I have been very blessed that so far I have had only one bad review. Some authors have had more than that, but no matter how many you get it hurts.
So what do you do about bad reviews?
A few years back I received such a review about the novel Perished. Sandwiched between 4 star and 5 star reviews it still offended me. Did I write a nasty letter to the reviewer? Did I erase the review from Amazon?
No, and no. The worst mistake you can make is to remove a negative review. Actually a negative review highlights the positive reviews. Readers will see that lonely negative review and also the positive reviews. And most will rightly decide something was wrong with the reviewer.
The young man reviewing my book actually pointed out the problem in his review. He admitted that he didn’t finish the book. Then he proceeded to tell his reasons for not finishing the book.
And this is where anyone who read the book would immediately know the problem. He not only didn’t read the book to the finish, he jumped around. His main complaint was that some of the characters did not remain true to their characterization at the beginning. I spotted this immediately.
One of the problems with writing historical fiction is that some of the characters in the book are drawn from actual historical accounts. In the case of Perished I was writing about actual Biblical events and people which required the use of real names.
Sometimes these names were identical to others. So it was possible to have two or more characters with the same name. Now if the reader is following the story as it was written, it is easy to determine which character is front and center. But if you jump around, never a good idea, then you could easily get confused as to which character you are reading about.
So the review was not only a bad rating (2 stars), but it was a poor review in approach and content. One side of me wanted to write him and point out his failings, but I didn’t do that. Why?
Because doing so is not good form. Most writers and teachers of writing will warn you not to criticize the reviewer. It simply offends others.
So I bit my tongue, metaphorically speaking, and left the review there. As I stated earlier it highlights the 4 and 5 star reviews. It becomes a plus and eventually helps the marketing.
Another response though is to take that negative review and ask yourself questions. In this case I asked myself if I could have done a better job of identifying which character was present? Most of the time the answer to that question is yes.
It’s possible that I could have eliminated certain characters and used alternate or even fictional characters instead. Sometimes when complaints come you can rewrite the book or at least certain scenes. The principle here is to treat negative reviews as a learning experience.
You can also treat good reviews the same way. Sometimes a reviewer may point out an error or a problematic tendency in the book even though they gave the book 5 stars. Once again you can take that and turn it into a learning experience.
Which brings me to another point or principle: leaving the negative review in place can serve as a reminder to you (or me) that you can’t please all the people. So don’t take it personally. Instead try to turn it into a positive learning experience both in marketing and in writing. Such an attitude will improve you as a writer.
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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.