Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

When the Cryin’s Over (or Coping with Unenthusiastic Reviews)

If you’ve submitted something for publication, there’s a good chance you’ve been rejected. (I’ll save that topic for a future column.)

Today, let’s focus on that other ugly word: reviews. Specifically, the not-so-nice ones.

If you’ve written and published a novel, you’ve invited the opinions of agents, editors, contest judges, or reviewers. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference what’s printed on their business cards. Less than positive reviews sting. The negative review appearing in a public forum, even anonymously, has the power to affect your bottom line. Double ouch. Triple, even.

Several facts we need to face, right from the get-go:

1. A negative review is rejection . . . of your work.
2. No author—not Twain or Hemmingway, not Rowling or Grisham—has ever written anything that was loved by everyone.
3. The longer you’ve been writing, the more likely it is that you’ll hear from one of those who didn’t love your work.

Unfortunately, we can’t ease the discomfort with aerosol sprays or ointments, the way we can with bee stings. So what can we do?

I posed this question to a dozen trusted writer pals who have been on the receiving end of snarky reviews. A few admitted that after reading a negative review, they curled up in the fetal position (one, for days!), worrying about the demise of their careers. Others (like the guy who punched a permanent dent in the top drawer of his filing cabinet) confessed that they’d resorted to temper tantrums. Tears, head- and stomachaches, insomnia, over-consumption of chocolate (and other binges that I promised not to divulge) are just a few of the aftereffects of being stung by the Bad Review bug.

The more hardy authors who believe that bad reviews “go with the territory,” since we’re “blessed to be doing what we’re doing!” had very different reactions. “I don’t waste much time dwelling on bad reviews,” said one multi-published pal. “Negativity is counterproductive because the mood transfers directly into your work.” And, he concluded, “That’s a scary thing, even when you write horror, like I do.”

So how do the take-it-on-the-chin types react when one of their novels is slammed by a reviewer?

“I tell myself s/he is a wanna-be writer, jealous that I sold the book, and s/he couldn’t cut it.”

“I say, those who can, write novels that sell; those who can’t, write smarmy reviews.”

“Reviewers are entitled to their opinions. I’m entitled not to like them.”

“I’ve got more than 100 books out there, but only eight negative reviews. Get the picture?”

“It was clear from that review that the [expletive omitted] guy never even bothered to read my novel, so how can I take his review seriously?”

“I remind myself that I’m selling consistently because my readers like my work and keep coming back for more.”

That reminds me of a New York Times interview I read a few years back, in which the well-loved author Norman Mailer was asked about his own negative reviews. I’m paraphrasing, here, but in essence, Mailer said that bad reviews aren’t really bad…unless readers buy into them…and choose not to buy books and become potential fans based on the reviewer’s words, alone.

I read another article (if I could recall where, I’d credit the writer) that pointed out how negativity, by its very nature, lures the public interest, pretty much the same way pouring chum over the side of a boat attracts sharks.

So maybe the bigger question here is do you want to feed the sharks by reacting negatively to a negative review, in your own public forum, and end up looking worse than the reviewer? I daresay that sounds like career suicide even to those who are allergic to stings!

So we’re entitled to cry if that’s our bag. Wring our hands. Pace. Stomp our feet. Call the reviewer a name or two (privately, please, for the sake of our sanity and career longevity!). Whatever it takes to get the negativity out of our systems as quickly as possible.

Then we need to put our time and energy into writing more for the readers who consistently buy our books, instead of focusing on the opinions of just one reader.

Happy writing, peeps, and may the reviewers be with you!


An Accidental Family