How to survive a bad book review

Reading bad reviews of your work can be tough – we might feel that they’re unsubstantiated, that the reviewer simply “didn’t get it,” or that they have a bone to pick with us personally for some reason.  Regardless, bad reviews can hurt, and we may feel tempted to respond in kind, with harsh words and criticism of our own.

Three words:  don’t do it.

Not once. (Okay, five words.)

The one thing you’ll have to remember as an author with published material out in the world is that all sorts of different people are going to read it, and they’re going to have all sorts of different opinions on it. Art is subjective, and you’re not going to be able please everyone. There will be some who simply don’t like your work, and they’ll tell you about it. Sometimes they do so constructively, politely, and thoughtfully. Sometimes they go for the jugular.

Bad reviews don’t often go viral – they might if they’re particularly harsh and hilariously-written, but by and large, reviews don’t get much attention from anyone other than those who are either thinking about reading a particular book or have just finished reading a particular book. But there is one way to make sure a bad review gets seen by everyone in the industry: react poorly and publicly.

There are countless examples online of authors (or their agents, or their spouses) getting defensive and antagonistic in comment threads on bad reviews about their books. There are even reports of authors creating “sockpuppet” accounts from which to praise their own works and trash the reviews of those who dare to disagree. None of this behaviour is appropriate, professional, or helps convince people that the reviewer is mistaken and you’ve in fact written a brilliant piece of pure genius.

Here are some tips on how to read criticism of your work and minimize the personal impact:

  • Allow yourself your first reaction, but keep it private. Rage, cry, vent to a good friend, write a scathing reply, do whatever you need to do to rid yourself of the initial emotional reaction to a bad review – but keep it to yourself.  Rage into a pillow, vent in person to a friend (not in email or on social media), or write the reply by hand and then destroy it. Feel your knee-jerk emotional reaction, and then purge it. Letting it run away with you will do you no good.
  • Once calm, re-read the review. Pay attention, and look past the insults, if any.  Sometimes the criticisms that cut us closest to the quick are those that hit closest to the truth. Does the reviewer have a point? A valid concern? Are these things you can keep in mind for your next story?  Something to bear in mind is that if you’re getting multiple bad reviews that all make similar points; it might be worth it to listen, and give it some serious consideration.
  • If you must reply, you can. If you’re just starting out building your fan base and are trying to engage your audience as much as possible, don’t suddenly fall silent on the one review that doesn’t praise you. Don’t stoop to their level, however. Returning insults for insults will make you look petty, unreasonable, and unprofessional, no matter how vicious the initial attack.  Acknowledge the review and thank them for their time. And that’s all.
  • Move on. Don’t obsess. Bad reviews happen to even the most successful and popular authors of all stripes. Think of it this way: you’ve just joined their illustrious ranks! Rejection and bad reviews are all part and parcel of being an author. Call it a learning experience and get on with your next project.

Regardless if the reviewer has some well-articulated, polite, and valid criticism, or is an erupting volcano of vitriol insulting you, your skills, your parentage, and your pets – your reaction should be the same in all cases: either complete silence, or a polite acknowledgement and genuine gratitude for the time they spent reading, thinking about, and writing about your work.

Avoid the meat-grinder! Creating a self-published book can be as easy as writing a blog

by Emily Craven

I always had it in my head that something like Smashwords would be my first e-book platform: the easiest, the largest distributor, the least work.

Then I looked at the style guide, and read the tax information and realised I needed to buckle on my superhero suit for that gauntlet.

I’d had enough trouble deciding how to format my YA novel to look like Facebook, now I had to figure out how to stop the meat-grinder from turning my work into something resembling a 52,000 word experimental poem. It was still in the cards, but I needed a new plan to keep the momentum rolling before I drowned in paperwork and coding.

I have always been a keen advocate for self-education. In industries like writing and in particular e-publishing and internet marketing, things change too quickly for your run of the mill university. It’s this drive for self-education that has seen me being asked to present on marketing and creative e-book advances, and got me into the coolest courses for free. It was at one of these courses I found a way you can create your own clean ePub or print-ready pdf file, for free, without any supernatural talent at html code, and have your books uploaded on Amazon and Kobo in the same hour.

PressBooks is God’s gift to writers.

PressBooks has taken the WordPress open source code and created a powerful tool to produce epub and print-ready PDF files. The epub file it produces is directly upload-able to Kobo Writing Life (which offers their own free epub conversion service as well) and KDP (which will convert the file cleanly to mobi) and it’s as easy as using the WordPress blogging platform.

