Reviews – the Good, the Bad, the Brutal

Reviews are one of the top three causes for visceral emotions in authors. Two-inches-off-the-floor elation to meltdowns, there’s nothing we look forward to with more hopeful trepidation. Many authors refuse to look at them. They say it’s death by a million cuts, and I get it.

You spend six months to a year writing the book, falling in love with your characters and the adventure you’ve set them on. You go through developmental edits that tear up your plot, grammar edits that convince you that you need to go back to junior high English, and page proofs that make you wonder if you should take up a road construction job. In Arizona. In August.

Bad reviews hurt. Believe me, I’ve felt the pain.

But authors who don’t read reviews are probably people who don’t check their email a zillion times a day, and can let a phone ring.

I’m not one of those. I need to know. And for context, know that I received 417 rejections before I sold to New York – so I have a thick skin.

I watch my reviews closely. Yes, it’s a bit masochistic. But I also learn from them. Readers are smart. They see plot holes I missed, uncharacterlike behavior, and weak twists. Yes, it’s too late to fix those things (unless you indie pubbed), but they help me know my weaknesses, so I can improve my writing.

A very wise woman I met when I first started writing, Char Lobb/Charlotte Carter (God rest her sweet soul), told me that all reviews are good reviews, regardless of what they say. Because you only get about one review for every 10 – 20 reads (couldn’t find hard stats on this). I was told the same thing by a top book blogger, right after she ripped my first novel for ONE word it contained. Don’t get me started – it’s the only review I’ve received that really hurt.

There are several things to stress over:

  • Quantity –  I get over 100 reviews per book (just one more thing to stress over, right?) better than many, but waaaaay short of the big guys.
  • Quality – from number of stars to written reviews – they all matter. I’ve been known to check my star rating down to two decimals, every day.
  • Comparison – this is what will make you crazy. However many stars or reviews you have, you go checking out other authors’ books to see how you stack up. Take it from me – don’t.

The ones that hurt the most are the ones that rip you for something you had no control over: the cover, the blurb, the PRICE! Reviewers, please don’t judge that in your review – the review is a crit of the author’s work ONLY.

Bad review coping mechanisms:

  • It goes without saying that you NEVER respond to a review in public, right? RIGHT?
  • Remember: even the Bible doesn’t have all 5-stars. (4.5 from the ones I looked at)
  • Bad reviews legitimize good ones. Seriously, as a reader, if I see a book with all 5 star reviews, I figure they had their friends and relatives write reviews. And they’re probably the only ones who read it.
  • Remember, it’s only ONE person’s opinion.

Good review coping mechanisms:

Yeah, right, like you need to cope with a stellar review.

GO DANCE! Seriously, celebrate it. The attaboys in this industry are too few. If you don’t spend time lingering over them, you’re going to give the negatives too much power, and down that road lies madness. Print it and paste it on your bathroom mirror. Eat a chocolate sundae, close your door and rock out to your favorite song (mine is Smooth, by Santana).

Currently, I’m celebrating the best review I think I’ve ever gotten, that showed up today for my July release, Cowboy for Keeps:

Do you read your reviews? Any coping skills for us?


  1. Kelly Moore on September 7, 2020 at 9:08 am

    Enjoyed this inside peek into an author’s mind and heart. Also, prompted MY heart to go leave more reviews on Amazon (necessary evil beast) and Goodreads. Have a beautiful Labor Day.

    • Laura Drake on September 7, 2020 at 10:45 am

      Thanks so much for reading, Kelly – and the authors thank you!
      Happy Labor Day!

  2. Diana Y. Paul, author of Things Unsaid on September 7, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    LOVED, LOVED your article, Laura, for being so honest about obsessing over reviews! And checking to the second decimal point level in the ratings. I wrote an article in February for––entitled “Reviews Blues” but I talk about the feeling of rejection or depression with the snarky reviews but not the obsession. Thank you for sharing in a hilarious way the OCD for some of us! I am also an obsessive book reviewer but will not post a snarky review EVER because now I can put myself in the place of an author.

    • Laura Drake on September 8, 2020 at 4:24 am

      Loved your blog too, Diana. Especially this: ‘you never expect anyone to say your baby is funny looking’

      Perfectly put -just what it feels like!

  3. Rayn Ellis on September 7, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    Thanks, Laura! Great article for a newbie writer like me. All the fellow newbie writers I know gave such differing opinions on “to read or not to read” reviews. I think step one for me will be a thicker skin! Lol. Hugs! 💕💕

  4. Laura Drake on September 8, 2020 at 4:25 am

    Oh don’t worry, Rayn, this industry will give you that! You have to have super-faith in yourself, even when it seems no one else does. That’s the super-power.
    Write on!

  5. […] To sell your book you need to write the much-dreaded synopsis, and once you send it out you face rejection from publishers and/or reviews from readers. Roz Morris explains how to write a synopsis if you hate writing synopses, Joe Ponepinto says to avoid rejection take the writer out of the story, and Laura Drake discusses the good, the bad, and the brutal in reviews. […]

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