Friday, April 18, 2014

When Receiving a Bad Review

Do you read reviews before you purchase a book? I’ll be honest and say I usually don’t. Quite often when judging a product or a movie I have often felt the opposite of the critics. If they hate it, I love it and vice versa.

I also don’t want to have my reading of something skewed and quite often reviewers tend to give small spoilers during their reviews. I would rather be surprised as to what is coming next. Anything more than a back-of-the-book blurb and I feel the reading experience is slightly ruined. I want to feel every shock and twist the author has in store for me. So, I wait until after I read the book and then read the reviews to see if I agree with them or not.

As an author I love reading the reviews others take the time to leave for my work. I appreciate the depth as well as the viewpoints of each one, whether it is a good or a bad review. Okay, to be honest, no one loves to receive a bad review. We want everyone to be thrilled with our writing and spew out great praise that we took the time to put the words to paper–or screen with today’s age of electronics.

Yet, what about the bad reviews. Personally, I can’t leave a bad review. I won’t give less than three stars and if the book does not deserve the three stars, I usually just skip a review altogether. The reasons are varied and if you’re curious you can read my post, Reading and Reviewing. However, some people believe strongly in telling an author whether they missed the mark or not. So what should a writer do with those reviews? Besides hunting down the reviewer and saying bad things about their mothers, that is.

After just reading a couple of novels by indie authors that lacked quite a bit in the craft department, I glanced at the reviews of their books and discovered that I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The errors were blatant and truly ruined the reading of what most of the time could have been a great book. And they were indie authors! It wasn’t like the book was out there and it was too late. They could have read the reviews and then tried their best to strengthen their writing. Instead they rushed to the next story and put out another weak book.


I’m not here to say I have it all figured out. I am learning as well. Furthermore, I know that the idea is to have the book as spit polished as possible before publishing. However, if I have a chance to strengthen a story, I want to take it. So should other writers. I mean, we have the opportunity. We are in control. That is why we are indies, isn’t it? We want control of our creations. Then why not make them the best that we can?

That doesn’t mean we will agree with every bad review or want to change everything that is suggested. It doesn’t mean that we should, either. I mean, sometimes reviewers are just…wrong. However, if you truly want to make your writing stronger, it behooves you to pay attention to what is being said and whenever possible, fix it. You might actually see a rise in sales as your novels become stronger because you cared enough to improve them. That is part of the goal, right? To sell your writing? Then it is to your advantage to absorb the reviews and put in the extra work to make your prose the best that you can. Even a bad review can be beneficial if you see it as a tool to improvement.




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6 comments:

  1. Hi Robbie,

    I sometimes read book reviews - not always, because I don't want to read through any spoilers. But, I do struggle with writing brutally honest reviews, specially when I think the book wasn't all that...

    I am selective...when I say this, I mean I choose my words carefully because not all my friends are receptive to constructive criticism...so I try to speak my mind in a way that does not offend and I do this in private.

    Otherwise, I normally give 3 star reviews or more, just like you do. I can't say I know what it's like to get bad reviews because I haven't published anything yet. But, I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and what people say can be a blend of truth with a dash of their personality, too. Bad reviews can be helpful - it just depends on how one handles the criticism.

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    1. True words. I have also seen how a bad review has bitten the reviewer in the butt as the author has then gone on a rampage to belittle the person. I would rather look at them as a chance to improve, but not all feel that way.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting :)

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  2. I don't like to read reviews first, either. But I do like to read them after I've written my own review, as a way to compare my thoughts with those of other readers.

    As for the 1 and 2 star reviews, I do write them when necessary. (But not when it's a freebie that I did not pay for and am not committed to reading/reviewing. Then, if I hate it that much, I delete it long before I get to the end.) I understand some authors' reasoning for not leaving bad reviews. But, on the flip side, I don't think that's fair to readers or to authors. Whether you loved or hated the book, you read it and should state why you felt the way you did. I don't believe in bashing authors at all, and a review shouldn't be about that. If I don't like a book, I'll say exactly what I didn't like about it without making it about the author. If everyone chose only to review books they liked, there would be an unfair balance of positive praise for all books, therefore rendering reviews pointless. When a reader leaves a bad review for one of my books telling people it was too violent for his/her taste, I'm actually okay with that because it serves as a kind of warning to readers with similar taste. The only reviews I'm not okay with are those that are left by people who only read one chapter or leave one sentence like, "I hated it," or "Don't waste your money." Those are not informative at all. Nor do I like those that say, "I loved it!" but nothing else. Why did you love it? Those are the reviews I discount as useless.

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    1. Very well said, Darcia. And I agree. The idea is to benefit and if you are going to be in this business you have to develop a tough skin and accept praise as well as criticism.

      I also wish authors would take the time to fix the glaring errors if they are serious about their writing. Reviews can almost be seen as a small support group of sorts.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

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  3. Some of my favorite reviews of my books are only 3 star reviews. I love them, because usually the person writing the reviews will leave both positive and negative feedback. That is where authors get to learn to hone their craft better. It's somewhat like having beta readers, after the fact. You don't necessarily need to change your manuscript, but you can learn a lesson for future books.

    That being said, I just read a major rant from a favorite author of mine on Facebook the other day. She basically stated that if you are an author you have no business writing reviews for other people's books in a public forum, especially if they are bad.

    I disagree wholeheartedly. If I am buying a book to read, and hopefully enjoy, I am not an author. I am a consumer, and have the rights as any other consumer to leave a review for an item I paid for. There was a time I wouldn't leave a review if it was less than 3 stars. I still rarely do it, but once in a while I feel strongly about the fact that I wasted my money on a book. I will explain why I didn't like it in a professional manner, and I almost always end them with something like, "this is how I felt, but someone else might see it differently." After all, we don't all have the same taste. The same author who would complain about negative reviews, is all too happy to receive the positive ones from fellow authors. If you want an honest sampling of what people think - you have to be willing to take the bad with the good.

    Also, I'm tired of authors (and their cronies) thinking that they need to leave retaliatory bad reviews (even on books they clearly did not purchase). A friend of mine (also an author) recently read a book that she didn't like. She posted a very well written and respectful review about what she liked and didn't like about the book. A day later, one of her books was flooded with bad reviews from that author and people who had reviewed that author's book positively. None of them were verified purchases. This is childish, unprofessional, and lets people know exactly what kind of person you are. It also shows what kind of writer you are. Insecure. Don't do it.

    My fellow authors - grow up! A bad review doesn't mean you're being picked on. It doesn't mean you need to go be nasty. It just means someone didn't like what you wrote. It happens. You can not please everyone. If it will make you feel better - go look up your favorite books and read their reviews. Some are good, some are bad, and some fall in the middle. A few of my favorite mass-published authors have only 3 star average reviews on some of their books. Books are not for everyone. You can't expect to go through with publishing a book and not receive negative reviews/ratings.

    One more thing - a bad review does not equate to "review bullying." A bad review is a bad review. Someone didn't like your book. Unless they are getting downright ugly with what they are saying, or bashing the author personally, it is not bullying to say, "hey, I didn't like it, and this is why..."

    Some of the authors I know don't even bother reading negative reviews. Some don't read reviews at all. I personally, read them, and take from them what I need to. Like I said, my favorites are the ones that are somewhere in the middle of the road and detail both positives and negatives. Those seem to be the most honest reviews.

    My advice to my fellow authors is to be a grown up about bad reviews. If you are going to read them, take what you need to from them, and move on. Don't let them crush you. And don't feel like you need to get revenge on the reviewer. It won't change their opinion of your book, but it will reflect poorly on you!

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