5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Sunday, March 15, 2015

10 Ways for Authors to Handle Bad Reviews

Author Tips
For most Authors, receiving a Bad Review feels like a punch to the stomach. It hurts, takes your writing enthusiasm, and sucks the power out of you. Anger, self-doubt, and skepticism can often accompany these feelings.

It's not pretty but it comes with the profession of being an author. The key is not to take it personally - it's part of the business. We have rarely seen books who have no bad reviews - have a look at these examples (found on Amazon):

- "This is actually a horribly written boring piece of literature. It took me 2 days just to get past the horrible first chapter because there was nothing going on to keep me reading. And I figured if it is already this slow and boring than I have to stop. Stay away from this disgustingly overrated book and disgustingly bad writer." Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

- "I was bored out of my mind from start to finish. With every turn of the page, I thought it'd get better, thinking surely something interesting had to happen or else people wouldn't be so obsessed with it." - Review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

- "I'd like to say the book had potential, but I don't think it did." - Review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

- "Maybe it has a deep meaning that I didn't get, but honestly, no! It's just not worth the read." - Review of Carrie by Stephen King

- "This collection of books is really, really terrible and boring, and I wouldn't wish the task of reading in on my worst enemy." - Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

...and almost every book receives a bad book review at one time.

So, how do you deal with bad book reviews? Here are...

10 Tips for Authors to Handle Bad Book Reviews

10 Tips for Authors to Handle Bad Book Reviews
1. Do nothing!
Bad reviews happen! Relax! See the examples of bad reviews of very popular bestselling books or go, check on reviews for books by your favorite author. Bad reviews happen for every book that is getting published. You as an author cannot please all tastes of different readers. Relax and Go Write!

2. Do NOT respond to Bad Reviews (or should you).
Distinguish between a "Troll" who just wants to rant and the "Teacher" who wants to point out mistakes in edit, grammar, plot, or techniques. Ignore the offensive rants! Do not respond to these - instead: Relax and Go Write!
Constructive criticism you should embrace and try to learn from. Helpful criticism can make you a better writer. Let a day or two pass, analyze the "Teacher's" review and if it is helpful (or well meant) criticism - you could respond to the review with a plain "Thank you."

3. A Bad Review is still a Review.
Bad reviews need to be seen in perspective. 1 bad review in 25 good reviews is still an amazing ratio. It means that 4% of readers (reviewers) might not like your book but 96% like it or love it. As written above - no book will receive over a lifetime only good reviews. There is no book written yet that pleases all readers.
Sales platforms like Amazon, B&N, etc. give books a higher visibility the more reviews it received. (And this is measured as overall number of bad and good reviews)

4. Re-read your good reviews
As long as you keep working at your writing, good reviews will come. Don’t allow bad reviews to occupy your mind most of your time, while letting good reviews occupy only little of your time.
Most of us have a strong negativity bias­­ – we let one bad thing ruin a multitude of positives. The reality is that any potential reader who is considering to purchase your book will expect to see also negative reviews. In fact, they’ll be rather suspicious of books that have nothing but 4 and 5 star reviews.

5. Don’t pour gasoline on the fire. (Beware the Troll)

It's very hard to ignore negative reviews and frustration or anger might lead you to respond ASAP to the bad reviews. Do not respond! Relax!
Every response gives that review more momentum. If you reply you could improve the search engine ranking of the review site. If your reply gets "thumbs-up" or a "Yes! This review was helpful." the review will probably bumped up into a more prominently space. On social media or forums with a timeline format new responses might push the review with a reply higher than your good reviews.
Some (if not most) negative reviews are not about you or your book. It is about the person reviewing it.

6. Ignore the Bad Review!
The best way to deal with bad reviews is to ignore them. If it really hurts, talk with your friends and fellow authors of your network, and have chocolate, a beer, or a glass of wine. Do not ever contact a reviewer! There's no reason for. Every reviewer has an opinion, and all opinions are valid to the person who has them. There are lots of authors who recommend to not reading any reviews at all.

