What’s Good About A Bad Review?—by Nancy LiPetri

9851187It had to happen sooner or later. A real stinker of a review got posted for my novel. After all, I had made countless reminders to the online community, book clubs with whom I’d discussed the story, and anyone else I knew read it, about the value of reviews no matter how long, short or critical (honesty is the best feedback, right? And any boosts Amazon promo). So, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.


My first beneficial realization came, ironically, from the fact that the low number of stars hurt my feelings. Don’t readers study the Amazon key that tells what each rating means? Didn’t my reviewer think my novel was at least well written, regardless of content she didn’t appreciate? No and no. How self-absorbed I was to think the non-author reader cares enough about Amazon’s definition of each star’s significance. Considering how that person felt about my story, I was lucky to get any star at all. We authors, experts in empathy, understand that, don’t we? So after my emotional response cooled, I realized a low star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book as much as it can mean it just wasn’t for that reader. I now keep that in mind when checking ratings to decide what I myself want to read.


The next good thing came from admitting to my author network that I had received the dreaded stinger. The outpouring of support was touching. I received congratulations for getting my number of reviews up to the point where statistically it had to happen. Was repeatedly reminded you just can’t please everyone. And my favorite congrats: for eliciting any strong reaction in a reader, for writing well enough to accomplish that.


What else was good about a bad review? It reminded me not to take myself too seriously, to keep perspective and remember why I got published in the first place. I didn’t seek a publisher for the purpose of getting rich or famous or collecting reviews. No. I was driven to submit my manuscript because I wanted to prove to myself that my fiction writing was worthy. And every review has simply been icing on the cake. I entered the book business wondering if anyone would even take time to read what I wrote, remembering the words of an old advertising copywriting mentor who said, “Nobody has to read a single word you write; it’s your job to pull them through every sentence.”  If someone leaves a review, at least I know I pulled them through.


Have I adjusted my content to avoid angering/offending another reader like that one? Beyond assuring my audience that I am someone who values my marriage (after 30 years, and yes, I was married at five ;), and who does not condone everything my characters say or do…the answer is nope, not a bit. In my writing, I embrace controversial ideas and enjoy the what-if’s in all sorts of relationships and other aspects of life that might lead us to struggle with being honest with others and with ourselves. As a reader, I enjoy discovering new perspectives and quirky characters (it’s no wonder one of my favorite writers is John Irving). The advice that you shouldn’t write to please other people holds true, in my opinion, even for those writing with sales in mind. Maybe try to please readers who like your genre. But if you’re not writing with a passion that drives yourself, where will the reader find the spark to keep engaged?


Another advantage of the bad review was that it showed me how different readers are from each other, not only due to tastes in genres but also due to their life experiences. As my friend Judith says, a book can mean something different at different stages of your life, different moods in which you read it. I have been absolutely thrilled to have reached readers who tell me they relate to my characters and were moved by the story especially because of what they have been through personally.


While I strive to share true-to-life dilemmas and feelings within a tale that entertains, that doesn’t mean I take my subjects of infidelity, death, family and friendship frustrations lightly. On the contrary, the significance of those topics is exactly what makes them worth writing about. I actually expected more than one complaint about edgy/provocative content, and now that I’ve weathered one, bring ‘em on, because good or stinker, they’re all good in one way or another.



About The Wooded Path512t2rluv6l


The disappearance of a woman on Lake Norman, NC, shakes her neighborhood, leading friends to reevaluate their own lives, bringing about dangerous temptations and surprising confessions. One woman finds herself risking her seemingly perfect life and marriage… and afraid of what really happened to their friend.



About Nancy LiPetri and the sequel


Nancy lives with her family on Lake Norman, North Carolina, the setting for her first novel, The Wooded Path, and the sequel in progress, working title Across the Lake in which the character you least expect to return is back, taking you to the other side of the lake, pushing boundaries to experience life a whole new way. Again readers will find facts about the area, its natural aspects and culture, woven into a tale of varied characters for entertaining, thought-provoking contemporary fiction.


Where can readers connect with you?










Where can readers find your books?

OakTreeBooks.com, anywhere they can order with an ISBN number, and Amazon:  http://viewbook.at/TheWoodedPath

13 thoughts on “What’s Good About A Bad Review?—by Nancy LiPetri

  1. Thanks for hosting me, PJ!

  2. amreade says:

    I love your insight and your acceptance that not every review is going to be glowing. While it’s more fun to read the good reviews and those are the ones we authors love to tout, there’s really more to learn from the bad ones. Sometimes I wish people could learn to express their feelings a bit more diplomatically, though. 🙂

    • Diplomatic is something I have to work on when I’m on the reviewer side, too, that balance between encouraging the writer and informing their other potential readers who might dislike the same things. I do believe in honest reviews! Thanks, Amy 🙂

  3. jtzortman says:

    Great blog, Nancy, and I can relate to having one 3-star review and the shock of it at first. Mine was from a friend I’ve had since grade school, so it was cetainly unexpected. It wasn’t so much the actual words she wrote as the low star rating, which dragged my 5-star total down to 4.5 where it has remained. I love your book and cannot wait to read the second one.

  4. Those star ratings are just subject to so many interpretations, I think. One person’s “it was OK” is a compliment while another’s is not so much. Are they comparing to their all-time favorite, Tolstoy? Grisham? Danielle Steel or the latest unknown in the genre? LOL We just can’t read too much into those stars, is my conclusion. Thanks, Jackie 🙂

  5. It’s so interesting to read how other authors react to less than stellar reviews, so I appreciated reading about your experience, Nancy. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. sharonervin says:

    Philosophical and enlightening, Nancy. I got a bad review on my tenth published novel––among a host of good ones––from a reader who bought my book my mistake. One with the same title was released 16 months after mine. That was the book she intended to buy, was terribly put off that she ordered, paid her money, and received my book instead. She punished me by awarding my NIGHTINGALE one star. I assume responsibility for some glitches, but not hers. Rejection has taught me to shrug off the bad news and not get egotistical over the good. Writing is a business and I allegedly am a pro. It took a while, but I no long weep over rejection or single star reviews. To counter, I plop down at my keyboard and keep on keeping on. I just contracted for Novel #12, MEMORY. That makes me a happy, but no longer hysterical.

  7. radine says:

    Actually, what you say makes your novel doubly interesting to me and, very possibly, to others.

  8. We crave all good reviews, but realize someone might not like a book. Best thing to do–shrug and move on. Any review is just one person’s opinion.

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