Sunday, 3 July 2016

Dealing With Bad Reviews


As part of an author interview, I recently gave my thoughts on dealing with bad reviews.  A few people said they were helpful, so I thought I'd turn it into a blog post, and add to it a bit (including some amusing examples!).  Here you go, then, and I hope at least one or two of these bits of advice are of use :)


Try to accept them as inevitable, and part of the whole writing/publishing process; in other words, don't be shocked by them!  I know they knock your confidence, it's never nice to get them and we all go through it, but, alas, not everyone will love everything you do.
 
Look up your all-time favourite books on Amazon.  They will have some 1 and 2*, too.  If Phillipa Gregory/Elizabeth Jane Howard/William Boyd, etc, can get bad reviews, so can you; join the club!



Don't consider 3* a bad review ~ 3* means 'it's okay' on Amazon and 'I like it' on Goodreads.

Don't challenge them; if you've made your book available on a site that allows readers to review, they have a right to express their opinion.  Yes, it's SO tempting, particularly if they've said something factual that isn't right; I had a 2* on Goodreads the other day, and when I went to comment on it (just to point the error out, honestly!) I got this pop-up that said 'are you sure you want to post this comment'?  I was really glad about that - I didn't write anything!
 
Sorry this is a bit hard to see, but it's worth squinting at, very funny!!

**Learn from them; if more than one reader says the book has, for instance, unrealistic dialogue, they might be expressing the opinion of many; the majority of readers don't review, but will simply not buy another book from you.  A couple of reviews made me rethink my ideas about backstory; I was glad of the feedback, later....**


....but reviewers are not obliged to give constructive feedback.  The time for a manuscript critique is before publicationIf a reviewer just wants to write 'Really boring', they have a right to do so (yes, I know it's hard!!).  We don't complain about two word reviews when they just say 'Loved it!', after all... ;)
 
A few mediocre reviews makes the book look more credible, as if it's been more widely read.  Few things look more naff than just eight reviews, all 5*, written by people who've never reviewed anything else.  



As far as visibility on Amazon goes, it's the number of reviews rather than the rating average that makes a difference, I believe.  So it's all good!
 
Don't complain to or about book bloggers who do not review your book favourably.  If their terms state that they do not guarantee a good review, they mean it!  Always read the terms first.



Understand the difference between a bad review from a genuine reader who wasn't that keen on your book, and a troll who is out to get you personally. Shouting 'troll' every time you get a bad review can make you look a bit petulant!  


Talking of trolls, though, it can be useful to take a look at the reviewer's profile; what you learn might make you feel better.  For instance, I got a really damning review for Nobody's Fault, shortly after I started self-publishing; only an hour before a girl had been trying to bait me on Twitter, saying my good reviews were fake, but I didn't bite.  When I looked at the profile, the wish list contained books like 'How to Write a Best Selling Novel'.  More recently I got a right stinker on Dream On.  A couple of days later the same reviewer posted a similar one on its sequel.  When I investigated further (because who would read the sequel of a book they consider only worthy of 1*?) I discovered that it was someone I'd blocked on Twitter.  

....but try not to get too hung up/obsessed if you do this sort of research!  More often, looking at a reviewing history will simply show you that your writing style is not one that the reviewer likes.  For instance, I have rarely had a very good review from avid chick lit readers.
 

Read, learn from it if possible ~ then walk away.... 



21 comments:

  1. Always good advice, thanks Terry.

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  2. Excellent, I'm going to keep this safe to share with my newbie writers :-)

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  3. Thanks, ladies - hope it doesn't put them off, Georgia!

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  4. All very useful. Good reviews, and we open the wine - bad reviews and we cry. But both often tell us as much about the person writing the review as the book. (I had one from someone who complained I was just an old person and all I did in Nepal was go shopping!)

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    1. Ha ha! A bit like the one I got that said I 'wasn't as good as the other British chick lit writers'. Er... my books are not chick lit! A bit like saying, for fantasy novels, they're a bit lacking in dragons..!

