To an Author from an Author – Don’t Be the Chef ~ Outside the Margins with Lisa Henry

Join Prism Book Alliance® as Lisa Henry goes Outside the Margins today.


I’ve talked before about author behaviour in relation to reviews. It’s a topic that never gets old, because someone is always crossing the line. And, just to mix a few metaphors, burning the hell out of their bridges when they get there. So if you’re new to this writing game, here’s my two cents when it comes to reviews:

Authors, reviews are not for you.

And I say that as someone who has had reviews that make me think I can fly, and reviews that make me think like the only thing I should do is crawl into a dark cave and brick up the entrance from the inside to protect the rest of humanity from the toxic word vomit that is my books. And sometimes, of course, reviewers get things wrong. If you’re reading an unfavourable review of your work, and the reviewer suddenly calls your main character Don instead of Dan, chances are you’ll go, “Aha! I knew they didn’t read the book! I KNEW IT!”

Settle down there, precious. This isn’t the moment of victory you think it is. They might have mixed the names up, but they still read enough of your book to be sure they think it sucks. And—here’s the important thing—nothing you ever say or do will convince them otherwise.

So do nothing.

A review, contrary to the opinion of some authors, is not for you. It’s for other readers. It’s to let other readers know what they liked, hated, or felt generally meh about in the book you wrote. A review is not for the author.

And here’s the fun thing about negative reviews. Negative reviews sell books too. How do I know this? Because after J.A. Rock and I released The Good Boy, we got a review from a reader who didn’t like it because of the puppy play. A couple of people commented on the review that it also wasn’t their thing. But guess what? A bunch of people who might otherwise never have heard of the book went, “Oooh! Puppy play? I’m gonna check that out!”

I know myself that I’ve bought books based on negative reviews. Mostly along the lines of THIS IS TRASHY RIDICULOUS PORN WITH NO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND JUST MEANINGLESS SMUT. WITH SPACE PIRATES.

Hello, one click button. Hello, space pirates.

So when does an author actually respond to a review? Obviously your mileage may vary when it comes to how you handle social media interactions, and ultimately it will be up to you to figure out what works for you. But this is what works for me:

If a review blog gives me a great review, I’ll share that all over social media. If a review blog gives me a negative review, I’ll pretend I didn’t see it. I sure as hell won’t complain about it, and I sure as hell won’t threaten to have them blacklisted by my publisher, and I sure as hell won’t summon a horde of friends to try and down vote the review where it’s cross-posted on Amazon or Goodreads, or any number of other ridiculous things I’ve seen some authors do.

My general rule of thumb for a site like Goodreads, where most reviewers are not writing for review blogs, is to “like” the review if it’s particularly enthusiastic—this gets it out into people’s feeds—but not to comment on it at all. I’ll also review my own books on Goodreads—no stars though, because really?—and encourage people to ask me questions there if there’s something they want to know. My review is my space. Your review is yours.

And I am not going to come into your space uninvited.

Sometimes it’s not that easy, of course. Sometimes a reviewer will write a negative review, and they’ll also message you directly or email you to ask why your book sucked and, let me tell you, that’s awkward. That’s beyond awkward. That’s ‘you’re thirteen and the boy you like just tapped you on the shoulder when you stood up, and now he’s leaning in close probably to tell you something really romantic, but instead it turns out he’s trying to tell you that you have your period and the whole class can see the back of your dress’ levels of awkward.

But as someone who is miraculously still friends with that boy and counts the fact that I didn’t shrivel up and die that die amongst my life’s proudest accomplishments, I also know just how to deal with the ‘Hey, your book is really bad. How disappointing for you!’ emails. And it goes something like this:

Hi. Thanks so much for contacting me. I’m sorry my book didn’t work out for you. Hopefully you’ll like the next one a lot more.

And that’s it. You move on. Channel your inner Elsa, and let it go.


I’ve seen some authors complain about the perceived power imbalance of getting an “unfair” review, and the fact that authors are strongly encouraged not to respond to negative reviews. For starters, there is no such thing as an “unfair” review, in my opinion, if the reader has given their honest opinion. And, if for some reason that reader really is just out to get you then, believe me, other readers will be able to tell. Your readers aren’t dumb.

And this thing about the power imbalance? WHY IS IT FAIR THAT SHE CAN TRASH TALK MY BOOK IN PUBLIC AND I CAN’T TRASH TALK HER REVIEW? Well, snowflake, that’s because she paid for that book. What happened here was a commercial transaction. Let’s for a moment imagine we’re at a restaurant. You and me. It’s nice. Not too dressy. I order the wine, of course.

When our meals come, you’re not happy with yours. The pasta is undercooked or something. I don’t care. I’m on my fourth glass. The point is, you leave a Yelp review that is less than glowing. You do this because you have friends who were thinking of going to that restaurant, and you should probably warn them that the pasta isn’t as good as they were expecting.

The next time you’re in the restaurant, the door to the kitchen bursts open, and the chef rushes out at you. DON’T YOU KNOW HOW HARD HE WORKED? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT THIS FETTUCINE IS LIKE HIS BABY? DID YOU GO TO CULINARY SCHOOL? YOU’RE NOT QUALIFIED TO TELL HIM THAT HIS PASTA WAS UNDERCOOKED? And so on.


And here’s the thing. Ten people read that negative Yelp review. But the video of the chef going psycho goes viral. Because that’s how this will always go down. Every single time.

Authors, don’t be the chef.

Vent to your friends. Vent to your family. Vent to that patch of damp on the ceiling that looks like a spooky face if you squint and tilt your head right. Do not vent in public.

Don’t be the chef.

Let it the fuck go.

~Lisa Henry

About Lisa Henry

Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.

Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

My links:


Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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7 thoughts on “To an Author from an Author – Don’t Be the Chef ~ Outside the Margins with Lisa Henry

    • *gasps*

      You don’t like fettuccine?

      Please keep on writing your reviews any way you like. I’m sure others do find them helpful!

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