7. It's not personal - It's business.
Your book, written with the labor of love and handled like your baby, is still a book, a product. You are an entrepreneur. You're in the business of writing to make money. It's a business of skills like most other businesses. The quality of businesses grows proportionally with the skill-set. You wrote your book (your product) with your ideas, your plot, your words, your story. It's a piece of art but still a product of your business. This is the train of thought you should keep in mind when seeing bad reviews. Do never take it personally - it's business.

8. Don't rush to your favorite Social Media site!
Don't head over immediately to Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or any other social media site to rant. There is probably someone who knows the reviewer and will point this out. "They always do." Before you know it you will be titled as "Author Behaving Badly" and a flame-war might start online.

9. Get some tough skin.
If you are going to make art, there will be some bad feedback eventually, even if you are some genius artist. Feel free to give yourself a moment or two to be sad, eat large quantities of chocolate, etc. Then, pick up yourself up, get re-inspired, and keep working towards your goals. The persistent become the successful. Go write!

10. Remember why you write.
You write because you must. You had a vision. Or because it's your business. Never forget that no matter how much one reviewer hates your book - others will love it. And good reviews will always trump bad reviews.


11. If you must react to a bad review (Satire!)

Satirical Suggestions we found on Authors' Websites:
- Drink. Heavily, if need be.
- Shop. Buying something expensive helps.
- Anonymously mail a dead fish to the reviewer who spoke such blasphemy against your book.
- Respond to their review, explaining why they are an ignorant douche-bag.
- Make them retract the review. Some ways include coercion, extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, and torture...
- Review them.
- Print out your bad reviews, then burn them.
- Post their address online, and encourage your fans to mail them ...

Always: Keep a good sense of humor about it all...

and Start Writing Your Next Book!

Share now with your Friends!


Anonymous said...

My first book has had mostly good reviews, and only a couple bad ones. I did reply to the bad ones (as a newbie, not knowing better). But my response was polite, thanking them for reading and reviewing the book, even though they did not like it. I also briefly replied to a couple of their critiques, but in a friendly manner. Thankfully, it did not turn into a problem.

Airborn Press / Gordon Long said...

I try to respond to all reviews, even just to say "thanks for taking the time." For bad ones, if I can figure out what went wrong, I say so. Like. "It sounds like you were expecting…" I keep in mind how important it is that other readers can see me responding in a logical professional manner.

Unknown said...

Excellent article Alan. Do you think the following one star review I received on Goodreads this month is more Teacher or Troll? Yes, that's 43 exclamation marks!


Horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !! ! ! ! ! ! !! ! ! ! ! .! !.!..!.!..!.!. ! .!.!..!.!.. ! !

Unknown said...

This article is wonderful!
Thank you very much for sharing this with us, it was really helpful :)

Tammy J. Palmer said...

I just got my first bad review--and I laughed. Not enough sex, she said. I kind of do feel bad that she was disappointed, but it's not as if I put a half naked guy on the cover, and didn't deliver. Should I have tagged it as a "clean" read.

Anonymous said...

It is most unfair and most hurtful for a writer to spend more than 10 years or many months to write a book, yet a reader who is actually your close friend just based on a partial chapter read to make a conclusive review for your book.

Anonymous said...

I used to be employed in a maximum security prison so bring on those bad reviews. If you can't take criticism then don't make your writing available to others. My book is considered controversial so I'm pretty much expecting it from a few.

David F said...

I've been a reviewer, now I'm a writer. I once wrote a bad review of a book, as a Teacher, not as a Troll, and the author went one step beyond "Thank you." He engaged me constructively, asking where I'd found the errors and sending me a free copy of the corrected book when he'd fixed them. We still correspond.

That's what I call a class act.

Anonymous said...

Just had my first three-star review. Tempted to reply saying anyone who uses the same adjective twice in a sentence really shouldn't post a comment. The alternative to being judged of course is never to publish anything. I have re-read the >20 encouraging reviews received so far and will try to resist the temptation to include Mrs Three Stars in my next novel ...

