Writers: How To Deal With Negative Comments or Feedback Online

by | Marketing And Promotion, Social Networking For Writers | 5 comments

responding to negative commentsThere are some media personalities out there who thrive on conflict. They LOVE responding to negative comments that challenge or even harass them on their Facebook or Twitter pages. They build their reputation on outrageousness, polarizing debate, witty put-downs, and negativity.

But if you’re a professional writer trying to make it in the publishing biz, chances are that’s not your M.O. When we “regular folk” get negative comments, reviews, and criticisms online, it can be a painful situation. What to do? What to say? When we see smoke, we want to put out the fire as soon as possible instead of fanning the flames.


How To Respond To Negative Comments, Critique, Reviews, And Feedback Online

Step 1: Stay cool (or take steps to cool off). If you shoot first and ask questions later, you’ll only inflame the situation. Remember: A negative comment isn’t the end of the world; it’s a blip on the radar. Be sure you’ve got a cool head and a rational perspective. This, too, shall pass (if you let it).

Step 2: Don’t make assumptions. Sometimes, the reason people post negative reviews or comments has very little to do with the actual issue at hand. You can’t know what’s going on in a negative commenter’s personal life: Maybe he/she had a bad day/got fired/is bitter in general.

Here’s the truth about people who leave vitriolic negative comments or nasty reviews: You don’t have to take what they say personally. Ever. Because you don’t have all the facts. All you have are a few words dashed off by a stranger that probably didn’t articulate the big picture. And who knows? The negativity might not even be truly about you or your writing.

So before you even think about replying, step back and assess your own state of mind. Where are you coming from? What assumptions are you making? Is there more to the story than what you can see?

Step 3: Consider a non-engagement policy. We don’t recommend ignoring comments. Sometimes the best thing to do when you get a negative comment is just to say Thanks for the comment and let it go.

Some commenters will leave negative comments in an attempt to draw you out, to get your attention, or to rile you up. By not engaging, you might diffuse the situation (because you allowed your commenter to say what he/she needed to say without censorship or reprimand). In most cases, arguing won’t change the commenter’s mind anyway.

So if the comment is a minor negative issue or if a critique or review ruffles your feathers in a small way, it may be best to just let it be. People are entitled to their opinions.

Step 4. Know when it’s important to make a rebuttal. If the person who has left a negative comment on your website or social network has:

  • Made a factual, provable mistake (that has nothing to do with opinion)
  • Challenged your motivation, honesty, or integrity
  • Used inappropriate language or made harassing remarks

then you might want to take steps. If the comment is really bad, most social networks will allow you to block that person. Or you can consider a measured, professional reply that shows you won’t get dragged into a flame war.

Here are some tips to help you craft your response to a negative review or comment.

How To Reply To A Negative Comment Online

Now that you’ve decided to reply to your negative commenter, consider riffing on this “formula” for your response.

  1. Let your commenter know he or she has been heard. Sometimes that’s the most important step of all. By saying I understand where you’re coming from; you’re leveling the playing field.
  2. Focus on an element which you agree with. Hopefully, the commenter has said at least something you can say is correct. Start by reiterating the astuteness of that part of the comment.
  3. Make your rebuttal in moderate language. Be witty, humble, authentic, respectful, and likable. Show your best side. Intend to be helpful, but don’t engage in the 11 Deadly Sins of Promotion.
  4. End on a positive note. When possible, keep your tone light and friendly. Say thanks for the comment (and mean it, if you can).

If you’re on the Web long enough, you will encounter Debbie Downers. But don’t sweat it! Treat it the way you treat all your professional obligations: with moderation, education, and a grain of salt.

QUESTION: How do you deal with negative feedback on your social networks?


  1. Bleuzette La Feir

    Thanks for posting this informative piece on negative feedback. I recently dealt with this very issue and I contacted Writer’s Relief for advice. Francesca got back to me right away and guided me through rectifying the situation.

    I by no means ever feel that my work is right for everyone. I know that there will always be people who don’t care for what I write. And frankly I’m fine with that. I believe that art is as much about not liking something as it is about liking something. However, for a commenter to personally attack my mental health is gauche.

    Thank you, Writer’s Relief for being there for me in a sticky situation.


  2. Grace

    I’ve had a couple bad “reviews” posted on a blog page I once had. It bothered me so much I took it the message board of the publishing house for the book I was promoting. I received so much positive feedback from other writers/authors it helped me to navigate through the mine field of receiving negative comments. The reviews weren’t necessarily of the book (story line), but of grammatical errors found, I think they even counted them, and even typos. Very surface stuff. I’m not going to lie, it is a little scary putting yourself (your work) out there, but, I do recognize, as Bleu said in the first comment, not everyone is going to like your book, and I think, as long as you know you are doing the best job and you feel like you put out a good product, everything else really shouldn’t matter. Thanks for this information!!!

  3. Noghar

    What a dumb article! You smell!

    Kidding, of course. Useful and sensible and constructive advice.

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