There are several reasons why I would marry PressBooks over my partner of five years:

  • The platform is free. You can create a file for every one of your 100 haikus if you wish.
  • It is as idiot-proof as blogging with WordPress. Basically you set up each of your chapters as an individual ‘blog post’. This makes it incredibly easy to fix your own typos and add extra scenes or features you thought up while singing in the shower. You can upload and insert images in the same way you would a blog, easily compressing or enlarging your author photo depending on the size of your narcissistic streak.
  • It allows you to place your front matter (copyright message, dedication, foreword), novel (separated into chapters and, if necessary, parts) and back matter (about the author,  more books from the author and bonuses) on separate pages avoiding the run-on effect between sections that you get through other conversion tools. You can select which components you want to include in the export with just one click, allowing you to create different versions for different markets (print, Kobo , Kindle  whatever) or price points (e.g. I have a multimedia version of E-Book Revolution which includes links to ten instructional audios and a private Facebook group. This version of the e-book I sell for $47, where as the e-book without audio is only $5.99).
  • It provides three different template styles, all super professional. As well, it allows those of you who have painstakingly learnt html code (who I like to call the ‘obsessed’ or ‘book designers’), to upload your own CSS style sheet.
  • It allows multiple users to work on a novel at once. So if you are a small publishing house you can have the author upload work, then have a structural editor, a copy editor, a cover designer, and a copywriter all do their work on the same platform. PressBooks allows you to compare the changes between saved versions so the author/editor can approve changes. Each individual contributor can access the novel online from wherever they are. The efficient work flow should have all publishers salivating. Imagine the best of the best being able to work on the same project regardless of what office or country they are in.
  • Finally, but most importantly, PressBooks gives you the ability to integrate detailed metadata into your eBook. Metadata increases the find-ability of your books in the search engines tenfold. You can add keywords or tags, ISBNs, pricing, a synopsis, subtitles, covers and more into the metadata and it will be integrated into the backend of the ePub file, just waiting for Kobo, Google or Amazon to search it.

Creating print-ready files and ePubs was a mountain (or a giant hole in the wallet); now the only (mother of) a mountain is marketing and the reader-author connection. That’s where I come in… Sigh. Has anyone seen my superhero suit?


Emily-Craven-200x300Emily Craven is an author of non-fiction, fantasy and YA fiction. She blogs and presents for If:Book Australia, Meanland and the Australian Society of Authors on the future of digital publishing, e-book marketing, author platforms and the reader/author connection. Emily’s non-fiction book ‘E-Book Revolution: The Ultimate Guide To E-Book Success’ is now available as an e-book through Kobo or a multimedia package at

She also has her own blog at In 2011-2012 she undertook a 12 month writing mentorship with fantasy author Isobelle Carmody, for her YA fantasy novel, Priori-The Power Within.

If you enjoy her tongue in cheek style you may also enjoy her comedy novels set in Facebook, ‘The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire’ and ‘Jake’s Page’ available from Kobo.

It’s dangerous out there; don’t go alone

aliiance-of-independent-authors-asset-508ff8844c6a7The road to self-publishing success can often feel like quite a lonely one, but “independent” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “alone.”  There are entire communities built around self-published authors and aspiring writers coming together to help one another, be it with advice, resources, or simply a place to vent one’s frustrations to sympathetic ears.

If you’ve decided to pursue the self-publishing route, you might want to look into what’s out there in the way of support for you and your endeavours, such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) – a global, non-profit organization of authors working together for each other.

Membership comes with many benefits, including access to legal advice, an author helpline, and the wealth of collective experience of all its members, which include successful self-published authors, teachers, and other industry professionals.

ALLi is also offering an online event:  the ShinDig “Cracking Kobo,” an exclusive online interview with Mark Lefebvre, Kobo’s own Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations, held Wednesday (tomorrow!) at 4pm EST.

Register for the event, and check out ALLi’s blog, How to Successfully Self-Publish for great self-publishing information and advice.

How to make Facebook work for you

We want to make 2013 the year YOU break through! So we’ll be supplying some helpful tidbits on how to accomplish this.

If you don’t already have a Facebook Page, we would highly suggest creating one. Facebook is one of the largest social networking sites, with more than 90 million active members; it is the most visited social network site out there right now.

You can connect your blog (if you have one) to your Facebook Page by adding a hyperlink to your blog in the description area of the page. You can also add a widget onto your actual blog that will allow you to connect your visitors to your Facebook Page.

Once you’ve shared your Page with your friends and family, and they have shared it with their friends and family, this should be the beginning of your fan base. But there are some do’s and don’ts to posting on Facebook to keep your Page “Likes” up instead of down.


Engage your fans. Ask your followers questions. Get them to share, comment or “like” your posts. This activity shows up on their friends news feeds and this could potentially increase your fan base even further.

Use the tools you’re given. Facebook allows you to see which of your posts are the most popular, it tracks your likes, what time of day gets the most activity, you can check out your follower’s demographics and there is so much more. You can use this information to your advantage to create future posts.


Don’t use your page to sell. We know the main point is to sell more books. But there is nothing that will lose fans quicker, then trying to sell to them constantly. You can use your page for discounts, coupons and even new arrivals. But don’t make it the bulk of your posts. Try and be more creative with your posts by having pictures and contests for extra content etc. that will help drive traffic.

Think before you post. Remember that you never know who might be reading your post, so be careful of the things that you say. Always be politically correct and never use the page to verbally harass or harm another person or site. This will result in traffic declines and maybe even being shut down in general. And always remember your audience: they are the ones who will be reading your posts therefore the content should be interesting to them, not only you.

Enter the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge!

