This has been a hot button this week. No authors like getting negative reviews but they happen. Sometimes they are fair. Honestly I have seen some low star reviews on books I've read that more or less hit the nail on the head. Other times you can get a 1 or 2 star rating on Goodreads with no review attached, leaving you the author to scratch your head wondering what it was they didn't like. Even worse, you can get a low star rating with a unkind (or downright cruel)/vague non-helpful review left.
Here's the thing though. Anyone can leave a negative/nasty/vague review if they want and while it sucks, it happens. Hell, on Goodreads you can rate/review books that aren't even out yet as long as they are listed. My own writing was compared in one review to be at the level of "a thirteen year-old's text messages", and while I felt that was a bit much, that was their freedom to say it. The one that always irks me is the reviews that people leave saying "Thank God I downloaded this free or I would be asking for my money back." Um...it's a book. If you go get a book from the bookstore and read the whole thing, do you go return it because you didn't like it? Usually not.
But again...they can put that and getting worked up about it won't change that. There are many reasons why negative reviews are not the end of the world, and in fact can be quite the opposite. I'm not talking about why they suck because that won't change them. Not everyone will love your book, and some may even hate it burning hatred you didn't know was possible.
I just recently got my first low rating on Goodreads for Possess. No review attached so who knows what they didn't like. I made a frowny face when I first saw it, but that's mainly because I am curious what they didn't like. If it's something I can fix (improving writing skills/plot/character development) in later books, I want to know. But then again they could just be upset that I used naughty words and entitled one chapter "Awkward Irish Boners."
Who knows? Your job as an author isn't to please everyone but to write the best book you can and continue to build your story-telling skills. Some authors don't even look at their reviews. I personally do, but maybe at one point I won't.
If you are like me and follow the reviews on your books, here is how to deal when you get a less than glowing review.
- Don't comment on it. Even if you are curious and simply trying to improve your writing.
- If there are things in the review that they stated, such as issues with your characters/plot extra, don't completely dismiss it. Especially if it becomes a trend in your negative reviews. Use that as a guide to improve your writing. IF it is just a one-off thing and nobody else is saying the same thing, it may just be their own personal taste, but still don't dismiss all criticism. Some of it may be helpful. (I might also stress that this is why it is a good reason to have beta readers before releasing as well, to help with any character/plot issues and see what things readers may not like).
- IF it is a particularly nasty review with nothing really about the book, but instead a completely author bashing review, you might have a troll on your hands...DON'T. I REPEAT. DON'T FEED TROLLS. Don't comment, don't take to the social media and share this injustice. JUST DON'T. Some people are assholes, especially on the internet. Put on your big author boxers/panties and move on. In fact, get off the internet and go work on your writing instead. If you want, loosely base a character on said troll and give them a vicious death if it makes you feel better. Just don't react to them. While publicity is publicity, there have been huge blowouts on stuff like this online and when the author has reacted, it's never EVER ended well. I'm not naming names nor am I pointing my fingers at indies alone. Names big and small have done this. I REPEAT. JUST DON'T. It can ruin your reputation as a writer in a heartbeat and other authors won't stand behind a peer that acts unprofessionally (regardless of who started it) as it brings the whole writing community down. Especially with indie publishing, it's already an uphill battle for us.
Now, here are some reasons why negative reviews are not in fact the end of the world.
- If everyone loved your book and gave it positive reviews that is all fine and dandy, but if you are like me and don't have a ton of reviews on your books, all five star reviews tends to look suspicious to those browsing. Seriously. When you only have 10 or so reviews and every one of them is a glowing one singing the praise of your writing, buyers may just assume you had friends and family post reviews and may overlook your book. If however, you have 8 five and four star reviews and 2 one or two star reviews, they might be intrigued to see why if the blurb and cover have already caught their attention.
- That brings me to my second point. Generally positive reviews and negative reviews on a book are the complete opposite of each other. One of my favorite ways to check out new reads is to go on Amazon and click on the number of reviews and read the most helpful reviews. Both the most helpful favorable and the most helpful critical review. As I said, they are generally completely opposite to each other. Below is the review page for my book Mistaken
When there are two completely opposite opinions on a book AND the book still has mostly positive reviews (or has hundreds of reviews where a percentage of them are negative...say 25% ish) I am more intrigued into reading that book. I don't like being told what to think, I like to decide for myself whether I like something. Some books with high ratings have been crap in my eyes, others with lower ratings have been awesome.
Seeing this makes me want to read a book I'm interested in more so than seeing all positive reviews and ratings. It makes your book reviews look way more legitimate. Period. Those negative reviews that you think are putting a stain upon your glorious baby are in fact helping it.
So, when your next book gets it's first negative review, or the ones you currently have out get another (because its
just a matter of time), take a deep breath, allow yourself time to be grumpy about it (NON-PUBLICLY) and then move on and keep writing.
Every author that chooses to follow their reviews have those moments and its fine. Really it is. If you have to, vent to a close friend. Just don't make it a public spectacle, because sometimes that is exactly what it will turn into.
That's all for now. Remember, behave yourself. You are a reflection of your writing.