Melanie Surani said...

Excellent advice! We all need to be calmed down sometimes (us authors and artists are usually a sensitive bunch, no matter how thick we know our skin should be), and remember all these points. I'm definitely suspicious when I see all 5 star reviews, but I also get my panties in a wad every time one of mine gets a less than stellar write-up. I follow rule 6 most of all!

Dorinda Balchin said...

Thanks for a great post.
I had a negative review which commented on some editorial issues in my self-published novel. I was glad to get it, had the book professionally proof-read and edited, and now sell a much better book.
I wasn't so happy about the person who couldn't give it a 5* review because of a 'contrived' meeting in the narrative. I took great pride in my research and ensuring that the military unit mentioned would have been in that place at that time, and that the hero of the novel would also have been there. It took a great effort from me NOT to respond that the review just showed the ignorance of the reviewer!
When all is said and done, a negative review is such a small thing in the scheme of things. If that is all I have to cope with in life, then I am lucky!

NaughtyNurse said...

As an author be careful of asking book bloggers for reviews. Research them thoroughly before contacting them and sending them a copy of your book/ebook. As an author, I am more concerned with keeping the attention of the reader more than a comma or quotation mark out of place. Every book has typos. The dialogue in my book is "not perfect English" and many of the book bloggers had a difficult time understanding people speak different depending on culture, socio economic status etc. They suggested the book be edited again even though it was edited twice and my beta reader was a seasoned script writer. Through I continue to receive 4 and 5 star reviews....I'm more interested if you enjoyed the book enough to tell other people.

Joseph Sayibu said...

Great piece. Ready to face my reviews now!

Stephanie Jane said...

As a reader and a reviewer can I just say that three stars is not a bad rating. I know Amazon loads expectations so that anything other than four or five stars can be construed as negative, but generally I see three stars as good. Not great (****) and not Cormac McCarthy! (*****), but still good.
I am still surprised when I write an essentially positive three star review and get authors replying that they are sorry I didn't like their book, or that I should avoid their whole genre as I obviously don't appreciate it if I didn't award them five stars, or (my personal favourite) that spelling and grammar aren't important in writing and I shouldn't be so old-fashioned!

Debra Stang said...

When I get a bad review, I just remember an old Clint Eastwood quote: "Opinions are like A$$holes. Everybody has one." It may not be exactly eloquent, but it helps me keep things in perspective.

L Anne Carrington said...

My latest book got a couple of one-stars. I saw them for what they were - the reviewers' opinions. Then I poured myself a fresh Diet Pepsi, sat down at my word processing program, and started on a new book.

Unknown said...

I haven't got any reviews good or bad but I'm hoping I do just so,it can improve and stimulate my energy to imagine more .I just want pa rents to enjoy reading to their children and for,children to,smile ...Malo

Carol Hedges said...

Agree so much with this. I find it pathetic when a writer goes onto FB to moan about a one star review. It's life. And usually, one star reviews are 1/2 sentence long and clearly show that they are a moan not a review ..one of mine actually says the reviewer couldn't download the book!!!! I am HUGELY suspicious of books with 200 Five Star reviews and nothing else.Smacks of set-up.

LemurKat said...

I am perplexed by one of my 1 star rstings, mainly because there was no review and the reviewer had no other reviews at all - it looked like she'd joined GR merely to rate my book but, after signing up, couldn't be bothered to say why she disliked it so. I can't help but wonder if she had some personal vendetta against me.

Unknown said...

This helped me very much. I am not sure what the reader had a problem with my book is Romantic Suspense. I know anything in the genre romance is going to have sex. I was told my book has too much explicit sex and violence. I am still trying to figure it out. I am not taking it too bad because I looked and this reviewer had no other reviews on amazon and no name. I am putting him or her in the troll category.

Fox Emerson said...

