Yes, authors, you CAN respond to a negative review!

It's common wisdom out there that authors shouldn't respond to negative reviews. Well, that depends. The wrong response can certainly lead to a lot of authorly regret.  
What kind of response is an author likely to regret? I've noticed pretty much any online response, but especially any kind of scathing, angry or "corrective of wrong thoughts" or "just trying to be helpful" rebuttals; even certain types of clarifications can lead to a kerfluffle spiral of authorly regret. 

Really, a review is simply a report of one person's subjective experience of a book. It's good for authors that there are reviewers out there taking the time to report honestly about their experiences. But a pesky thing about other people's experiences is that you can't change them! If it were possible to change other people's experiences, I guarantee you, my husband and I would be going out to see a lot more romantic comedy movies.

One idea, when tempted to respond online to a negative review, is to first do a little thought experiment. Imagine waking up tomorrow morning and discovering thousands of hits on your website...and it's ALL people coming to see who the author is who wrote that [insert adjective here, and it's not the one you were hoping for] response. And everybody is tweeting and facebooking it and hyping it. Imagine the horror in the pit of your stomach. 

But look, that doesn't mean you can't respond! 
For example, you could do an interpretive dance as your response.
Go ahead, open the curtains. Let the neighbors see!  
This one depicted above is called: "AUTHOR SO UNHAPPY!"

Another awesome and regret-free response: craft your reaction in macaroni art! This particular piece, from my own collection, is called "THE GNASHING TEETH OF THE WRITER MISUNDERSTOOD!"

Spend the afternoon imagining that you are having angry, sweaty, hot sex with that character that Russell Crowe played in the movie Gladiator! OMG! Rawr!

Another awesome way to respond to a negative review: Gratitude - for giving YOU the most perfect excuse ever to eat a truckload of chocolate! Yee ha!

Spend the afternoon imagining angry, sweaty, hot sex with the mysterious and babelicious "Seven of Nine"character from Star Trek: Voyager.

Hey, why read are you reading reviews anyway? Your thing is the write the books. Make a resolution to not read reviews, good or bad. Let this experience give you the gift of time. 

Have a stiff drink, put some Billie Holiday on the hi-fi, draw the curtains. Or something like that. You're a f*@king writer, man! It is your right to WALLOW awesomely and creatively and with great pathos! Step away from the computer and really get into it! 

Write a crazy-ass response in Morse Code! And tap it out on the window. Repeatedly! But wait, not too hard! 

Spend some quality time with your cat or dog. Dude, your pet thinks you are the most brilliant writer in the world. What's that? You think your pet is stupid? Guess what- if there was a total Road-Warrior-style collapse of society, your pet would have a way better shot of surviving than you. You pet has skillz. Your pet knows the score! And YOU are your pet's literary hero!

Think of a book that you have really loved, and go write a review for it, telling how much the book meant to you. Or go write a nice review for an under-appreciated book that you genuinely enjoyed. This is actually a very therapeutic way to respond to a negative review.

Best of all, remember those good reviews you have gotten? Or, the readers who have enjoyed your work and told you so? If everybody only had nice things to say about your writing, those good reviews and comments wouldn't mean anything whatsoever.  
So, in a way, negative reviews are important and valuable, because they make the good reviews mean something. You will be okay! Just keep writing. 


Shiloh Walker said…
you forgot wine shopping. also a reason to shop for wine.
Sullivan McPig said…
Great post!
And awesome pictures!!!
Time to buy more macaroni and chocolate ;-)
Love the article! One caveat...Meankitty is not my biggest fan and does not think I'm brilliant. She's let me know plenty o times she prefers Nick Bruel and wishes I'd write a REAL book (about her) some day.
YACWW said…
A few responses I would definilty like to do in response to negative reviews.
Love the pictures!:)

Gabriella Hewitt
Chris said…
I'm so including this in linkity - brilliant! :)
Carolyn Crane said…
Shiloh: Oh, yes, yes, yes. The wine!

McPig: Thanks! and for stopping by!

Missy: Yum, I hope you enjoy.

Writer & Cat: Oh no! LOL

YACWW: Hey, thanks!!!
Carolyn Crane said…
Chris: Thanks! I'd be honored to be in your legendary linkity!
lol. I love the drawings! :) You make them fun. And you can respond. :) Great post!
synde said…
you are fucking brilliant lady!
Sherry Soule said…
Funny post and great advice. Thanks for sharing.


Check Out My Books!
Dara Young said…
Freaking HILARIOUS!!!! Thank you. :D
You are my new hero...

After Russell Crowe in Gladiator, of course :)
Carolyn Crane said…
Hey, thanks so much you guys! And for stopping by!
Jaye Wells said…
All excellent suggestions. I prefer to prance around my house in a sash I made using glitter and ribbon that declares me QUEEN OF SUCKTOWN.
Anonymous said…
Broke a rib laughing.
BookaholicCat said…
Love your post especially the Morse Code response.
By the way, I need your address, I moving to your next door house. LOL
KT Grant said…
Have my babies? OMG the wild sex with RC is awesome!
Too good, Carolyn.

Also, not sure I've told you before, but I adore your drawings. Interpretive dance and hot, sweaty sex images particularly. LOL
Patricia said…
I love it! xD

But I actually appreciate authors telling me when I missunderstood something.. Another author recently said that she also reads negative reviews of books she loved.. Beth Revis, I think?

