Monday, 19 September 2011

How to Deal with Bad Reviews of your Book

How does the author deal with a bad book review? Every writer’s dread, spotting a one star review for a novel that took years to craft can be a stab in the heart. Before taking any action, the following advice might help.

What to do with Bad Book Reviews

Otherwise known as a ‘torpedo,’ a bad review may cause the writer to question whether all the hard work has been worth the effort. The following will hurt. Read the review (once is enough). Be objective. Firstly is the bad review valid? It is not if the following apply.

Establish whether the bad review is for the novel itself. I have seen countless bad reviews given for unsatisfactory Kindle service, for instance delay in delivery or damage to the book; text-to-speech perhaps doesn’t work properly. Bad formatting of the Ebook is another common issue. If the complaint is not directed at the quality of the story itself, the author may request that the review is removed for it could be misleading to potential readers.

Similarly, if the bad review is overtly slanderous, offensive, exhibits racist (or similar offensive views) or is a personal attack, the author may request the review be removed. This can be done by clicking on ‘report abuse’ next to the review. Such a review will be picked up by other readers and reported to Amazon, and if the complaint is persistent, Amazon will remove the review without any action from you.

Perhaps the reviewer does not like the genre of the book (it happens). No matter how well the book is written, a romantic story will not be received well by a hard-boiled crime buff. In such instances, the writer may take stock and consider whether the synopsis or book cover design represents the genre of the story. Similarly, the review is simply a personal opinion. Perhaps the reader does not like the political views implied within the book rather than the writing style itself.

Dealing with a Bad Book Review

Bad book reviews come in all shapes and sizes. I have taken a look. Some are one-liners, some rant on and on. Some are unclear as to what is wrong with the book. Such feedback as ‘thin plot, ‘cheesy romantic story,’ ‘unconvincing dialogue’ or simply ‘badly written’ might be the sort of phraseology found. Some reviews are succinct and to the point, others are vague, still others do not accord with the one star review, giving positive comments.

What to do With a Bad Book Review

The author’s initial reaction at the sight of a one star might be indignation, despair or try to ‘brush it off.’ The last one is hard to do as most writers care if their work is appreciated or not. Some bad reviews can be very helpful, giving constructive comments in a tactful way. More about this can be found on my next article, using feedback to improve your novel.

Sadly, too many bad reviews are simply unkind or unwarranted. But regardless of how harsh or unfair the review may be, never engage with the reviewer or try to make him/her change the rating. The result could merely be a sparring match which will only make the writer look very unprofessional.

A Good Book Reviewer

Check the reviewer’s feedback score. This is the voting system found on Amazon that states whether the review was helpful to other customers or not. By clicking on the reviewer’s name, his/her other reviews will be displayed as well as the reviewer’s rank. If few people find the reviewer helpful, a low rank will be given. An unhelpful reviewer is likely to be disregarded.

In time, a bad, ill-conceived or overtly ‘nasty’ review will show itself up for what it is. Fortunately, Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature enables the potential reader to sample the book and make independent judgments. Smashwords enable the reader to sample up to 20% of the book free. A well-written sample and story synopsis will sell itself.

Customers have been known to upload a book based on controversial or bad reviews to see if it was really that bad. Differing opinions are likely to spur a discussion and even raise the profile of your book.

Fair and Impartial Reviews of Your Book

There is a culture of people giving glowing reviews to a friend or relative’s novel on Amazon. This can be spotted if reams of five starred reviews followed by similarly-worded reviews are given for a book. This is because a genuine review is hard to come by. Readers by and large, simply want to read and not give feedback. Personally the sight of a book with a mish-mash of reviews appears more authentic than a book with lots of five-starred reviews. For this reason, a one star review will tell the customer that the writer does not vet his/her reviewers.

Advice for the Writer who has a Bad Book Review

I myself have had a ‘torpedo’ and was glad to find people still purchasing my book afterwards. Hard as this might be to do, try to rise above it. You are in good company. King, Rowling and Straub have all received one-starred reviews. Sometimes, the bad review is simply someone’s opinion. Read the review once only. Decide if it has anything of value (a separate article is dedicated to this, see below) and then move on. But never give up writing.

What to do if the negative reviews keep coming in.
Advice on improving your novel

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