Critical Review

I don’t know if it’s a universal author experience, but there is nothing I get more hyped about than seeing my author friends get the praise, the sales and the reviews that they deserve. It’s the actual best!

But, what about when they get those horrid, painful one-star reviews? (You can read what I think of my own negative reviews here). I’m not sure what the appropriate response is to a mean-spirited review. I’m not even sure that any response is desirable or possible, other than to remember that opinions are like the a**holes; everybody’s got one.

But, I have been doing a little research lately about the monetary value of critical reviews. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of reviews, and I’d just like to say: if you’ve ever received a cutting, ugly and extremely low review, you are actually in good company!

Here is a sampling of some of my “favorite” (all are direct quotes, taken from verified reader’s one star reviews):

“This is a dangerous book. It made me consider both suicide and mass homicide, and it’s definitely not suitable for children.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling)

“[T]here’s pretty much no consequence in the story at all, so every scene just seems like a random memory tacked-in that’s of very little importance.” (Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls)

“This book made me physically ill. I felt like I was in more peril reading this than anyone on a toxic waste clean up crew.” (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella)

“The plot was boring the smut was cringe and the main characters were dumb.” (The Duke & I, Julia Quinn)

“Basically just a bunch of manipulative people going to each other’s houses.” (Emma, Jane Austen)

“Well, that was boring.” (The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas)

Wow, right? Just… wow. Whatever opinion you may have about any of these books, it’s undeniable that they’ve each managed to find success in their respective genres and loads of folks who would fight to the death defending the merits of these stories. 

So, where does that leave readers who use these reviews to make decisions about adding to their #tbr? And what about the authors who have to process these unkind words? 

In truth, I’m not sure how much weight to put behind any single person’s opinion of any creative work. Reviews may help or hurt when marketing books, (my research basically has demonstrated that they can be especially useful in getting the algorithms to take note of unknown, new or indie authors), but they may mean very little else. I’m pretty convinced they aren’t great at identifying what we readers actually might want to curl up with on a Sunday morning. Nor am I convinced they are any good at defining “great art.” At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to have an opinion, and for good or bad, we’ve all now been given multiple platforms to share them on.

There’s this saying that if you’re going to believe the worst things people say, you have to also believe the best. I guess that’s pretty decent advice if you’re going to put any art out in the world.  

And, for whatever it’s worth, to all my fellow fragile folks forced to endure the weirdness that is “critical reviews,” I think you are brave and you’re doing just fine! 

In love and laughter,


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