10 Ways for Authors to Handle Bad Reviews
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
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!
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!)
- 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!