Bad Reviews – What Are They Good For?

The other day a friend alerted me to a bad review of my book on Amazon. In a nanosecond my first thought was What? No Way. Not possible! Clearly that was my ego talking. My next thought was OMG, my husband’s ex-wife is up to her old tricks again, trying to terrorize me. Then I logged on to see it for myself. Here it is:


Now I know it’s not groundbreaking bullying, and definitely not the bunny boiler, aka husband’s ex-wife, but it did do something to me that I can’t quite name. I felt shock at first, then anger, hurt, disbelief — I was pissed off and gobsmacked. No writer wants to hear the book they have agonized over for years, sweated, cried and practically bled over, sacrificed a lot for, let alone dug impossibly, painfully deep to find the words to write, referred to as boring. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but boring isn’t one of them. I’ve also had a lot of feedback on my writing over the years, and that word never came up.

My first instinct was to hit the ‘report abuse’ tab — and I did. What an idiot! In my defence, I immediately assumed it was my stalker, which terrified me. I have a very expensive piece of paper to confirm she can’t even pretend to stalk me. And, as T. Gill is faceless, I imagined her. I wasn’t thinking straight. I should have done more research. As if a bad reviewer would have the guts to put a face to the name, even a fake one. I’m pretty sure the bunny boiler isn’t that stupid, but I could be wrong.

Boring. Please. I’m not that insecure about my writing. There are worse things I (or my writing) could be called. I mean, just look at Clementine Ford, now there’s a woman who needs thick skin.  And the Queen,Constance Hall, or the brave Ginger Gorman who went ‘Troll Hunting’ for her next book. The hunter has become the hunted, and it’s not even published yet. Now that’s putting yourself out there. These inspiring women, or the thought of them, helped me consciously let go of that one-star bad review. Subconsciously other things were brewing and I had a sudden attack of writer’s block, even though there were a dozen articles in my head ready to write. So I’ve been looking at a blank screen all week. I bought chocolate — the good stuff, Ferrero Rocher, not that 85% dark, bitter crap. I hadn’t bought real chocolate in months. And, I’ve had weird dreams this past week too. One night I was on stage doing a TED Talk type thing. I had my book in my hand, ready to read an extract, but no words came out. I stood there like a stunned mullet, alone, in front of hundreds of people and my voice failed me. Frightening! It’s a miracle I wasn’t naked. That’s what it felt like in my dream.

I don’t stress so much about writer’s block these days. I used to, but I know better now. It’s temporary. I can usually tell if it’s genuine too, or just me procrastinating, making excuses. This time it was real. I decided to use the downtime wisely and listen to some podcasts. I have hundreds saved in the pod app on my phone although I never listen to them, even though I have great intentions every time I add a new one. “I’ll listen to that tonight,” I tell myself. F**king Netflix.

So yesterday I see this Facebook post about a marketing podcast. It’s Marie Forleo interviewing Seth Godin about his new book ‘This Is Marketing’. Just what I need right about now, seeing as I’m so shit at it.

Something remarkable happened around the 16-minute mark, when the interview went slightly off-track. They started talking about critics, and it changed my whole perspective.


Harry Potter has more than 21,000 reviews on Amazon, and over 12% of them are one-star? Comments like: worst book I’ve ever read. As Seth points out “Said to the author who made more money as an author than anyone in history.”

Seth Godin hasn’t looked at his Amazon reviews for five years. He says, “I never met an author who has said ‘I read all my one-star reviews and now I’m a better author.’ All it does is seize you up and make you shut down. You have the right to say that, but I don’t have the obligation to read it. Thank you for taking the time, but I don’t want to know…


So I’m celebrating, and not just because my writer’s block is gone – thank you, Marie and Seth.  I am celebrating my very first bad review on Amazon and I say this to you, faceless, faithless Gill “Thank you for taking the time to buy my book and give it a go. Clearly it’s not for you… but your opinion is your own business.”

That’s what Seth would say, and that’s what my new and enlightened self says too. My old self might have responded differently — like “Hey, Gill, didn’t you watch Bambi when you were a kid? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Or my passionate, unwise, much younger self: “Hey, Gill, F*** you, a***hole!”



Don’t let one-star haters ruin your day. It just someone’s opinion. Look on the bright side — that hater bought your book, and that equals sales. You win! Be like Seth Godin and JK Rowling and Clementine Ford and all the other courageous, inspirational authors in the world — write for your tribe. Your people matter.

Marcia Abboud