Baaaaaaad Reviews – and what to do about them

First of all, there are OK-ish bad reviews – “Just not my kind of a book”… “Too complicated”… “The end was a little sudden”… “Squeaky clean – TOO much so, in my opinion…” 

These are the good bad reviews. One can learn quite a lot from these – particularly when the same issues keep surfacing. Reviews like these led to my providing a cast-list for Harriet because, as everyone here on Always Austen will know, there are quite a lot of characters in Emma!

 But then there are the reviews that are stinkers. If you stick religiously to Austen canon you may never experience reviews like these, but I’ve had a few, pretty memorable stinkers. 

 I even had one, clearly unbalanced, reviewer screeching that my award-winning Harriet was so ‘horrible’ that it should ‘be thrown into Mount Doom to ‘Burn, baby, burn!’ –  a reviewer on LibraryThing, who admitted to being a wannabe author. (To be fair, when I checked her exact wording this week… Had it really been Mount Doom? I mean, wowsers! – she’d kept the one-star but removed the most offensive sentences. My bet was LibraryThing had forced her to tone it down.) 

Later I found the original version on Goodreads, utterly unamended, so LibraryThing must have indeed blown the whistle: 

“This book is horrible, just horrible, easily the worst Austen abomination I’ve read… I don’t merely dislike this book, I want to drop it into the fires of mount doom and watch it burn, baby, burn!!!!)” 

Not a review, then, more like vulgar abuse. But certainly not the worst that I’ve endured… No, that would be “Splat.” Because “Splat” was smart, as well as destructive. 

First, “Splat” created a fake Amazon account. (Why do I say “fake?” – and with such assurance? –  Because “Splat” has no profile, no photo and has never reviewed anything except my novel, from an electric grill to a toothbrush.) 

She timed it – perfectly – for the week during which the most people EVER were checking out my novel (it was a finalist for a major book award – didn’t win it, sadly). After dismissing my book with one star – meaning “unreadable” – a book which had already won one international award – she went on about how superior this other JAFF writer was, presumably herself. Finally, to add insult to injury, she even gave away my plot twist without a spoiler alert. Thanks, Splat!!!!! 

Sometimes many writers get blasted, as when Goodreads eventually banned one for going around giving anonymous one-stars to every book in her genre not written by herself. 

All anonymous one-stars ought to be banned, imho. Reviewers ought to have to scribble something, if only to give authors a sporting chance of guessing which ex-lover/peeved neighbour is behaving baaaaaaadly. Frankly, if I hate a book – and I do – I simply refuse to review it. That’s the civilised reader’s response. Someone is bound to love it – it just wasn’t right for me, personally. 

But it’s not only the occasional nutcases. You also get the dim reviewers – readers, for example, who never bothered to check out the cover and who are still shocked and aggrieved to learn that yours isn’t their kind of a book. (“Not a patch on S exed-up Bridgerton: the True Story”… “Couldn’t understand this book. Seems to happen in another century!”…“I only picked this book because I had to read a book starting with ‘H’ for my reading challenge…”)

However, these reviews don’t bother me. One simply shakes the head and moves on… So, what kind of review does bug me?

This kind: “Was disappointed in McVeigh’s Harriet. All these editorial reviews rave about how stylish it is, but it’s still not proper Regency writing. For example, using ‘gifting’ as a verb, in the 1800s? I don’t think so!”

Now, in fact, the Oxford English Dictionary claims that the use of gifting as a verb started in the sixteenth century. Yeah. Just a tad before the Regency, wouldn’t you agree? – But authors get no right of reply on Amazon. We just have to “suck it up, buttercup,” and sometimes, ‘burn, baby, burn” – inside, I mean.

And we are justified in burning. Because I’ve spent years of my life checking things like “when did gifting start being a verb?” to have some reader put me down for being right seems a little “off” to me – in the adjectival sense, meaning “rude/outrageous/not done”. As we’ve been saying here in London for, um, roughly a century.

And yes, one CAN complain to the Amazon bots but, that’s only a waste of good writing time.

Me …. Just used a review to boost her own books…
Amazon Bot: Boosting Books is Good.
Me: … Not the slightest warning before the spoiler of the plot twist…
Amazon Bot: Sadly, We do Not Sell Plot Twists.
Me: … So she sets up this fake account, calling herself “Splat”…
Amazon Bot: Setting Up Account is Good.
Me: … never so much as reviewed a toothbrush. Only my book!
Amazon Bot: (BRIGHTENING) May I Show You Some Fine Toothbrushes?

So, to return to my headline, what can you do about baaaaaaaaaaad reviews?
Not a lot.
What I do is to run a hot bath, and brew up this fantastic tea – Teapig ‘calm’ variety, mostly Valerian – the one which sold out throughout the UK during the pandemic. Then I take a deep breath and try to forget.

All the best, and happy birthday to me!!!

Fancy reading Alice’s DARCY pre-publication? 

Anyway, here is the cover.  Hope you like it!!!

If willing to receive a pre-publication copy with a view to an honest review – and as long as you are not “Splat.” – Please contact me at

17 responses to “Baaaaaaad Reviews – and what to do about them”

  1. EM Storm-Smith Avatar
    EM Storm-Smith

    I’ve always thought that 1-star reviews with literal dissertations about why they hated to book says WAY more about the reviewer than the author … Not every book is for every person, and that’s okay. Some people just can’t be happy or polite.

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

      Yes!!! Wouldn’t the world be dull if everyone loved all the same books? My book club would come to a grinding halt!!