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  5. All good advice, Terry, thanks. In the early days I had a bad review because the book didn't arrive when Amazon said it would. And then a good one because the book was packaged well.Hey-ho. And a good idea to check a reviewer's profile. Surprising what you find, sometimes

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    1. Oh well, they cancelled each other out, then :D That's why I made the observation that we don't moan about 2 word reviews and lack of detail when it's a GOOD review...!!!

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  6. Ah, those telltale few immediate 5* reviews by people who've never reviewed anything else - author's mates, anyone!?!

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    1. Especially if you're an pushy, desperate mediapreneur, eh??! ;)

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  7. I'm very suspicious of the ONLY 5 star reviews..they smack of mates...most of my favourite writers..incl Dan Brown, have plenty of bad ones. I also feel some people do whine on a bit..I've seen posts on Facebook where a one star review has caused near-suicide in its recipient...and of course as soon as they start whining, everybody flocks to Amazon to read it! My 'best' one star, apart from the person (and I think it's a fellow histfic writer) who said: 'this is a dreadful dreadful book don't ever read it'...is the US gal who gave me a one star because she couldn't manage to download it onto her kindle. You have to laugh!

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    1. Oh, I know, it's so ridiculous; you want to say, look someone didn't think something you wrote was totally marvellous ~ deal with it and move on! Save me from Facebook writer groups; I won't go anywhere near them.

      My worst one star reviews says 'complete and utter rubbish' :^D That was apart from the two from the person we both know who thought that Dream On was so awful he went on to read its sequel, too, before declaring them both the worst books he had ever read :D :D :D

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  8. It's good to remind us all that 3* is perfectly okay. Thanks for the uplifting post :)

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    1. You're welcome - yes, 3* just means it wasn't to the reader's taste, or it had some areas that need improvement, not that it was ALL dreadful!!

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  9. Great advice and a terrific post.


    (I've been bad about commenting on your posts, but for some reason, blogspot makes me completely log out of every app before it will let me add comments. If I forget to do all that first and then log out, I often lose the—obviously incredibly brilliant and insightful—comment already written. And THEN I have to log back into everything. But here's my new resolution: stop being so damn lazy and write those comments!)

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    1. Barb, no worries!!! Commenting on blog posts should never feel obligatory or a mark of pal-ship - anyway, you can judge the popularity of a post by its views. But yes, I know what you mean, I've had the same problem, and learned to 'copy' the comment first, always, before I press submit, just in case... if I remember!

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  10. It's a good post Terry, I've had some reviews that hurt at the time but one in particular was very angry for some reason! Initially I dismissed it but when I looked again I realised he had a point and eventually made a change to the novel. So sometimes they are useful but I've also had some from people I've blocked on Twitter and that wasn't nice but there you go!

    I do agree though that it's better to have a mix of reviews rather than the standard ten 5 star reviews that make everything look dandy!

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    1. Thanks for reading! As for the idiots who give revenge reviews... I feel only pity.

      Yes - a new book with nothing but 5* reviews from people who've never reviewed anything else: a bit of a give away!

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    2. I'm still laughing over those reviews. It's frightening how stupid some people can be.

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    3. I think they were meant to be funny, Suzanna! :)

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  11. Excellent advice Terry, I especially agree when you say, "Read, learn from it if possible, then walk away."

    I find the whole process fascinating seeing what readers say about my books, and the books of other writers.

    Witnessing the difference of opinion about a certain book, and reactions elicited from readers, is helpful also as a reader in seeking books to read.

    I find it interesting if books have a mix of reviews and comments, from 5* to 1*, and you can read between the lines (is that a pun!?) to decide whether to try it. I've found 1* star reviews many times are for books that are great, just a matter of what people like to read.

    Receiving a 1* review can be painful, but I never respond to these, I just accept that not everyone will like my books; the reality of things, but another reader may like them.

    Maybe sometimes like the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity in the case of book reviews!

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    1. I think it really is, Marcia. All the best selling books have a mixture, because the wider the readership the more opinions you will get. Bad reviews don't hurt sales, unless there are lots of them and they all say that the grammar is bad, or that it needs proofreading, etc.

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