Say It Again: Reviews Are for the Readers, Not for the Authors

Anne Marble
6 min readJan 21, 2023

I saw it again today. A writer reeling from their first one-star review. The real story isn’t in the review but in how her fellow authors responded.

A photograph of a bookstore with a black and white tile floor and a long, long row of bookshelves. Above the bookshelves, a bright orange “Please Watch Your Step” sign points down with bright yellow and black arrows. The shelves are very tall and wooden, and there are prints pinned against some of them.
(Source: Photo by the Author.)

The Review Itself

I felt for the author. I also felt for the reviewer because they seemed traumatized by something in the book. The author felt bad that the reviewer felt hurt. (I won’t link to the author because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about her. )

The issue here is the way other authors responded to that review.

The … Responses … Are … Telling

We often hear writers say, “That review tells me more about that reviewer than it does about your book.”

Harrumph. How writers respond to reviews tells me a lot about the writer.

It’s one thing to comfort a fellow writer who had a negative review.

It’s another to claim that readers should never write one-star reviews. (What?!) To say reviews don’t have to be “that harsh.” (Huh?!) To claim the reviewer is “jealous.” (Of what?!) To use words like “bashing” and “ugly,” and even “spewing hatred” when talking about a reader. (What is wrong with you?) Not to mention calling a negative review an “attack.”

Who’s attacking who?

A black and white photo of a flock of hundreds of arrows heading for a target.
(Source: Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash.)

You’ve probably seen this one. “That reviewer doesn’t know how to give constructive criticism.”

They’re a reviewer. Not a critique partner. Not a beta reader. Those things are not the same. Once the book is out there, the time for “constructive criticism” has passed.

That one pisses me off. So does sneeringly asking, “How many books has that reviewer written?”

Seriously?! Are you telling me that readers aren’t allowed to criticize stories because they haven’t written any books? What a load of hogwash. How can people swallow that codswallop?

Let’s say you buy a meal at a restaurant. It comes out wrong. It wasn’t cooked at the right temperature. Maybe there are even ingredients in it that could make you…

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Anne Marble

I’m a writer and a copy editor with experience in editing science and engineering articles. Click Lists to find my most popular articles. And hidden gems.