Anyways, great post!
Unknown said…
Extremely funny! Almost makes you *want* to have a bad review. Almost!
Penny Watson said…
Will you marry me? Or at least do the cover for my next book?

Can we imagine angry, sweaty hot sex with a bearded Eric Bana? Just checking!
F. D. Davis said…
This was so cute. i loved it.
Qwill said…
One word - BRILLIANT!
Anonymous said…
I always loooove your posts, but this one is Freaking Fantastic, you outdid yourself, and thank you for the gigglefest.
Nicole Peeler said…
This. Yes. Hilarious. The drawings are AMAZING.
CdnMrs said…
OMG! I love this post and the pictures almost made me pee my pants. Fantastic.
Julie said…
Great post Carolyn! I always love it when you include your art. Makes things even better.
I can't imaging being an author and reading a negative review for something you have poured your heart and soul into. Heck, that is the only part of being a lowly blogger that bugs me - posting a review for a book that didn't ring my bell as loudly as it rang someone else's. But as you said, a review is subjective and to each her own. And it's important that everyone feels comfortable posting their opinion...I only wish some people were a little more tactful about how they word things.
Again, great post. Gave me my super laugh for the day. :)
Roxanne Skelly said… can change someone's opinion. All it takes is finding them, bringing a bottle of Tequila, and drinking until you get to that "I love you, man." "No, I love you."
Then, hold their hair out of their face as they eject the tequila into the toilet, and hopefully they'll sit in the hospital room with you as they pump your stomach.

That'll get you a changed review.
Delphine Dryden said…
Oh, you get so many extra bonus points for the even-handedness of including 7 of 9 to balance out Russell Crowe. LOVE. Lovity love love love. And also wine and chocolate.

captcha word: tersp. It's an anagram for strep...I find that unsettling.
Anonymous said…
Thanks. I'm going to bookmark this one!
Tracy said…
Such great suggestions! I especially like the artist depictions of these events. You truly put my stick figures to shame. :)
Annabel Joseph said…
This was so great! Thank you!

And yum, hot sweaty sex with Russell's gladiator character. Brawn and sensitivity!!!
amyt865 said…
Great post Carolyn! I adore you, your art and your books! *Team Kabob*
Tez Miller said…
Dude, your pet thinks you are the most brilliant writer in the world.

Only if your pet is a dog. Cats tend to have much higher standards that their humans could never live up to ;-)
Marg said…
You had me right up until the Russell Crowe thing! I may have to insert my own hottie of choice!

OH, that may be a little bit double entendre!!! ooo-err miss.
Katie Reus said…
Pure awesome! I almost snorted out my wine ;) Your art was the best part!
Carolyn Crane said…
OMG, I am just laughing reading some of these comments!!! Thanks so much for stopping by and all the kind words!!
Phoebe Conn said…
You made my day! Humor is the best way to address bad reviews, and your humor and drawings are perfect.
Although, I'd prefer Hugh Jackman.
Unknown said…
I wrote a blog back in April, and finished it off with this comment;

"If someone reads it and likes it, fine. If someone reads it and doesn't like it, that's also fine, and if they tell you they like it great, if they tell you they don't like it, well, so what, you wrote and posted what was on your mind and they replied with what was on their mind after reading it, let them do it and move on to the next one."

I know there is a vast difference between writing a blog and a book but I think the same though may apply. BTW I wrote a blog today intended to be a review of one book but turned into a review of six" also at

Love the drawings
Mark said…
I am not an author, but a radio announcer, and I think I will find these suggestions equally useful the next time I get a hateful e-mail about my radio show.

Thank you very much!
kylie said…
You are one seriously talented individual! Love all the nekkid people. And the cat.
Linda G. said…

I'm going to bookmark it, so I can come back and read after my book comes out next year. It's sure to come in handy. :)
Sir Otter said…
May I do Seven of Nine seven times nine?
Dr J said…
Such a great post, Carolyn. And such fun with all your drawings. I often wish authors would realize that we are talking about the writing and not about the person. I know that a book is really like one's own kid--it springs forth from that inner being where the imagination resides--but a reviewer is simply thinking about the story, the editing, the writing skill and composition, the grammar and spelling, etc. I often worry when I make what could be construed as a negative remark--I really want it to be constructive criticism. Thankfully, I don't come across a dreadful book very often. I have also gotten a few books that I just think are not bad stories but the production is awful. I try to capitalize on the story rather than highlight the mechanics. But all that being said, I truly loved hearing all about it from an author's point of reference--good suggestions for responding to almost any truly negative circumstance in life.
Valerie Bowman said…
This was hysterical! Thanks for the laugh. "Tap out a crazy-ass response in Morse Code." Ha!
Unknown said…
....and shoe shopping, excellent reason to buy a new pair of totally unnecessary (and most useless) shoes!

Great post, lovely illustrations!

Dottie :)
I'm coming late, but this post is just awesome. Hee.
Mel Teshco said…
Did someone steal my art collection?? Great post =)
Larry Benjamin said…
Awesome. Personally I deal by making the reviewer a minor character in my current WIP. Then I have another character push said reviewer down a well. As this NEVER fits in with the story I am trying to write, I delete the scene. But smile all day long.

But you're right the occasional bad review is a nice balance otherwise it can look as if your family members and paid flunkies are your only reviewers.

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