Let's start the new year by taking a sensitive subject and putting a "good" spin on it! Let's learn how to welcome bad book reviews!
“This is actually a horribly written boring piece of literature…stay away from this disgustingly overrated book and disgustingly bad writer”. - Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
“This collection of books is really, really terrible and boring, and I would(n’t) wish the task of reading it on my worst enemy.” - Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“I’d like to say the book has potential, but I don’t think it did.” – Review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
“… the alien politics in the story were, at times, over analytical and complex. I would’ve preferred a simpler approach.” – Review of An Alien Exchange by Keri Kruspe
(Okay, I admit I’ve given myself a bit of a cheap thrill putting my name up there with those distinguished authors. I actually love this critique…I had no idea I was smart enough to write something “over analytical and complex”!)
Let’s face it. As a writer, we have to have reviews on our books to make a living. Reviews are the lifeblood of the industry. In order to sell books, we have to have more than ten reviews for Amazon to even notice we’re alive. Not to mention places like BookBub – there you aren’t going to get a coveted place in their ads without lots of reviews.
So, What are book reviews?
The basic principal of book reviews is to help a reader decide whether or not they want to purchase/read a book for themselves. A review shouldn’t be a summary of the novel, just an overall opinion of the work.
And, as you know, everyone has an opinion on just about everything. Why should books be different?
Show me an author who hasn't gotten a bad review...
A quote from Isaac Asimov: “Writers fall into two groups: Those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”
I think what he was trying to say is “join the club”.
If you don’t believe me about authors getting a myriad of reviews, a great site to check out reviews of your favorite author is idreambook.com. They have a collection of critics (i.e. NY Times) that rank the best-selling books according to the percentage of good reviews.
So, if you’ve ever gotten a bad review, you’re in good company.
Do we really need bad reviews?
I understand the question. But ask yourself this: Why do I write? Do you do it for yourself? Or do you want others to enjoy the fruits of your labor? I mean, holy crapoly…being a published author is hard work! We struggle for years learning our craft only to find out writing a novel is just the beginning of a lengthy process. We are constantly putting ourselves out there…in social media, blogs, websites, and author pages on numerous sites.
Why put ourselves through this torture?
One answer is we write to gain reactions from others. We cross our fingers the reactions come back good. But then, you get hit with a “bad” review. You’re being attacked and minimizing all the hard work you’ve done (not to mention the expense!) to get your baby out in the world as you pray it grows and thrives.
In response, I propose to you a different idea:
Bad reviews sells books!
Huh? Say what? How is that possible?
Let’s say you’re browsing through your favorite digital site looking for your next favorite book. Ah, a cover and title catches your eye…the blurb sounds great. But you’ve never heard of this author, so you scroll down to look at the reviews.
Yep, there they are.
Wait, they have nothing but five-star reviews. Gushing on and on how “unputdownable” the book is and that it’s the greatest novel ever.
Oh, come on! People are diverse on everything. Folks can’t even agree on what kind of ice cream is best. How is it everyone loves this book without fail? Sounds to me like this writer got all his friends and family to write a boatload of fanny-kissing reviews. Worse, it comes across as dishonest.
Now sprinkle in a couple of “bad” reviews. Wham, we’ve got a dose of realistic legitimacy. The “bad” reviews actually balance out the “good” ones. It gives a sense of genuineness to the work.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Kurt Vonnegut about book reviews. “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
Let’s look at it another way.
Some people look for negative reviews to look for a book they’d like to read. I’ll use myself as an example. The worst review I’ve gotten (so far…) is for the second book in my trilogy. “I personally don't like there to not be returned karma for the ones who did all the torture, rape, or whatever. The reasons behind why the bad guy was not imprisoned and punished before now were stupid.” – Review of D’zia’s Dilemma.
I love this two-star review. I mean, really! Why would I “punish” the bad guy in the second book of a trilogy? That would be like Darth Vader facing justice in The Empire Strikes Back instead of in Return of the Jedi. As a reader, I’d love to know the action continues in the third book.
There can be some quirks in bad reviews that nudge me to take a closer look:
“too many ridiculous characters” – yay! My favorite part of any book (or movie) are the secondary, quirky characters.
Any review that sneers at the word “feminist” – since I write about “feisty heroines”, this could wind up being my kind of book.
10 Quick tips to handle bad reviews
I came across this great article from Indie Author News on the best ways to react when you get a bad review:
- Do nothing
- Do NOT respond (unless it’s a simple “thank you”)
- A bad review is still a review
- Re-read your good reviews
- Beware the Troll – Don’t pour gasoline on the fire
- Ignore the bad review
- It’s not personal, it’s business
- Don’t rush to your favorite social media site
- Get tough skin
- Remember why you write
The article also gives some fun (not to be taken as realistic) ways to deal with bad reviews:
- Drink – heavily if need be
- Shop – for yourself…not others!
- Respond to the reviewer why they are a douche-bag
- Use coercion, extortion, blackmail, or torture to make them take it down
- Turn about is fair play… give them a bad review
- Print it out and then burn it
- But…most of all…