Our previous blog on “Reviews” triggered a great conversation. In this, the second blog on the subject, we offer authors some thoughts on dealing with negative reviews. I hope you will join us again and share your thoughts and experiences-
1. Take negative reviews into consideration. The reviewer just may be right! Well-¬written and thoughtful critical reviews can be helpful – painful, but helpful. Be open-minded. Listen. Read. Be willing to consider the opinion of others. In the end, you may still disagree but you may also gain some valuable learning.
2. Respond to fair-minded reviews. It is always nice to thank someone who takes the time to read and critique your book. You should do this even if you disagree with the review but be gracious, and NEVER enter into an emotional, heated discourse. No-one benefits and more times than not, it turns personal and ugly.
3. Consider reviewing books for other authors. This is the best way to create the “word of mouth” buzz that all authors want. In turn, your reviews may encourage others to review your book. But always be objective and professional. Never gush or attack; both are equally amateurish.
4. Ignore the “trolls”. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do about people whose mission is to attack authors and hurt sales of their books. These malicious and misguided creatures are an insult to good and decent authors and reviewers alike. Give them the attention they deserve, which is none!
5. Have confidence in your work. If you have done everything you possibly can to make your book the best it can be, then stand proudly behind it and don’t let anyone put you – or it – down. And always remember that any mention of your book, good or bad, moves it up on the search engines – making lemonade out of lemons.
6. Derive comfort from knowing that you are not alone in facing criticism. Much-admired books such as The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and The Sea, and even David Copperfield have all had negative reviews. The point is you cannot please everyone: a reader has the right to his or her opinion about your book even if they are out of step with everyone else. However, if you have mostly negative reviews, you probably should reconsider your work. And conversely, if you have all 5 star reviews, you need to make sure they aren’t all your aunts, uncles, neighbors and co-workers.
In conclusion, the very act of putting your writing out there for the world to see means you are going to be judged. If you aren’t prepared to hear what readers think then you need to ask yourself if your work is truly ready for the spotlight. But you should also give the reading public the credit they deserve. If they depend on reviews to choose a book, they will not be put off by a few negative reviews, and they will not be fooled by all glowing reviews. It may just be that the 3 and 4 star reviews get their attention.
The one point I got from reviewer comments on our previous blog was that often writers are simply too sensitive; they take all critical reviews as an attack. They are not! And attacking a reviewer is pointless; it won’t change the mind of a fair-minded reviewer, and it will only incite a nasty reviewer to escalate the attack!
Sage advice we should all heed.
Another point I once read about bad reviews is to view them from the perspective that they are actually helpful, in that they guide potential readers to or away from your book. A person who reads a review that says “too much romance” might think “Oh, good, I’m glad to know this because I hate romance so I won’t read this!” That person won’t read your book – and therefore won’t leave his/her own bad review. On the other hand, another person might read “too much romance” and think “I LOVE ROMANCE! BRING IT ON!” and he/she WILL read your book, and is more likely to love it.
So, from that perspective, it’s easier to stomach the bad stuff. I recently got my first one-star review, and it stung! But people reading it will have a better perspective on what my book is or is not, which will ultimately help my future reviews, I hope.
What a great thought! That is exactly true- avoid bad reviews and, hopefully, bring on new fans.
I did buy a book once because it was accused of being “soppy” exactly what I need right then!
It’s never easy seeing someone express disapproval of or dissatisfaction over your work. But it goes to show our integrity on how we respond to it. No matter how insulting the “reviewer” can be, we need to rise above it and be the better person. One thing we must always remember, that not everyone is going to have the same opinion or taste in what they consider good reads.
Well said. Especially in this climate of nastiness and taking advantage of saying whatever we want, it does an author good to show some class and dignity!
I’ve read books that had many two star ratings and I thought there were great reads! Just goes to show that people have different taste and not to always discount those low ratings.
Responding to bad reviews, particularly by “trolls”, is a bad idea and is usually counterproductive. If it’s a matter of fact, that can be disputed, but in historical fiction, “facts” are squishy things, and treacherous where partisans of various figures (Richard III come to mind) are ready to spring up to defend them.
The one thing I cannot defend against is someone saying my work just isn’t good. That’s entirely a matter of opinion — and anyone else’s is as good as mine.
I think there are 2 issues on many of these insulting negative reviews- people who are just out to hurt an author and those that just aren’t too bright!
Forgive me for intruding, but I was interested in this post, having seen a friend of mine cop some appalling and defamatory attacks by an author and her friends this week, just for posting a critical review of a book! It’s certainly a topical issue in the blogosphere – another friend’s take on it is here: http://nevillfeast.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/so-youve-written-a-book/
I’m not a writer, but my father is a published author and I’m fortunate to have several good author friends. I can well understand how confronting and at times hurtful it can be when someone says bluntly, “I didn’t like your work.” However, as an avid reader and book purchaser, an author who responds haughtily or angrily to a review, hosts a massive pity party on Facebook or writes blog post after blog post complaining about “trolls” is on the fast track to my “Do Not Buy or Read Ever” list, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed his or her books n the past.
You make some excellent points. I think that the phenomenon of “troll reviewers” out to get authors and damage their sales is a bit overstated in certain circles. Some people seem too quick to assume that any negative review must be from a troll out to get them, which strikes me as both arrogant (implying that they, the authors, mean so much to a complete stranger that the desire to bring them down dominates the reviewer’s life) and insecure. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but they’re very rare and easy to spot – for instance, the person who slates a book she admits she hasn’t read and uses the review mechanism to assure us “my work when published will be BETTER”, or the guy who posts an incoherent rant about how the author is evil incarnate. The vast majority of reviewers are like me – ordinary people who’ve read a book and are motivated to share their opinion about it on the internet. We’re not out to get anyone. We’re not thinking about the author at all, but the book itself and other readers. Some people are better able to express themselves in reviews than others, but even people who struggle to string a sentence together have a right to post a review on Amazon if they wish.
As you say, the mere fact that someone’s talking about the book is a positive – it’s much better than it getting no response at all. Also, something that one person sees as a negative might be a positive for someone else – I bought a historical novel on Amazon on the strength of a review which criticised the inclusion of a same-sex romance between two characters, because that immediately made the book more interesting to me.
The best reaction I ever saw to a critical review was from an author friend who was absolutely thrilled at a two star review from someone – she said it was a relief, because she feared that people are put off books with all five star reviews because they suspect they’re from shills or mates of the author, and that she was truly grateful that someone who hadn’t liked her work still took the time to read and review it. That is how – if I ever publish anything – I hope to be able to react to reviews.
I am glad you joined the conversation! I read your your thoughts and absolutely agree. Most importantly, getting into a war of words will not help anyone. If you don’t reply to a “nasty” review, there is no need for a reply to your reply!
My son has a film production company in LA and they face the same problems- they sometimes have jealous people leaving horrid reviews, thoughtful people leaving a negative review and, of course the ones they like best, wonderful people leaving wonderful reviews- it all comes with the business of putting something out there to be judged. I don’t hear anyone complaining about glowing, gushing 5 star reviews from people who don’t leave the readers who are reading the review with a reason to read a particular book-
I can tell you I have just had a factually incorrect stinging review from Indiebrag and it annoyed me from its insulting tone and seriously flawed theme. Whoever wrote it was way out of order in a childish way and I feel belittled. Neither good, correct or appropriate in its assessment and smug. I was accused of failing to know science fiction, yet I am an an avid UFO researcher of many years. The reviewer(s) are flawed, not me. Who does Indiebrag employ if not raw pedants?