How to Take a Review – Smart Advice from Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell

For those of you who aren’t well-versed in the world of romance novels, you may wonder why I just referred to Sarah Wendell as a Smart Bitch. Well, that’s because she is… it’s on her business card. Sarah Wendell is the Co-Founder of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books a blog that is famous in the romance world for its reviews of books in the genre.

Now, I completely, unashamedly fan-girled all over Ms. Wendell at the recent Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Yes… I fan-girled. There may have been giggling and a photo op moment.

It's blurry but I don't even care!!!

It’s blurry but I don’t even care!!!

Okay, so the actual point of this post is to share some of Sarah’s top tips on how to handle a review as an author. I have many writing friends that have recently published either traditionally or self-published, so they’re all going through this at the moment.

1. Step Away From the Computer

So, you got your review… and it wasn’t great. What do you do? Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, engage. Do not dwell on it. Walk away from the computer. Wendell advises chocolate, and I heartily agree. In her words “it’s delicious and it makes your fingers sticky so you can’t type.” Do. Not. Type. Back away.

2. The Bad Reviews Support the Good Reviews

Have you ever checked out a book on Amazon and noticed that it had all five star reviews? Did you think that was maybe a bit odd? Did it make you second guess whether or not you were going to buy the book? RIGHT? I mean, it’s a bit too coincidental. I just went and looked up my favourite Harry Potter book (Prisoner of Azkaban, obviously), and while it is heavily slanted with five star reviews, the book has actually received 158 one star reviews.

The point is that great books polarize people. You love them or you hate them. Do you really want to read the review that everyone thought was so-so? The book that nobody was engaged enough with to rank high or low?

Not everyone – least of all people at writing conferences apparently – loved the Da Vinci code, yet it sold millions. It’s reviews? All over the shot. As a reader, if you see a set of reviews that are mixed, it is more likely to make you more trusting of the reviewers. These are not all friends and family of the author with a vested interest. These are book lovers, pure and simple.

If you eventually want to thank people for their reviews (even the bad ones), that’s up to you, but don’t feel like you have to.

3. Do NOT Stalk Your Reviewer

The fact that this is even a thing is disgusting, but recent events have made it a necessary statement. Nuff said.

4. The Point is that People Are Talking!

It’s like that saying that all PR is good PR, and it’s kind of true. If your book just received a negative review, it was a review. Your book’s name and your author name are out there in cyberspace where they may not have been before. People are talking, they have an opinion and they took the time to read your book. Whether or not they liked it is almost a moot point. Yes, as authors we want people to love and adore our work, but not every reader is “our” reader.

So, fellow authors, whether you write romance, sci-fi, paranormal, historical, you name it, these principles apply. When in doubt, stop and eat chocolate.

Big thanks to Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell for letting me share my learnings from her workshop. For more Smart Bitch-ery (yes… I made a word), see below:


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