Bad Reviews and Broken Hearts: How to Deal with All the Feelings

By Naseem Hrab

Goodreads - Hrab

First: Spend several years working on you—I mean, a manuscript. Revise each draft based on feedback from your therapist—I mean, editor. Get Tinder—I mean, get publishing deal. Agonize over each and every profile photo—I mean, word. Sincerely believe in your self-worth—I mean, your picture book.

Next: Hope that your publisher posts a PDF of your picture book on NetGalley. Feel mildly concerned that your book isn’t being read only in hardcover format. PDF won’t allow people to admire hilarious pickle endpapers. Realize that your Tinder profile is equivalent to a PDF on NetGalley. No photograph or thirty-word summary about yourself will ever capture your hilarious pickle endpapers. 

Brace self. Cross fingers. Wait. 

Then: Notice reviews on Goodreads! Happy!

Notice that reviews are written by people who hate your book. Sad.

Two stars. One star. Two Stars. One Star. No stars???

The book review equivalent of swipe left. Rejected.

Silently scream.

Feel pride-goo leak out of ears.

Take deep breaths. Massage temples.

Sop up remaining pride-goo. Save for rainier day. Soldier on.

Realize that bad reviews are a lot like promising dates that go sour.

Both can cause broken hearts.

Suddenly gather that you’re likely going to get many bad reviews. Start to spiral. Know you won’t be able to stop refreshing Goodreads. The more you tell yourself not to do it, the more you do it.

Create new hobby: Google-stalking potential dates while simultaneously refreshing Goodreads. Discover Tinder match supports the KKK and regularly Tweets at Jann Arden.


Feel faith-in-humanity-goo ooze out of ears.

Dodge bullet. Refresh Goodreads.

Sop up faith-in-humanity-goo. Save for even rainier day. Soldier on.

See five-star review! Clearly written by sparkly unicorn!!!

Or not: “I was a fan of most of the story.”

Realize that five-star review can apparently read as enthusiastically as a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Immediately feel that even a good review … doesn’t feel good enough. Refresh Goodreads. Realize that ego’s appetite for validation is insatiable. Surely, there’s a better review just around the corner. Also? Surely, there’s a better match just around the corner.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Now: Realize that hope is the most dangerous tool you have in your emotional toolbox. Adjust expectations from hopeful to hopeful-ish.

Know that whether writing or dating, you’re just trying to make a great connection with someone. That’s all. Recognize that book will be hated by some people. Liked by others.

But mostly, book will remain unread by the majority of people. As will you.


Finally: Return to writing. Realize that’s the only thing you can do. Work with editor. Focus on craft. Enjoy the process. Make a new book. Find new readers.

Swipe right.

The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Naseem Hrab is the author of the picture books Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend and Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings, illustrated by Josh Holinaty. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. Sometimes Naseem likes to get up on a stage and tell true stories. She loves improv and coffee ice cream.

She worked as a librarian for a time and currently works in children's publishing.