  2. Glynis Avatar

    I really can’t understand how people can be so totally despicable! Like you if I don’t enjoy a book so much I simply don’t review it at all. When I first started reading JAFF, I never even thought of writing a review myself even when I absolutely loved the book. Nowadays I do find it hard to write one without giving spoilers (aka telling the whole story!) so I do just tend to stick to saying how much I enjoyed it with maybe something that can be read in the blurb! I don’t write myself but if I did I can’t see myself criticising another’s work because I didn’t think of it first!

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

      Hi Glynis,
      Would you mind cloning yourself, maybe about a million times?
      Every writer (ever)

  3. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    I once had a man complain about one of my Regencies being a “romance.” He did not know that when he purchased it. The name of the book was “The Scandal of Lady Eleanor,” and it had a PINK cover. Duh!!!

    Seriously, though, I never look at reviews. They hurt me too bad to put myself through reading them. Our books are like our “babies.” They contain a part of us. We send them out into the world because the creative part of us can do little else, but we do not want them abused any more than we want our children abused.

    I also do not understand those people who consider themselves the grammar police and report “quality issues” to Amazon, who will take a book down if the few typos in a book are not corrected in a timely manner. As you say in your article, you researched “gifted,” but was called out for it. The majority of writers have edited and edited and edited a book, but there can still be the occasional error. If the book is polluted with errors, report it as Quality Issues. If one finds, three or four typos in a book that is more than 100,000 words, be like Elsa in “Frozen” and “Let It Go.” I have one person who always reports me because he/she thinks if I split the infinitives it sounds better. I taught English for 40 years: I do not SPLIT infinitives. LOL! Seriously, I wish people would simply contact the author directly in such cases. For those who do not put up their own books, it costs $$$$ to make corrections when it is only a few typos.
    In my first book, Darcy’s Passions, I wrote Darcy pulled the bell chord – not “cord.” The book went through three different editors at a professional publishing house and a couple different printings until one day I was looking through it and noticed what I had typed. We all overlooked the error again and again because our eyes read the word “cord,” though it was not spelled correctly.

    1. Gianna Thomas Avatar
      Gianna Thomas

      Looking for errors is one reason I read certain passages aloud, Regina. I’ve found that my brain will correct automatically if I’m reading to myself, BUT it won’t let me know the manuscript needs to be corrected. Passages that I’m rewording or adding to are the ones most susceptible to this happening. 🙂

  4. charlene Avatar

    wow I don’t see why someone would bother to even review the book if they hated it so much! I feel writiers do such a hard job, no one will like all of the book at times, but there has to be something good there! I realize a writer puts so much into the book that I can appreciate the story and give a good review.

  5. charlene Avatar

    an add on to my response: I don’t read reviews, I like to read the book and see for myself without other input.

  6. Bronwen Chisholm Avatar

    I guess I am one of those rare writers who actually enjoys reading the bad reviews – some of the time. There have been some that got under my skin (like the 1 star review from a person who had not purchased or read the book because the price was too high or the one who informed me that the word is “whine,” not “whinge.” I had researched that one as well.) I try to learn from them, as you mentioned, or just get a good laugh at how petty people can be.
    Thanks for a great post and the tea recommendation! 😉

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

      The tea is a life-saver. Which is why, I guess, it sold out during the early days of Covid!!! (People were selling it on ebay for ££££!!! because all the regular outlets had run out…)

  7. Kirstin Odegaard Avatar

    People and their anonymity! It sure empowers them to be at their worst. I like your attitude towards it. Tea cures everything.
    And congratulations to your daughter! Very exciting news!

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

      Hi Kirstin, Thanks so much for your kind comment about Rachel!!! I’m still pinching myself over here. XXA

  8. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    Congrats to your daughter! I think people are entitled to their opinion but they need to be nice about it! Writing has to be hard and frustrating sometimes and you authors should be given credit for what you do! Love the cover of Darcy!😍

  9. Author Cherith Boardman Avatar
    Author Cherith Boardman

    {{{Hugs}}} to you Ms Alice McVeigh. Might I suggest not reading the reviews at all?
    I know, I know. I need to take my own advice because a few anonymous 1 stars got under my skin recently.

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar

      Hi Cherith, It’s a cool idea. It’s not a POSSIBLE idea, but it’s still a cool idea!! XXA

  10. Don Jacobson Avatar
    Don Jacobson

    Reading reviews can be a fraught experience. Have torn my hair recently over good reviews of Sailor’s Rest which complain about the language and cant of common Sailor’s in the Regency navy. I decided not to normalize their speech (something I have done in The Wardrobe) because of months and years of exposure. I put us (me and the readers) in Darcy’s shoes. He had zero experience with this level of accent. And, his experience by the end of the book was a hair over two months. He never would have regularized the speech. I feel you Alice.

  11. Carol Manson Avatar
    Carol Manson

    I don’t think Amazon should allow one-star ratings without a comment. As for strange and unjustified bad reviews and comments, I think an author had best ignore them. As for those reviewers who criticize typos (I consider grammar, spelling, punctuation and actual typographic errors as being in the same “bucket” and call them all “typos”); catching them all is almost impossible. When compiling a list of common errors in JAFF–I’m not a grammar Nazi, I edit for four JAFF authors and wanted a list for my own use in checking errors spellcheck can’t find–I actually found a couple of typos in BOOKS I HAD EDITED. And I am a perfectionist and former (retired) technical writer who volunteers to edit for a few friends. Authors, please keep writing for those of us who enjoy JAFF stories and do not melt if we notice a typo or a word probably not used during the Regency, and try to ignore the snipers! My thanks to you all for the enjoyment you have given me for years now.

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