Reacting to Feedback as a Self Published Author

As you dive into the world of self-publishing, one of the biggest fears that you must overcome is the unknown reactions that you will get from those that read your work. For me, I had written a short story and kept it to myself for months before I finally shared it with my wife. I knew I could count on her for honest feedback. I knew she was aware of my writing ability from many of the business and personal documents I had either written or helped her with at home. Also, when I was an independent consultant, she often looked at the documents I produced.

This was different, however. I had invented my own story with characters, settings, and emotions. If she hated it, I would have probably quit going down this path. Luckily, she liked it and I continued on and gradually expanded the circle of people that I let read and comment on my work.

I became very lucky with this path. I have a dear friend who is an avid reader and is very detail-oriented. She agreed to become my editor. In this capacity, she not only caught all of my careless punctuation and grammatical mistakes, she also looked at my story objectively and told me what parts worked and didn’t work. My first two short stories were published by an online literary magazine. My first book, Frankly Speaking, went the independent publishing route through Amazon.

Once the book was published, the iterative process of receiving feedback began. It started with family members that bought the book and posted five star reviews on Amazon. After a couple of those, the initial excitement wore off because they were, after all, family members. The excitement really began when I started to receive reviews from people I didn’t know. Those five star reviews really validated what I had done.

One day, after the first book was out a couple of months, I received a two star review, the first that was less than five stars after about 12 reviews. I quickly looked to see what valuable feedback I had received from this reviewer and there was only a single word in the review, “Boring”. I felt a few different emotions, one of which was anger. I looked to see what other brilliant reviews this person had posted and only found two other book reviews that were just a stellar for gardening books.  My initial reaction to this review was to reply to the reviewer on Amazon. I wanted to ask why they found the book boring and what I could have done to make it better. I also wanted to chastise the person. I had written 70,000 or so words and this only merited a one-word review. I actually went as far as writing a response and then I came to my senses and deleted it. I had seen other independent authors respond to negative reviews and I promised myself I wasn’t going to be “that guy”. After this one word review, several additional four and five star reviews came in and this one bad review became an anomaly.

I also publish a newsletter and I correspond with readers via email. One of my readers, a former English teacher, wrote me to let me know that she thoroughly enjoyed my book but she had found some additional typos, grammatical issues, etc. in the book and would I be insulted if she sent them to me. Part of the flexibility in independent publishing is being able to go back and improve upon your product once it’s published. I could have left it alone, but I felt that future readers deserved the best product possible. I corrected the book and I then proceeded to enlist this person as a beta reader on my future books. This is definitely a suggestion that I would make to my fellow authors. Find those detail-oriented, voracious readers out there and let them preview your books. They will find things that you and your editors missed and it will make your book a better product.

So, what is the bottom line of reacting to feedback. Take it all in. Qualify it. Use what is useful and discard what is not. In the end, you will have a better product and if you publish a better product, that improves the playing field for all self-published authors. There is a stigma in some circles regarding self-publishing. The quality of the product is viewed as less than that of published works. In some cases, this is true. There are self-published authors that self-edit or don’t bother to edit at all and their product is lacking. Don’t be one of those. Treat your self-published work as something you wish to be proud of. Don’t be afraid of feedback. Qualify both the positive and the negative feedback so that you can find the useful stuff and discard what is not going to help you.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of what will be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available.

Prior to finishing his books, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

9 thoughts on “Reacting to Feedback as a Self Published Author

  1. I’m new to this, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think you did the right thing when you deleted your response to the “Boring” guy. After all, we should try to emulate who we look up to. In your case, you say you look up to Steven King. Say someone writes, “Boring!” about one of Steven King’s works. I doubt you’d see a response from King – “Hey, listen pal, let me tell you the list of reasons why you’re wrong and my novel was NOT boring!”

    In other words, the insults roll off the backs of the big boys like water off a duck’s back (always like it when I can use that expression) and so we should do that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is good advice. One of the first things I heard, and it’s often repeated is “DO NOT REPLY TO REVIEWS!”
      And yes, when people say it, they say it in all caps. The reviews pages are public. We, as authors, have a public image to maintain. And here Mark Twain said it best, ‘Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.’


  2. I’m glad to hear of your success in dealing with it. I have had a negative review on my previous book that really got me down, and to be fair since then I have realised that it was all valid due to errors and so I really changed that up for this book. I have just released my second book, starting a new series, called Patience, which I hope will be a bit more positive, though I would be lying if I said it wasn’t causing me some nerves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As an author, I’ve had many negative reviews. It’s really amazing how so few people out there understand the basics of psychology. I initially responded and thanked those with insightful comments. Now I do not unless they send me an email. I respond to every email, of course. But this review I received today, a 2-star, listed 4 points that were not based in reality. How to respond? This gentleman was so off base that he even quoted federal law incorrectly. I wanted to respond. It made me angry that he would be this ignorant. Then I remember the news over the last month. shook my head and moved on. shrugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sounds like you did well, Don. When I self published my first book one relative gave the book a five. Then eight complete strangers gave my book a five. Did this help? Absolutely not. I hav’nt sold a book since April, 2014. Since my success with reviews I have gotten seven more. One star to four. I tried many things but am criticized for not trying harder. I try something every day but get almost no responses from those who I contact. I paid more than enough and am about to hire a Public Relations outfit. My last shot. My book and its follow up which does even worse is a memoir. I read to a writers group. They love my stories. I had an exciting life. My third book is ready for publication. The three books are about my childhood, youth to age twenty. I’m now eighty-two. I only feel bad that people don’t get a chance to read about a life that most people find enjoyable. My own opinion as to the lack of success is no exposure. Without that how can anyone learn of my books existence. I gave the books away free on Kindle twice.Both times they were number one. Perhaps the PR will give me the exposure I need.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Don I’ve followed your posts for months and you strike on wisdom for us all. To me the whole Amazon approach to being an Indie Press is counter-writing to begin with. Call me traditional but I don’t do ebooks. But what writer is brave enough to schedule book events every weekend to present hard copies at a table and make a career out of Indie books? To me the whole Amazon set-up allows deflation of writers’ fragile egos so easily when you do have one bad useless review. If you trust your sight and develop book stores and allow book stores to promote then Amazonion reviews may not become a thing of the past but they may become unnecessary. Readers who go straight to Amazon for their needs, I mean, are they your biggest market anyway? That’s putting all your eggs in one basket and letting one ruin the whole! I don’t even link stuff to Amazon and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.. But I thoroughly enjoy reading everything you bring up. You are onto something my friend within the Indie community.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wrote a novel and published it too soon on Amazon. Realising it needed wotk I took it off again, but I did notice that no-one wants to read it, and I mean no-one! My family found it too heavy going, and two friends who said they’d read it and comment have made no comment at all. I don’t want to embarrass them by nagging, so we’re all pretending there was no book. I desperately need a beta reader or two, but I don’t know how to find one. Is there anyone who can advise me please? It would be enormously appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I never wanted to show my work to family or friends. I thought it put them in an awkward position. If they said they liked it, could I believe them. If they didn’t, could they be honest with me. I always wanted the reader I didn’t know from Adam and that is what self-publishing provided. When really good reviews came in that showed the work had really connected with a reader I didn’t know from Adam, well, that was the greatest reward.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe the 2 star reviews are usually ignored. Customers, strangely enough, want to see some of these, or they suspect that ALL the reviews are either paid for or posted by family and friends. At least, that’s what I believe. So, welcome whatever honest feedback you get. You could do worse than trying to make sure you future books aren’t “boring.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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