Dealing with Bad Reviews, Advice for Authors
An isolated case of a one star review for a novel is a different matter to receiving a series of bad reviews. In the case of the latter, the writer may have to take notice. The bigger picture might be that the bad reviews form a small fraction of the overall feedback, perhaps representing one in ten or less. I have written a separate article to dealing with an isolated bad review. But if the negatives begin to outweigh the positives, the writer may take an objective view from the following:
Are the reviews addressing the novel itself, or an unrelated issue, such as customer service, a technical problem or a few typos? If the review relates to formatting problems on the kindle book, take a look at my article on how to format an ebook properly and take steps to have the review removed, for it could give a misleading impression of the novel’s quality. Furthermore, punctuation and spelling issues can be easily fixed with a good proofreader or a simple double-check.
Making Negative Book Reviews into a Positive
No author likes to get negative reviews. An isolated case can be put down to someone’s personal opinion or a minority view, but when the bad reviews keep coming, it is time to take notice. The following steps may be taken:
Read each bad review once, once only. Differentiate between unhelpful/non-objective/subjective views from meaningful critique. This might be: ‘the novel is too wordy,’ or ‘the characters are not authentic’ or ‘nothing ever happens for pages.’ Look for common themes. Is a particular issue mentioned more than once?
Don’t copy each review verbatim, record the issue raised in your own words, reflecting what has been said, but make it more palatable, such as ‘review 1 suggests I need to tighten the plot in the centre of the novel,’ or ‘review 2 suggests I need to do more research into the background history of my novel.’
Remember only take note of reviews that offer a meaningful critique, not ranting, offensive or rambling disparagement. Even then, not everything someone says need be taken as gospel. A trusted friend or literary consultant may be called upon to gain an objective view, failing that, the author may step back before considering the issues with a clear mind. Even constructive criticism served tactfully can be hard to receive, but such a critique can prove invaluable to the writer.
How to Get Rid of Bad Book Reviews
The option to unpublish might be considered if the novel has proved to have serious issues. A redraft may be necessary. My website giving clear advice on all matters of novel-writing from conceiving characters to writing dialogue as well as drafting the novel may help improve the story.
A reworked novel might benefit from a fresh start rather than republishing under the same ASIN/ISBN. This might entail giving the novel a new title, cover design and reworded synopsis. The novel can be published from scratch, where in the case of Kindle, a new ASIN is given, and in Createspace, a new ISBN. The novel cannot help but undergo improvement if the plot has been tightened, the background more fastidiously researched or the characters fleshed out. More positive reviews are (likely) to result. This is part of developing as a writer.
When to Ignore Bad Book Reviews
However, do not change the book if the negative reviews are plainly a subjective opinion. For instance:
- Too much bad language or violence (if this is integral to the plot or a sign of the times, such elements might be vital to the story).
- If the very thing complained about is the effect the author had intended.
- The moral of the story does not accord with someone’s belief system (eg, crime does pay).
- The fiction genre. For example, complaining a novel is too luvvv-duvvy if it is supposed to be romantic fiction.
- A complaint about the writing style. Each author has a different writing style. So long as the author has good command of English and avoids typos and grammos, clichés and lazy prose the writing style, is what defines the writer and is a matter of taste; another reader may love it.
- The characters are all horrible (if unsavoury characters are the point)
Never give up writing. Many respected writers get lots of bad reviews and the books keep selling. Never engage with those that gave the bad reviews, it would be unprofessional. Quality and passion will (in time) often win through. With improvements made, as suggested, good reviews are more likely in the future.
Helpful Links on Novel Writing
I’ve had my first bad review
Articles on novel writing.
Vital preparation for a book talk