Are you in the process of writing a novel? If so, the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge sponsored by Kobo and Curtis Brown Creative is the contest for you! One lucky winner will be awarded the grand prize of free enrolment in an upcoming Curtis Brown online novel writing course.

How to Submitja (2)

Authors should submit a 100-word short. The short can consist of any genre of fiction, as long as it stays within the 100-word limit.

Submit Here

Submission deadline: February 15, 2013.

What Happens Next

The Kobo Team will select 20 semi-finalists whose submissions will be collected in a free anthology available on the Kobo site! (Author names and photos will be included here as well, so get ready for your close-up!)

Contest judge and bestselling author Jeffrey Archer will evaluate the 20 semi-finalist submissions and choose three finalists. The finalists will be announced by Jeffrey Archer himself at the London Book Fair on April 15th, 2013.

The three finalists will be requested to submit a 3,000-word excerpt of their novel-in-progress to be judged by Curtis Brown Creative and will receive written feedback.

The lucky grand prize winner will be awarded free enrolment in an upcoming Curtis Brown online novel writing course! The winner will be announced on April 29th, 2013.

Tutors and guest speakers of past Curtis Brown creative writing courses include Jojo Moyes, Tracy Chevalier, Tony Parsons, Harriet Evans and Anna Davis. Find out more about Curtis Brown Creative here.

Full Terms and Conditions

The Contest is open only to legal residents of the forty eight (48) contiguous United States, District of Columbia, the United Kingdom and Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their respective jurisdiction at the time of entry (each entrant, an “Entrant”). Void in Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and where prohibited by law. The Prize consists of free enrolment in one (1) Curtis Brown writing course. The voucher is valid until December 31, 2013.

The Book Doctor’s Declaration of Independents

44516_142975332409383_137689529604630_212602_3356938_n2012 was proof-positive that this is indeed the greatest time to be a writer.  The fastest selling book in history is now a self-published book.  There are so many more ways to get successfully published than there were five years ago—heck, more ways than there were when we started writing this sentence!

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the corporatization of publishing has caused enormous changes in the book business.  As publishing houses merge (Penguin House/Random Penguin) and corporations envelop them in their bureaucratic arms, there will be fewer publishing opportunities at the Big New York Publishing houses. That is why we are urging writers to investigate the wonderful world of independents–both publishers and bookstores.

Image.ashxWe’ve been published by Simon & Schuster, Random House, Penguin, and HarperCollins, and we love working with them, but we turned down a much bigger offer from a large corporate publisher to have the honor and privilege to work with our independent publisher, Workman Publishing, on The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  They are like a writer’s fairy godmother, granting wishes left and right. In fact, the newest version of our book (the first version was called Putting Your Passion Into Print) came about because of the suggestion of Peter Workman in light of the seismic, revolutionary changes in the publishing business. The even better news is, with the majority of independent publishers, you don’t need an agent.  And as any of you who have pursued agents know, it is very, very, very difficult at this point in history to get a good agent.  Indeed, you may spend years of your life getting rejected over and over again by agent after agent.  Between us we have six books coming out in 2013, and they are all with independents.  In fact our experiences with independent publishers like Canongate, Black Dog and Leventhal, and Soft Skull, have resulted in our books being translated into multiple languages, being optioned by Hollywood, and winding up on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Then there’s your independent bookstore. What a friend of ours calls the last three feet of the publishing industry.  We’ve done events at over 100 independent bookstores, and the best of them are thriving.  One of the greatest things you can do for your publishing career is become friends with your local independent bookseller.  Attend events where you can meet fabulous authors (usually for free!); pick the brains of book people who almost certainly know more than you about what’s come out in the last couple of years, what’s coming out right now, and in fact what’s coming out six months from now; become a vibrant presence in your town’s book community.  And when your book comes out, if you have really been a generous contributor to your independent bookstore, they’re almost certain to give some love back, by having an event at their bookstore, or, best case scenario, by hand selling your book.  This is like gold, manna, and mother’s milk to any author.  (Check out this list of Indie bookstores in the US selling Kobo readers and eBooks.)

We believe very strongly in an all-inclusive approach to the book business.  Some books cry out to be published by the likes of HarperCollins and Random Penguin.  Others would love to be handled by independent publishers who aren’t beholden to a giant corporation.  Still others will be best served by self-publishing.  In 2012 we had our first experience of self-publishing: it was fantastically liberating.  And we are already making money off that book.

We hope you have a great 2013, and may all your publishing dreams come true.  See you at the bookstore!

And as a sign of goodwill, we’re offering the chance to buy our book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, AND win a 1 hour consultation with us (worth $250) for $2.99!

The Book Doctors

KWL Author sells book rights to Fox and M. Knight Shyamalan

Blake Crouch, bestselling author who also publishes through Kobo Writing Life, has recently announced the sale of the rights to his book Pines to the Fox network for development into a miniseries called Wayward Pines, to be directed by acclaimed director M. Knight Shyamalan.

0378 Crouch_Thicker Than Blood_2The cover to Pines was designed by Jeroen Ten Berge, illustrator and graphic artist, and guest poster here on the KWL blog. Check out his article on the best cover designs here!


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