Join Wanda Ernstberger for some hot advice on reviews!

Today I have a special guest, fellow Etopia Press author Wanda Ernstberger, talking a bit about reviews…


How to Handle Bad Reviews

Your novel, your baby, is out there being judged, and some reviewer has just torn it to shreds. A thousand reactions rage through your mind:  eat an entire cheesecake, start a campfire with remaining review copies, use the reviewer’s picture for target practice. But, before you take your anger out on anyone (including yourself), just keep in mind:

A bad review doesn’t mean you suck:  Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a fan. If everyone liked the same thing, there’d only be one book in the whole world. A bad review only means your story isn’t to that person’s taste. So, don’t start a bonfire, send out those review copies. Garbage men deal with garbage, store clerks deal with the public, and writers deal with negative reviews. That’s just part of the industry, a crummy, un-fun part of the industry, but it’s there, and all the wishing (and cursing) won’t make it go away.

Since writing is a business, and you want to remain in the business, also consider this:

A bad review doesn’t mean the reviewer sucks:  Before you send off an e-mail, “How could you not see the brilliance of my work, you poopie-head,” take a breath, calm down, and have a slice of cheesecake. Then, thank the reviewer for his/her time and move on. Even if the reviewer slams your work, take the high road and let cosmic justice deal with the twit. Remember, this is part of the profession, so always be professional.

One last note:

When Wuthering Heights was first released in 1847, this was what came across Emily Brontë’s desk:

Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story. There are evidences in every chapter of a sort of rugged power–an unconscious strength–which the possessor seems never to think of turning to the best advantage. The general effect is inexpressibly painful. We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity….” (Atlas, January 22, 1848)

I wonder what Heathcliff would have to say about that?

Wanda Ernstberger is a YA writer whose story, “The Next Shakespeare” is published by Etopia Press. She’s also had short stories published by the Spilling Ink Review, Aphelion, and The Aroostook Review. She loves to travel, cook, read, and watch anime. Stop by and visit her at



About Kendal Flynn

Kendal Flynn was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee before going on to sail with Long John Silver on the high seas and slay dragons with Beowulf. It took her a while to realize that girls weren't supposed to be getting dirty with the boys, but she never quite found the fun in standing around and wringing her hands, waiting for some stuck-up dandy to ask her to dance. She'd have been more likely to take the dandy at swordpoint and tell him to dance with her, or else. Of course, in real life, she's a very ordinary administrative assistant, who's never taken anyone at swordpoint and who can't dance anyway. She lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with her husband, three children, and two amazingly spoiled Chihuahuas. View all posts by Kendal Flynn

10 responses to “Join Wanda Ernstberger for some hot advice on reviews!

  • ute

    Nice post Wanda. I do like the term poopy-head. Goes well with bubble headed boobie. You’re quite right, though. Let Karma take care of payback.

  • Brinda

    This is truly sage advice. How true that the book selection would be so limited if we all liked the same thing. I don’t like all music, but it’s truly a matter of my taste. It’s the same for books. One person can love it and another can hate it.

  • wandaernstberger

    Thanks Brinda. I also have different tastes in art, music and books. It’s all a matter of taste. So, cherish the good reviews, because that’s your audience.

  • Kendal Flynn

    I used to wait tables with this really funny Southern girl who used to say, “Honey, I’d love to be in charge of smacking people for all the crap they do, but that would take all the fun out of being God.” 🙂

  • Paula Sophia

    The hardest reviews to deal with are from people who obviously didn’t read the work with purpose (which a person calling himself an editor or reviewer should do). One recent rejection I got from a lit mag said, “Your writing is extremely average…”
    I wanted to e-mail him back, saying, “Adverbs like ‘extremely’ make the term ‘average’ meaningless, less precise, but it’s nice to be extreme in some way.”

  • Catherine Cavendish (@Cat_Cavendish)

    Great blog and sound words, Wanda. It is hard not to feel offended and/or hurt when a bad review comes your way and your advice is important to bear in mind to regain perspective when it happens. I think it was the late great actor John Gielgud who imparted some of his wisdom to a fellow actor who was devastated on having received a scathing review from one of the UK tabloids. John Gielgud dismissed it in an instant with the words, ‘But consider the source, dear boy, consider the source!’

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