Do You Read Your Reviews? (Tell The Truth)

Before I was published, a writer friend advised me not to read the reviews of my books posted on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. I must have looked at her funny because she went on to say, “I’m serious. I never read my reviews. My daughter screens them and sends me only the good ones.”

As inexperienced as I was at that point, I knew I couldn’t follow her advice. First of all, I don’t have a daughter, and second, I have to know. I really do. I read all my reviews, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fortunately, I haven’t had any really bad reviews, the kind that might make me close my laptop and take up ballroom dancing or découpage. But I’ve had my share of, let’s say, disappointing comments. Two in particular stand out in my mind—along with my inner reactions:

  • “I always at least read a few chapters but this one just did not grab my attention.”

Oh, dear—were my first chapters really that boring? What should I have done differently? Am I even capable of writing engaging novels?

  • “Rinse and repeat.”

Ouch! I take great pains to make every plotline unique. Or at least I think I do. Am I fooling myself? Maybe I am, and the mystery world is just finding out.

Accept it. No matter how many brilliant and generous reviews you get, the bad ones will stick in your brain like those earworms, springing to memory at your most vulnerable moments. There’s not a lot you can do about it. But you can take comfort in this:

2. You Will Never Please Everyone

Every writer gets bad reviews. If you doubt this, choose your favorite author and read the reviews. Here are actual reviews from six of my very, very favorite authors, and believe me–these are the big names, all contemporary. Anonymous, of course:

  • “Fun and gripping for a while, but feeble plot and embarrassing chick-lit tropes.”
  • “…you’ve let us down! What a weak excuse for a book. There is no mystery here, there is just blathering on, and then uncovering something in the last pages.”
  •  “I don’t understand. I don’t understand so utterly that I’m actually angry at the close of this book.”
  • “Some characters just give up information too easily that it’s laughable. It feels that the longer this series goes on, the worse it’s getting.”
  • “I started this book and just couldn’t finish. The writing was wayyyy too boring and confusing.”
  • “This book just didn’t do it for me, the characters are flat, the plot is boring, there’s really nothing going on for this book.

I may be wrong, but it does seem that the more well-known the author, the more a certain type of reader will relish taking them down a peg. I’ve never gotten a review as devastating as the ones above. Should I be thankful or upset? I’m not sure, but I do know this:

3. You Must Never, Ever Respond:

Trust me on this: responding will get you nowhere. I did once and regret it. I’d entered a well-known competition, one in which the entrants receive written reviews from the judges. I was a finalist, so that was a good thing, but one of my judges thought I’d included too much specific detail: “Sometimes,” this judge said, “the superfluous detail even descends into unintended comedy.” Each writer was given an opportunity to respond. I took it, thanking the judges for reading my book and for the honor of being a finalist. But I couldn’t resist a comment: “Just so you know,” I wrote at the end, “the ‘unintended comedy’ was intended.” Snarky. And absolutely no point. All you can do by responding is make it worse.

4. You Can Celebrate the Good:

For every “slow start” comment, someone else will write “a real page-turner.” For every “didn’t connect with the main character,” someone else will say, “I love Kate. She’s my new best friend.” The reviews for each of my books average above four points. That means I have a higher average rating than some of the authors on the NYT best-seller list. Okay, okay–so these star-quality authors generate more than ten thousand reviews and I have, well, less than that. Still. Readers who take the time to review my books have generally liked them. They are my tribe. I write for them.

Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with the less-than-complimentary ones?


MIss Demeanors

Author Connie Berry

Connie is the USA Today and Amazon Best-Selling author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Her debut novel, A Dream of Death, won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award and the Silver Falchion. Her latest, The Shadow of Memory, was a finalist for the Edgar’s 2023 Lilian Jackson Braun award.

Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio and Wisconsin with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.


  1. Oh, I read my reviews… I actually don’t get offended by the bad ones, just frustrated if they happen to cluster all at one time period. I’ve learned that over time, the average evens out, and there’s always more positive ones than negative ones, by a lot. Which means that if ever in any universe I hit the bestseller list, there will be even more negative ones–because there will be more positive ones!

    My hands down favorite 1-star review from an anthology I’m in: The few decent stories are tainted by their inclusion in a collection of overwhelmingly sick tales from untalented hacks who need therapy.

    Hey, how did that reviewer guess my secret?!

  2. I received a one star review on a book that I was still writing and hadn’t submitted it to my publisher yet. Someone gave one of my NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mysteries one star because “it isn’t a lesbian book.” As you know, I am a lesbian and so is Chiara, but other than that the books are a straight (no pun intended) mysteries. Perhaps she was upset because the books don’t have sex scenes.

    In any case, I do read my reviews but I always keep in mind that I don’t like every mystery I read so why should my readers.

  3. I read them. There are a couple of one star reviews that come to mind where the readers seemed to really enjoy their complaining. Makes me wonder why they read the whole book.
    Had a recent three star review that said it was a good story after the first 70 pages of exposition. That was the first act of the story but ok

  4. I read all my reviews. If someone has taken the time to read my book AND leave a review (good or bad), I think I should make the time to read what they have to say.
    Reading is subjective. Of course I love the raves, but I respect the ones that aren’t. Of course, there was that one time when someone wondered why there was no incest (I write cozies)…but whatever!

  5. I don’t read reviews. I look to see where they’re clustering, though I don’t even really do that. I find that even good reviews make me anxious. I’m all about trying to protect myself But I assume if I go really off track, an editor or agent will say so.

    1. I admire you, Susan, and I suspect you are wise for insulating yourself from the whims of disgruntled readers. For me, that would take more willpower than I possess.

  6. I read the reviews. I’ve learned to take the good with the snarky but there was one for one of my mysteries that made me stop and go ‘huh?’ The reviewer said she ‘really wanted to give me five stars but had to take one star away due to the profanity, Of course, you know what I did: I yanked out that book and read through it and kept a log of anything that smacked of profanity. Of course, one person’s profanity is another’s casual conversation, and I had no idea where she fell on that line, but here’s what my survey showed in 320 pages: 1 F*&k, 2 bastards, 2 bitches, 2 damns. All of them were in dialogue specific to that character and totally IN characters. That’s when I decided I couldn’t please everyone and that there would always be someone I couldn’t please, so I would go with the majority rule on reviews.

    My favorite review story: One year at St Hilda’s Mystery Conference, Alan Bradley of the beloved Flavia de Luce series was the after-dinner speaker. He talked about reviews and why some people just can’t help themselves leaving a review when they shouldn’t, and that we authors need to let them go–then told us of the time he received a one star review for his newest book.

    It read: “Book arrived wet; couldn’t read it–One star.”

  7. I go for months without reading reviews, then I give them a quick scan. At first the bad ones made me crazy, but now I just consider whether they might have a grain of reality. If they do, I try to do better the next time.

  8. I read reviews and am thankful when people like my books. But then there is that person who has given every book a one out of five stars. I wonder if she is a former student who flunked my class. And there’s also the person who didn’t know the difference between the West (where she thought my book took place) and the Midwest (the actual setting.) So I’m thankful those reviews are in the minority.

  9. I read them to get a sense of what I might consider doing differently. If a particular character is unintentionally unsympathetic to many readers, I want to know. Whenever I start to bristle, I remember what high school was like and go back to writing.

    1. Unlike just about everybody, I had a wonderful high school experience. Now, junior high??? Not so much. That aside, reading reviews with an eye for important information is just smart. I should do it.

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