Thursday, August 21, 2014

One of the most difficult things a published writer must learn is to toughen up where reviews are concerned. I hate negative reviews, whether from professional critics or ordinary readers. I especially hate them when they aren’t as much about the book, as they are about demeaning an author’s beliefs, faith, or personality. But bad reviews are a fact of the writing life, and there aren’t many multi-published authors who haven’t had at least one or two.

Ironically, my first scathing reader review was for one of my most award-winning, bestselling novels, Beneath a Southern Sky. (That vicious review is still up on, along with several others, if you care to weep along with me!) That review nearly paralyzed me for a few days. It didn’t hurt so much that someone didn’t like my book (okay, HATED my book). I’m well aware that the type of book I write isn’t for everyone, and there are many different tastes in genre and style. What hurt was that it sounded like the reviewer didn’t much like ME!

When I go back and read that review now, I can be much more objective. I realize now that the reviewer probably had never met me. I don’t think he/she meant the words as a personal affront. But I can also still, after more than a dozen years, remember the deep pain I experienced when I first discovered that review. I actually broke out in a sweat and started shaking—and I’m not one who usually gets my feelings hurt easily. But this was so public. So very personal. I shed some tears over that person’s words, and I have a feeling he/she would be surprised to know that.

But I did something else after receiving that review. I removed an review that I had written months earlier for a book that made me angry. No, it wasn’t wrong of me to post a review respectfully outlining why I disliked this book. But I had made the same mistake I think my negative reviewer made—I made my review personal, commenting on the author’s personality and motives, not just his writing. I didn’t even know the man, but like my reviewer, I failed to acknowledge that this author was human and had feelings.

My terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad review (and there have been plenty of others since) gave me two important things: a thicker skin for the inevitable bad reviews to come in my future; and a softer heart for other writers, who are real, imperfect people. Just like me.


Deborah Raney accomplished something very few authors are able to do with their first book. Her debut novel, A Vow to Cherish (originally published in 1996), inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists.

Raney’s newest novel, Home to Chicory Lane, releases in August as the first book in the Chicory Inn Novels series for Abingdon Press Fiction. 

For more information about Raney and her books, visit her online home at, become a fan on Facebook (deborah.raney) or follow her on Twitter (@authordebraney). 

And don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a copy of Deborah's newest release, Home to Chicory Lane!


  1. This post was SO timely. Thank you thank you THANK YOU.
    I just self-published my first novel in May and on Goodreads, got the first "bad" review of it. 2 stars. It really stung, in spite of the five 5 star reviews on Amazon.
    Thank you again for this transparent piece and advice about bad reviews. I really appreciate it!

  2. I'm so glad it was timely for you, Meghan...and so sorry about that review. I just got a 2-star one for my new book, and it STILL stings, even after 25+ novels. Nice to have someone to commiserate with! :)

  3. Thank you, Susan. Alas, I don't think I could be non-transparent if I tried. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I guess. ;}

  4. Thanks for this post. I am not an author but a reviewer and this just helped to remind me of what I need to be careful of. I try to be honest when I don't like a book and normally it just wasn't something that interested me. On occasion it is over a moral issue but I try to be objective and see why the author put that situation or conflict in there. Normally it is just my personal preferences. Still, it is always good to have that reminder that authors are flesh and blood, just like us:) They have feelings that can be hurt and just because they put their work out there for everyone doesn't mean they can be attacked.
    Love your books, especially the Hanover Falls, Clayburn Series and soo many more:)!! Thanks for being outright honest with us all!

  5. I am a reader and I try to write reviews on the books I read. When writing a review I look only at the story I just read. I try to be honest about what I like. If I read a book that I don're like, then I don't review it. Is that wrong? Maybe to some, but I feel it's better to say nothing than to be mean. I don't feel personalities of the author is open for review. I do think some people are just mean. No other way to put it. I am sorry this reviewer was so mean. I am a fan and will continue buying your books. Thank you for this reminder. I think it's beneficial for all readers to look at things from the author's perspective.

  6. Thank you for being open in sharing this experience. As I sit here editing my memoir I keep looking ahead with thoughts like boy, this paragraph is surely going to garner some 2's, maybe even 1's by readers who don't share my beliefs. Your blog post reminds me you can't please all the people all the time. And there will always be haters. It's the soul who will see a glimpse of Christ in my story that I am writing for. Blessings to you!


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