Many authors are a bit devastated when a negative review shows up on their books’ sales pages. However, a book with lots of reviews has real legitimacy and gives readers and potential customers a range of perspectives, making them more likely to buy it. So, trying to get lots of reviews is advisable. But how do authors handle the inevitable bad ones? And why might these unfavourable reviews – or often might not – influence book buyers. Last but not least: Why would anyone write a negative review?
Remember: Bestsellers Get Bad Reviews too!
Just read the list of real bad reviews of now Classic Books in an article on Huffington Post. Digital Book World also listed snippets from negative Bestseller reviews:
“It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read.” —review of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Not nearly enough consistency and far to [sic] little plot.”—review of Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
“If I were you, I’d peruse it briefly at your neighborhood library before putting hard-earned money out.” —review of children’s classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
“Superficial, shallow, boring and inconsistent.This was easily the most overrated book of 2013.” —The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a real Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize Winner.
“I find myself saying to myself as I read it ‘bla bla bla’ as that is what the author seems to be saying.” —review of National Book Award Winner Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen.
Find more Bashing Reviews of Classic Books, that are bestsellers and award-winners.
Funny, Negative Reviews:
Bestseller author Rayne Hall once blogged about negative, but funny reviews she received, some are really hilarious, for example “This book is too long. I had to spend many hours reading it. I’m busy and have other things to do.” Or: “The character of Queen Matilda is not believable”. Sorry, but there’s no Queen Matilda in the book…
But You Might Not be Amused…
After all, your book is your baby, and you don’t want it bashed. Consider this: Are Book Reviews really THAT important? In a poll 70% of book purchasers admitted to buy books after checking the reviews. Surprisingly many did not pay too much attention to 5-star or 1-star reviews, rather more about the number of reviews and the average rating. Many negative reviews are short and not talking much about the book, rather about the preferences of the reviewer. And the bashing reviewers are often only showing their mean character, which makes it easy to ignore them altogether.
Don’t forget: A 5-star review could be a good friend or family member and a 1-star someone from the competition, right? So, what I am doing is to check the “history” of the reviewer. How many books does he or she review. Just click on the reviewers name and go to their Amazon site to find out more. Interesting also, if it was a “verified purchase” or if the reviewer states at least to have the book received in order to write a review.
How a Review Should be Written.
Reviews on book review sites should be about the book under review. Other readers don’t need a diatribe on why a reviewer dislikes a particular genre. If you can’t judge a book based on the quality of the story in the pages, you have no business reviewing them. Why should anyone care how you “feel” about the book or the genre? THE one and only important judgement should be: Has the book fulfilled its purpose? Has it entertained, was the plot thrilling in a mystery, or had the protagonist a believable character? In the case of a non-fiction book: Did I learn a lot of new things? Did I receive lots of valuable information that I couldn’t get in a dozen of Google searches? Was it filled with detailed instructions?
A review is not a synopsis of the book’s content. A review should tell readers what the reviewer thought of the book from multiple perspectives, not to repeat the book blurb. It doesn’t really interest others if you liked the book or not! Take care to be impartial. Your task is not to champion or chastise the author – it is to evaluate the merits of the work – and if the author accomplished it. Read more detailed tips on How to Write Book Reviews in a former blog post.
It Happens to EVERY Writer!
No matter if you won the Pulitzer Price, or if you teach English in high school classes, or how many books you have sold. Negative book reviews, especially those that are potentially malicious, are near the top list of nightmare scenarios for every writer. You have been putting your heart and soul into pursuing your passion. So it is understandable when you would like to act first in the face of negativity and have regrets later. Please don’t!
A bad review is, of course, very uncomfortable to read. You can cry, have a few too many drinks, or get mad. Sometimes – or often – the review has nothing to do with the actual book or with you:
- The reviewer regrets the purchase or someone make a negative remark about his / her taste.
- The reviewer expected a different content – and hasn’t read the description, or clicked on the wrong book to order.
- The reviewer thinks there is too much violence or sex in the content for her or his taste.
- The reviewer could have a bad day, a very bad day even, and just overacts.
- The reviewer could even be a competitor (or their friends).
- Maybe the reviewer thumbed through the book and read only a few sentences.
- The reviewer is jealous of your success, or is not able to write a decent book.
Quality reviews would describe the writing style, plot lines, and characterization and back up the positive or negative comments with specific examples.
How to Deal with Negative Reviews?
Anyone who chooses a career in the arts, no matter if it is music, acting, painting, or writing, should accept that reviews, good, bad, and non-committal, are a part of the business. All artists have to deal with all kinds of reviews. Writers tend to be quite emotional people, that’s what makes them good at what they do – being creative – but it also means that they are likely to take a bad review to heart. The best way to deal with bad reviews is to ignore them. If they really hurt, talk with your writer colleagues or friends about it. They can go to your books page and choose the “fair” reviews, and click on: Helpful. Do I need to say more? Consumers are smart enough to sniff out and ignore a negative review in a sea of positive ones.
Lev Raphael wrote in the Huffington Post: “I’ve published almost two dozen books and I now read as few of my reviews as possible. Why? Because I’ve learned more about my work from other authors through their books, conversations, or lectures than I have from any reviewers, and I don’t look to reviews for education or approbation. I hope they’ll help with publicity, but I’ve seen people get raves in the New York Times without any impact on sales. We authors shouldn’t let our self-esteem be held hostage by reviewers, and we should try not to over-estimate their importance or expect them to stroke our egos. As for bad reviews? Ignore them along with the good ones, and keep writing.”
Never Contact a Reviewer!
There’s no point in doing so. Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid to the person who has them. Never respond to bad reviews on any forum or blog, because you will never win the argument. Life is too short to worry about what anyone thinks of your work. You shouldn’t be reading your reviews at all!
A review is nothing personal – It’s business. Your book, written with the labor of love and handled like your baby, is still a book, a product. You are an entrepreneur. You’re in the business of writing to make money. It’s a business of skills like most other businesses. Never forget that no matter how much one reviewer hates your book – others will love it.
Just Work on More Reviews.
Hopefully you worked hard on getting lots of reviews, so that few bad ones diminish in a sea of brilliant reviews. If you can afford it, try to get as many professional reviews as possible, such as Midwest Reviews, Armchair Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, Kirkus Reviews etc. They are trained and know how to write a fair and professional review. Any review, good or bad, is better than no review. Readers who like the genre you write in will give you a better quality review, whether it’s a good review or a so-so review. Join as many reader communities as possible, in order to meet people who like you genre, post short stories or single chapters there and make lots of friends who might review your next books. Join Wattpad, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari etc.. And contribute to the good karma and write lots of reviews about the books YOU are reading : )
Sending a book, either traditionally published or self-published, out to the world puts an author in a vulnerable position. But as Stephen King once famously wrote: “You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”
Reviewers are often expected to predict a novel’s future, which is impossible to fulfill with complete accuracy. One reason why the art of the negative review has been called into question: Self-Published Writers need our support, and there’s also often a dissonance between critical reception and, say, some of Goodreads’ crowd-sourced opinions. The Goldfinch is just one example of a title that failed to garner the support of top reviewers, but charmed book lovers, as well as the 2014 Pulitzer judges.
Want to Read More About Negative Reviews – And How to React?
Got a 1-Star Review? What Can You Do?
How to Deal With Negative Book Reviews?
More About How to Get Professional Reviews
Huffington Post Collection of Articles Regarding Bad Reviews
Funny Review Article by Rayne Hall