Boring Is the New Black–Or, Voltaire, You Owe Me a Favor!

Boring Is the New Black–Or, Voltaire, You Owe Me a Favor!

When you write a book, it’s impossible to put yourself out there without getting trampled. It’s part of the process. You’re not ever going to be able to please everyone, and nor should you ever try. Still, I know I’m not alone in the writer world when I admit that a bad review can sting. Here are my two favorites:

For Rita Hayworth’s Shoes (2 stars!)
BORING! (by “Angela”)
“My apologies to all my fellow 5-star reviewers, but nothing thrilled me about this book. I felt it was run of the mill, even bordering on boring. The only saving grace for me was that I decided to read Voltaire’s Candide because of it.”

For The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything (1 star!)
IMPLAUSIBLE! (by “Cman”)
“This has to be one of the worst books I have read recently. Everything up to the last scenario with Esther (almost at the end of the book) was just implausible to believe. In fact it was irritating that author would think readers would not question all the holes in the plot. There was nothing to believe in characters responses to events occurring. I would not call it a psycho drama, fantasy, magical or any of the other genre descriptions used in other comments.”

I have to admit, I’m far more excited about the outrage of the GIRL review (more on that in a bit) than I am about the malaise of the one for RITA. (I also have to giggle at the use of “my fellow 5-star reviewers,” which implies that she is one of them… But I am thrilled to have introduced Voltaire to new reader–hence the favor that guy owes me.)

In any case, here’s what I try to remember when I get a bad review and maybe it might help you too–before you start weeping so hard, you short-out your laptop:

1) Consider the source. Not every book is for every reader. I never got past page 2 of Twilight, but I’m sure Stephenie Meyer and her billions of fans don’t give a rat’s ass what I think.

2) Know that some people like to hate. I accept my books aren’t Shakespeare, and so should you. Because that is not our name. But to be serious… I’ve been at this a while and I know my books aren’t garbage either. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but if I can’t give a book at least 3 stars, I don’t bother with a review. Why would I care? Which brings me to my next point…

3) Someone hated your work enough to CARE!ย  This is by far my favorite. Look at it this way: If someone gave you a scathing, hateful review, be honored that your writing touched a nerve, compelled that person in some way to log on to a website, search out your book, and tell the world just how shitty he or she thinks you are. I know it’s hard to see this through the thick veil of your tears, yes, but consider how many people email or Facebook you to let you know they loved your book, but never leave a review. (Though best not to consider all the others who didn’t hate your book enough to crap all over you and your work.)

For any writer who thinks “a” or even “some” bad reviews means it’s time to turn in the towel, check this out:

The point of this? (Aside from trying to make myself believe my heart isn’t in pieces.) It’s to tell you and me both: KEEP WRITING! And do it with the joy of knowing that people are going to fucking hate you for it!

But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not, do NOT, let a bad review influence what and how you write. You must always keep true to what you do. I, myself, intend to spin hundreds more “boring,” “implausible,” “shitty” stories because I enjoy writing them that way and others enjoy reading them that way. You do that too, okay? Great! (And if you can bear it…tell me about your crappiest review in the comments? Pretty please? I promise that sharing makes you feel better!)

Also, and this is HUGE, please make sure that no matter what boring, implausible, shitty stories you spin, please be edited. Please. Your work should be crapped upon because people hate your premise or your characters or you, not because you were sloppy. (If you got a bad review because you were sloppy, that’s totally about you sucking.)

So break out those hate cauldrons and get ready to stew bad-review-givers “Angela” and “Cman” because I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to gouge out your eyes with your own fingers when you see what I’ve got coming next. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great day everyone (even you haters)!

P.S. If you do like a book you read, the best gift you can give an author is a review. Just sayin’.


41 thoughts on “Boring Is the New Black–Or, Voltaire, You Owe Me a Favor!

  1. Terrific post! I agree with all of your considerations. I would also like to add this point: Getting bad reviews means that your book is being read – period – not by friends, family, bloggers etc. but by complete strangers who chose your book over a million other options. That’s always a good thing. Personally, I cannot WAIT to see what you have for us next ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Francine!! I laughed so hard at this! Thanks! Your saying that Stephenie M. and her fans wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about your not being able to get far into Twilight was especially giggle-worthy. My favorite bad review (and I’ve had a few) came from someone named “Loves Vampire Romance” (first clue he/she wouldn’t like my book) who said about “The Secret Keeper,” “If you like to start with a negative jolt this is the book for you. The main chatacter complained non-stop. There was no way I couldnt [sic] even force myself to relate to her or understand her point. ” My husband and I still quote this when we need a good laugh. Just remember, bad reviewers, we review your reviews, too. You could be a long-running joke in an author’s house.