Great post. Its interesting how many authors hit Google after a bad review. I guess its better than hitting the bottle, as tempting as that may be.
I had a nasty review on Amazon and after days of wallowing in self-pity, decided to turn it into a positive and re-edit some of the original book with those thoughts in mind.
We can't always write epic masterpieces and sometimes have to accept that a book just isn't that great. Make it a positive and write a better book.
Right after you've bombed the reviewer that is :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks for this article. I think my issue with bad reviews (trolls not teachers) is that readers are heavily influenced by them. They make buying decisions based on them. And this is many authors livelihood. That's why I don't write bad reviews when I don't like an author's book, and if I liked or loved it, I always leave a positive review. Reviews matter.

Stacey said...

Ahem, in response to the random people from Amazon at least..

“Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.” – Ezra Pound

Rest my case ya'll! ;)

Whitney said...

Thank you for writing and sharing your experience with bad reviews. Have a book coming out and nervous about the reviews but, testing this helped put things into perspective for me.

I tell myself that not everyone is going to like it but, with 7 something billion people on the planet, someone will.

This article really helps to solidify that persuasion to me so thanks again.

Unknown said...

I look at it this way. I have a story to tell and the only critic I am to please is myself. My fantasy story is my journey I created - that I love. I certainly want other people to like it too.
Some people won't like it think it is horrible.
I am honored by the people who like me work, those who buy my book and if my fantasy world impacts them in a positive way.
But I don't care about the reviews, good or bad. They are opinions and I ignore all of them. Art shouldn't be like producing a new soda, "What did people think of it? Well change the flavor based on feedback."
No thanks. Good reviews can give you a big head, and bad reviews can ruin the energy you need to finish or write anymore.
TOR's editors opinions I care about by they are the exception within reason. I think people should take every bit of feedback than can from a mechanical English standpoint.
But for fiction writers, just ignore all reviews and write the story you want. When the book is done? By all means accept the positive energy, the awards and laugh at the negative stuff.
But never forget keep writing the story you want.
Feedback can pull you in 1,000 different direction.

Anonymous said...

I have received a few 1- and 2-stars because one of my main characters was too offensive and obnoxious, to the point where a few readers found him irredeemable. He's most readers' favorite character, but a few female reviewers were offended by his randiness and womanizing and trashed the book on GR & Az. It seriously disturbs me because I do consider myself a feminist but hadn't thought the character's behavior was anything too over-the-top for the era and setting of the novel. The book also made it through betas, editors, and the publisher, as well as 2 years of positive reviews, before one reviewer pointed out they were offended by a particular scene in the book, and then it seems a bunch of reviewers started piggybacking after that one person and suddenly are saying the same thing. It's hurting sales and I do feel awful about the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

We have become SUCH a PC culture. Considering changing a character because he doesn't reflect your own views- like he is a jerk, but the author is a feminist and is afraid that people will fault her for portraying such an unenlightened male? We have to write the stories that are inside us- give them life, let them breathe, put them out there. Please let's not berate ourselves for bad reviews! Like many of the responses here say, it's part of being an author. Enjoy your journey, take constructive criticism and make changes if you agree, and move onto your next wonderful work!

Gordon Brooks said...

I have successfully gotten a few reviews removed from Amazon.com, not because they were bad reviews, but because they were fake reviews, retaliation for another book I wrote and obviously written by people who had never read the book they reviewed.

If this happens to you, it is worth pursuing.

philip said...

I just got a rotten review from a winner of my giveaway. In other words, she got the book for free. I answered her once, she answered back, and that will end it. I got two impressions of this reviewer. One, that it as not her genre at all, and two, she was on a power trip. As Stacie said, if a person has never created anything, they probably are bitterly jealous of those who have.

Anonymous said...

I have my first novel coming out soon. Even though I changed the character names, town name, etc. I am concerned about retaliation from local townspeople that they will probably think I'm writing about them, but to bring a good story I used real-life incidents, but changed things so they could not be considered libelous. It is still fiction with a twist. It'll be interesting to see what negative comments I get from my hometown folks.

Brian H. Gill said...

Sounds reasonable. #3 reminds me of a story I heard about an actor who told a reporter, "I don't care what you say, just spell my name right."

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