Coping with Bad Reviews (or not)

It was going to happen eventually. You send your first book baby out into the big old world and not everyone will coo over it. I knew it was something I had to prepare for, but in the last few months I have been spoilt with lovely reviews and with reviewers who have clearly connected with my style and fallen for my little bunny.

Then the other day it happened. I got my first negative review. Intellectually I knew it was inevitable, but emotionally it’s never easy.

That said, it was far from a really nasty one. If the review was a crocodile it was at least smiling at me (although that made the teeth easier to see). There were some little positives in amongst it, but there were certainly a couple of statements that were bluntly discouraging. When you first read it you’re hyper-aware that it’s out there for the whole world to see. There’s no hiding from it. So here’s my incredibly serious, no at all tongue-in-cheek guide to how I coped with it…

  1. Give yourself a day: on this day you have permission to feel however you want. Cry, stomp, rant, rage, walk in circles, eat a continent of chocolate, talk to the birds and abandon all plans to do intelligent worthwhile things. I have done all of the above in the past, although this occasion just called for a quiet day and a long walk
  2. Rally the forces: Re-read your good reviews – your favourite ones that made you feel all shiny and proud. Especially those where the reviewer loved all the things the negative review seemed to dislike. Even more so the ones that directly contradict the bad review (take that, bad review!)
  3. Argue with your dog: sit your dog down and tell him all about the bad review. Defend every negative point with awesome counter-arguments. Discuss your artistic intent. Wax lyrical about everything the reviewer missed or overlooked. You’ll find your dog a very understanding ear (and know that when he brings you the tennis ball he’s saying he understands your pain)
  4. Indulge your inner storyteller: look at the reviewer’s name and imagine their backstory and why they might have written such a review. Maybe they’re a disgruntled writer and are jealous of your success. Maybe they have a deeply ingrained fear of rabbits (childhood trauma perhaps?). Maybe they’re the Guinness World Record holder for tallest person and can’t in any way relate to being little. Maybe they just didn’t like the book (hold on – scrap that last one. Too realistic and it won’t make you feel better at all)
  5. Read other authors’ bad reviews: oh this sounds nasty doesn’t it? But it works a treat. Look up your all time favourite books on Goodreads and read their one star reviews. Puts everything into perspective. If there are people in the world who loathe The Book Thief, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, then I can cope with people not liking my bunny. Everyone is different (and clearly some are weird – who doesn’t like Mo Willems?!)

For more ideas, hop on over to Michael Gerard Bauer’s blog. He’s far braver than I am … he even quoted his bad review.

Anyone have any other ideas to share?


11 Responses to “Coping with Bad Reviews (or not)”

  1. 1 Lyn November 30, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Sage advice, Katherine, especially the bit about arguing with your dog. Love it! That said, some people spend way too much time cultivating their green-eyed monster so that when they come to review another writer instead of celebrating success they secretly wish the success was their own. You’re an champion and Squish is beautiful.

  2. 3 Dimity Powell November 30, 2011 at 10:52 am

    LOL Katherine, but in an oh so kind and sympathetic way… Thanks for sharing an obvious but not insurmountable low point with us. Your guide points are going up on the wall next to Michael’s. Blah to bad reviews and reviewers. Perhaps they are commissioned to do it, just to even out the playing field a bit. And I agree with Point 5. Surrounding yourself with the shortcomings of others does tend to give you renewed confidence and strength in your own abilities. This is also true with seasickness, from which I suffer badly unless there is someone in worse shape than me on board, which then boosts my ability to cope! Wierd.

    • 4 Katherine Battersby December 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Nice to be laughed with Dim – I’ve had a good laugh about it all as the bad day settled :) So strange about the seasickness … but then again I’m like that with worry. As long as there is someone else around more worried about a situation than I am, then I can relax! Humans are weird.

  3. 5 Sheryl Gwyther November 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Kath, realising that reading, reviewing and judging books is so subjective is at least a good cognitive way to cope – the evidence you have is that lots of people ‘get’ your minimalist art and love it.

    Giorgio Morandi (Italian artist -July 20, 1890 – June 18, 1964) copped a tongue-lashing from the Accademia di Belle Arti in the beginning, but he kept painting his beautiful still lifes, but to the joy of all who appreciate his work.

    So, climb out of that ‘bad review tunnel’ and follow your dream. :)

  4. 6 Katherine Battersby December 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    It is all so subjective, isn’t it? Which of course is the joy of art, really, and the discussions around it. It only becomes harder when it’s our own art being discussed publicly :) Oh the joys of putting one’s work ‘out there’. Poor old Giorgio.

    All is good Sheryl – Squish and I are recovered and back to working on our next adventure…

  5. 7 Pete Carnavas December 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Kath, when it happened to me, I remembered a quote from one of my favourite authors (although I’m sure there was no RAGE or LOATHING towards Squish – very strong words)…

    “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
    – Kurt Vonnegut

    And who cares what that reviewer thinks. My girls love it!


    • 8 Katherine Battersby December 7, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Thanks Pete! Gave me a good giggle :) That’s an awesome quote. So funny and so very true (I also love Kurt’s work).

      That said, I have been known in my time to attack a hot fudge sundae or two, although more typically with a spoon.

      PS. I honestly can’t imagine you ever getting a bad review…

  6. 9 Dimity Powell December 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    What Peter said. And yes, rabbits seem to have it slightly more together than humans, fortunately. I couldn’t bare it if all species were as wierd as humans.

  7. 10 helpfulannalisa December 7, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Your book is lovely and children LOVE it and that’s what matters most helping one child at a time. You have a big heart! Smiles & congrats!!

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:


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