    Also, great advice about editing.


  3. oh, I loved this take on bad reviews. Here is my bad review – I liked it so much, I tweeted it for ages.
    “I really didn’t like this book… I don’t normally write reviews, but found this book extremely annoying and I am surprised there are so many great reviews? I must have missed something. To me it is written very abruptly with very short sentences and each chapter being a different person telling a different aspect of the same story. The stories came in pairs but characters “bled” across. It was if it was trying to be clever. Each story finished at a critical point so I had to continue reading to tie the ends up. I did wonder if this would actually happen as I got to 90% and still no catch up. Then it did. The plot for example finished following pages of anguish and will she wont she, then suddenly was an aside “and Freda wasn’t here because Fred got another job abroad and she went with him”… Thanks… I had also forgotten who some of the characters where by the end so couldn’t remember what they had done and I also found them unlikeable and sometimes annoying.’

    SO, in a nutshell, she didn’t get the whole thing about POV. I WAS trying to be clever and most people reckon I managed it. Each story finished at a critical point – so she had to continue reading – HELLO! It’s called a cliffhanger! And yes, that was the whole bloody point! And my favourite, and I will probably be lambasted for this, is it my fault if someone is too dim to remember who the characters are??!! Sooz


    1. I adore that you tweeted it for ages. I think really the best way to deal with bad reviews is to share them–makes laughing them off so much easier! Here’s my favorite part of your crap review: “Each story finished at a critical point so I had to continue reading to tie the ends up.” Um… Isn’t that the whole freaking POINT!! To make the reader keep reading. What a total ninny. LOL!


  4. Oh, I forgot to comment about my crappiest reviews. Although I have 1 and 2 star “ratings” on Goodreads, my worst actual review so far is 3 star – “I also felt that Jane’s bitter and cynical turn made her far less endearing as a main character.” Um, that was the point of the book and I wouldn’t change a thing about Jane – selfish, self-absorbed, “all about me” – without it, there would be no book. If that is the worst review I receive, which I highly doubt, I will be very happy ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. This is my approach: Whenever I get a bad review I think of one of my favorite authors and then go to Amazon and check out all their reviews with the same number of stars that I just got. Misery loves company and it really helps with the sting!


  6. Awesome post, Francine! ๐Ÿ™‚ I remember my first bad review… I was in tears for days! I’m glad I’m able to handle them better now… Like when a recent reviewer gave Breaking the Rules 2 stars on Goodreads and said my novel ‘wasn’t complete torture but a definite thumbs down.’ So not only did I fail at writing a story she enjoyed, but I also failed at torturing her completely. I had to laugh! ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. This is such a fantastic post, and I will read it again and again. I honestly believe you’ve made it as an author when you get negative reviews. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Thank you, Francine! And Sooz and Francine, I am a discerning reader, have read most of your books (still need to read “Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and can’t wait) and LOVED them. The “implausible” makes me shake my head, and the “Freda and Fred” comment has me rolling on the floor with laughter.

    Samantha Stroh Bailey


  8. Brilliant post! I tend to not read my reviews…or try not to read them because some of the bad ones seem to be written by people who give only bad reviews. Another problem is when people get free books as downloads they might not be a reader who would usually buy such a book and so they give a bad review because they really prefer sci fi to chick lit!!


    1. I try not to read anything with less than 3 stars, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Sometimes I just have my husband read them to see if the reviewer’s just being mean or there’s any merit at all in them. (Some people just like to mean.)


  9. Great way to put this. I have the same philosophy. If I can’t give it more than three stars, I’m not going to review it. Just because I do not like something does not mean it sucks. Reading is such a subjective journey. I like how you put it into perspective.


  10. It’s kind of inconceivable to me that anyone as witty and smart and gifted at dialgoue, plot and pacing could ever get a bad review. But this post made me feel great, because if YOU could get one…. well, it means none of us should fret!


  11. Oh, Francine – how did you know I NEEDED this post at precisely this moment?? I just got my first 2 bad reviews – a 2 star last night followed by a very negative 3 star this morning. Luckily I didn’t let them reduce me to tears – but they sure had me in the dumps. (And vowing to never even read my reviews anymore…) The 2 star one kills me – she says “It’s and (sic) okay book. It moves rather slowly.” She goes on to say that she didn’t read the back cover, so didn’t know what it would be about a divorce and she doesn’t want to read about someone’s divorce. Then return the damn book! Don’t read it and go, “Yep, I didn’t want to read that!” and then ding me with my first 2 star review. Sigh. (Plus I looked at her other reviews and the only other books she’s reviewed are kids books and two camera how-to books. Why me?? Why do I get to be her first review of a novel?) She can’t even write 3 sentences without a typo… don’t I get some credit for writing a whole book??

