did I learn and remember as an exhibiting artist of nearly 30 years, before I discovered my passion for writing books?

Art is subjective. The same is true with books. In a group of 10 book club members, five readers might come away with a similar reaction to a book, but be sure that each reader will filter your story through their life lens, their life experiences. The story will mean different things to different readers. Keep writing.

Accept that not everyone will love your book. You won’t appeal to the masses and that’s okay–that’s not your job. Your job is to write the best book you can possibly write, and to write an even better book next time with what you’ve learned. Keep writing.

For goodness sake, don’t write what you believe will sell! Write the story that’s in your heart. Keep writing.

If two or more reviewers touch on the same or similar issues with your story, take a serious look at what they are saying. I don’t care how many editors or advanced readers have read at your book–the reader(s) may be right. Or not. Be open to explore the possibility, and consider the reader may have a point. Keep writing.

Use all feedback to improve your writing. Be grateful to readers who’ve bought your book, read it, and took the time to write an honest review. Reviews are gold. Keep writing.

Whether your book is your debut or seventh novel,  learn from your mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up, especially if it’s your first book. Major kudos to you for doing what most people will never do–you wrote and published a book. Keep writing and learning.

Don’t obsess over reviews–good or bad. That’s easier said than done; I know. My writing mentor encouraged me early on to not read my reviews…I still find that difficult. I checked my Amazon reviews this morning. I am #stillwriting.

Lastly, I humbly offer this one bit of writerly advice:

Never. Never ever, challenge, argue, or discuss a negative review with the reviewer. Don’t blog about it or out the reviewer on social media. Save yourself the grief, negative publicity, and possible public embarrassment and social media backlash (hey, it happens). Remain mute when it comes to receiving negative reviews or negative comments. Grit your teeth, cry for a couple hours max, and then focus all your attention on your work in progress, improving your writing skills, and growing your readership. Develop thicker skin and accept the negative reviews as constructive criticism. Learn from them. Keep writing.

Always remember to thank and interract with your wonderful readers on social media.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear readers, for buying and for sharing your honest reviews of my book.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for dealing with a negative review? If so, please share.



Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport, and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

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Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, best-selling historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor is writing her second book, The Laments, set in 1926 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger, who is never without a pen, a notebook, and her camera. Her wonderful adult children are doing wonderful things in the world, which allows Eleanor the blessing of writing full time. Please visit Eleanor at her website:

10 thoughts on “Rejection and Bad Reviews: What’s to Be Done?”

  1. Great post! I am not yet published, but I know that will be one of the hardest parts about having my work in the public eye! I am a public teacher though, so I definitely know what it’s like to have negative reviews, since I’ve had my share of bad teaching evaluations from students and as much as people can tell you to ignore them, they still sting!

    1. Thank you for the kind words and your visit, Melanie! I’m glad the post resonated with you. The writing life is a tough life, and then your baby is out in the world. Not easy, I agree! I wish you the best in finding a good home for your book. Eleanor

  2. With reviews I always try to keep in mind that many times books my friends have loved and raved over I’ve been unable to read all the way through. And these are friends. Tastes differ wildly!

  3. I’ve learned from my reviews over the past three years since my book was published. I re-edited according to them. I took out unnecessary words and clarified parts. Then I received a different trend in reviews. I re-edited again. Afterward, I received a better ratio of good reviews to bad. I decided to let it go. I was leaving my book alone. No more edits. I began to work on book two. I now have a better handle on Show and Not Tell, my nemesis. I learned a lot. I also learned that the meanest and cruelest reviews came from fellow authors from my Goodreads’ groups. Words such as “stupid” and “silly” weren’t necessary. But my real readers who bought my book without knowing me left nicer reviews.

    1. Hi Susanne, Thank you kindly for your visit and for sharing your experiences. We share the same nemesis and discoveries about learning from reviews. I’m happy you were able to go back to fix what didn’t work in your novel, and that you’re receiving nicer reviews. We never stop learning. In time, we discover which reviews offer constructive criticism and those that are downright nasty. I wish you all the best with your second book! Happy writing.

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