    The other one was a mean 3 star saying it was boring – and it contains a lovely spoiler without the spoiler alert warning. Thanks. She ended her review with “Yawn.” So if boring is the new black, I’m right in style with you!


  12. Thanks for the post Francine! Fabulous! Love receiving my posive reviews and upset about negative ones, until I realized those readers took time to actually POST
    Some posts make sense, some don’t and are nasty, but people are reading.


  13. Love this. Love you, Francine! I’m with Elizabeth – after my third one-star review for “Chocolate for Breakfast,” I found Anna Quindlen’s books and read the reviews. Jo Rowling’s, too. That Mrs. rita Zimmerman took the time to label my book “drivel” and “rubbish” means I sparked SOMETHING in her!!! Thank you.


  14. Francine, this is a post I am going to re-read when my book comes out and I read that first negative review. You have a way of putting it all in perspective, and providing a laugh or two in the process. Your posts are always inspiring with great take-aways!


  15. Love this post, Francine! And I am thrilled with the only 1 star review I received for THIN RICH BITCHES on Amazon because I set the novel in the town I currently reside in and obviously someone saw themselves in one of the characters! How embarrassing is that for that reviewer? The reviewer (hiding under an alias) wrote: “I suspect it is nothing more than the author’s attempt to embarrass people she knows in Dover.” So untrue!!! I was just having me a little fun at the expense of anyone who takes themselves too seriously . . . . like her!!! Oh well, terrific sales are the best revenge for a bad review!!!


  16. Hi, Francine. Truth in every word. You cannot please everyone but if you please a reader here and there, from time to time, your work has value. I mostly received great reviews, some made me blush, and yet, yes, I received the one-star. Some without any comment (why bother?) but the first one was emblematic. I had given an ARC to a reviewer who asked me for a free copy in advance becauseโ€”her wordsโ€”she loved the blurb and the genre. I warned the ARC wasn’t edited yet nor proofread and she replied it did not matter, she would keep that in account but she couldn’t wait to read my work.

    Nice hook and line, I gobbled it. This is her review:

    Recommended to xxxxxxxxxx by: Sounded interesting, and I asked the author for a copy in exchange of a review
    Recommended for: No one
    Read from August 01 to 22, 2012, read count: 1

    I read the synopsis of this book and was interested in reading it. I message the author for a copy in return for a review.

    Being a fanatic about the genre, I thought I would really like this book. It had an interesting concept, but the writing was a big turn off.

    There were parts of the book that were interesting (vert few), but they were not enough to keep me going.

    I felt like the book wasn’t edited at all because there were way too many gramatical mistakes, and too many fragmanted sentences. And even if the story is written in first person, there is no excuse to narriate the word “legit”.

    There are a couple of quotes that keep repeating through out the story, and most of the time didn’t even flow with the story.

    โ€œLife is what happens to you while youโ€™re busy making other plans”, repeats mulitple times. I got it the first time, no need to quote it 10 times.

    The ending of the book was the most dissapointing. All the build up, and at the end you are left with these “entities” (who apperently have names), explaining everything.

    Overall, I did not like the book. I like the idea, and the concept, but the story just didn’t pull through for me.

    Typos and grammar error are hers.

    To make the long story short, the edited and proofread novel, “Daimones” ended up being the winner of the 2012 PRG Reviewer’s Choice in Science Fiction ( and is listed in the Awesome Indies as one of those work passing good writing qualities criteria (

    So, move on, as Francine says, and KEEP WRITING ๐Ÿ™‚


  17. This is such a great thread with good advice and perspective. Of course I don’t get bad reviews. Oh, wait. Um. Yeah. Well, they’re entitled to their opinions.
    Sotto voce – singularly odd, ill founded opinions ๐Ÿ™‚


  18. LOVED this one. I actually once got a bad review and the person cared SO MUCH that he/she looked up my email address so he/she could contact me. Lovely human being that really loved to hate. Ah, well, what can you do but laugh? (And call the cops just in case…)


  19. So read this at the right time. My book’s only been out for over a week and I read my first nasty, 1 star review today ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Thanks for the perspective. The one before it was a lovely 4.5 stars, but it’s amazing how much we pay attention to the negatives rather than the positives.


  20. Haha! This is so funny, Francine! I’ve gotten some not so great reviews, too, but one that really made me scratch my head recently was on the Amazon UK site, where I got a 3 star review for using American spellings. Uh, I am an American author and the book features American characters in an American setting. LOL!


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