Attack of the Author: Reaction To Bad Reviews

DeatriI can not tell you how many times I’ve heard something on these lines: “I just received a bad review. Readers have a right to their opinion, but [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOMETHING NEGATIVE]… Will you go to Amazon and check that the review wasn’t helpful?” and/or  “… will you report this review as abusive?”

Next thing you know, you have other authors chiming in, belittling and bashing the reviewer, searching for anything to discredit the reviewer from a typo to saying the they are just “hating.”

It’s truly upsetting. And even worse, I’ve seen this type of thing happen in reader loops. Stop the insanity.

I understand one author supporting another author. I commend this, but be careful of the type of support you give. Just as criticism can be constructive and destructive, so can support. It’s just more difficult to recognize destructive support. And as an author with over ten books published, trust me when I say I’ve had my share of bad reviews and it SUCKS ROCKS. I may want to throw those rocks at the reviewer, but I don’t. And that’s not always an easy task.

If you receive a review you are not happy with—DO NOT contact the reviewer and send out blasts about how horrible this reviewer is and how they are out to get you. Do not contact your friends and family and have them write all types of negative comments on the review. Okay, so I’m being a little melodramatic—not really. I’ve actually seen this type of behavior happen. Everything you do in regard to your book(s) should be to strengthen your brand. You may think you are defending your work, but when you react this way you tarnish your brand and lose credibility. Does this mean that if a review is filled with inaccuracies you can not speak out? Heck no.

For my title Black Widow and the Sandman that I wrote under the pseudonym L. L. Reaper, a prominent journal had it categorized as Christian Fiction (it’s suspense and far from Christian Fiction). There were serious inaccuracies about characters, plot and setting. It was obvious the reviewer had not read the book, so some would think that I had the “right” to put her on full blast. Yes, technically, I had the right, but did I exercise this right? No. Why? Because my acting out would have made me look small and unprofessional. I contacted the journal and let them know of the inaccuracies and besides apologizing profusely, they ran a correction. Lesson, if your book is reviewed by a team or organization and there are inaccuracies, then it is okay to contact the organization and have the issues corrected. Most of the time the organization will correct the error because they do not want to risk losing credibility, but there are times that they don’t make the change and it will annoy you, but don’t worry about items out of your control. For example, there is, actually WAS, another prominent review magazine that reviewed one of the books that I edited. The name of a city was in the title of the book. The book was not set in that city. The reviewer of this magazine had the setting for the city wrong (she said it was set in the city that was in the title) and other items wrong. Needless to say, the magazine was contacted and they chose not to print a correction. This WAS a popular magazine at the time but saw a sharp decline in sales and not only because of more online business. They lost credibility because word got out that they weren’t reading the books that they were reviewing. Readers aren’t stupid. When the reviews have serious inaccuracies, the reader knows what’s up and will not trust reviews from that source.

Okay, so what about reviews from individuals? This can be extremely tricky. EXTREMELY, because you don’t want to look as if you are attacking the reviewer for his/her opinion. Most of the time I say let it go. We will all have bad and or inaccurate reviews from time to time. But if you can’t let it go, only comment on items that aren’t subjective. For example, the reviewer who had the setting for the book in the incorrect city (and also state, but that’s a different matter). I’ve had reviewers angry because my book wasn’t interracial (though the cover clearly showed a Black couple). I’ve had reviewers say a book that had part of its setting in Cuba was actually in Mexico. I know it will be hard, but try your best to let it go. In all of the reviews I’ve been through, I’ve only commented on one about an inaccuracy, and I only did that because it was one of the first reviews for the title. Looking back, I wish I had let that slide because in the big scheme of things, that error didn’t really matter enough to point out.

Now let’s move onto subjective material. I love lemons and would rate them five stars. My cousin hates them and would give them a zero if the rating system would let her. I love the smell of roses but there are those who believe they stink. See what I’m getting at. When you are dealing with opinions, everyone has their right to one. When you and your friends who are trying to support you go into these groups and pounce on a reviewer for his/her opinion, you are telling all readers that if you like lemons, they must like lemons also or there is something wrong with them. And it doesn’t matter that millions of people love the small of roses and there is that one person who doesn’t. That doesn’t make that one person wrong. That means that one person doesn’t like the smell of roses.

Take a step back and try to be objective. Was the reviewer being constructive or destructive? If constructive, then how can you use the reviewer’s points to help in your future writing and/or in the future rewrites for the title in question?

What about the bogus reviews placed by other authors or those out to get you? Sad, but there are authors who feel if they post negative reviews and have others post negative reviews regarding your books, this will somehow increase their sells. Let this stuff roll off your back. Readers aren’t stupid. Have faith in them.

Here we are 1000 words since this article began and the key point is when you get a less than glowing review, let it go. Do not get into back and forth with readers/authors online or even offline at events. In the long run it will hurt your credibility and future sells.

Deatri King-Bey

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25 thoughts on “Attack of the Author: Reaction To Bad Reviews

  1. 'Cilla

    I have been reviewing books for an on-line book club for 5 years. This topic hit very close to my heart. I can not tell you the number of times I have had authors contact me or the group and DEMAND that my review be removed because it was not favorable. I have had authors contact me and say “instead of saying this, can you change it to state …..” I have had authors rewrite my reviews. I have also been told that I favor certain authors over others.

    In all fairness, I try to give an honest opinion of what I thought the book was about. On occasion, I have pointed out errors but not in a way that it would demean the author or the content of the book. And most importantly, I stress that the opinion of any review is “MINE”. Fortuneately I have not been the victim of some of the smear compaigns but I have witnessed a few. They are not PRETTY. As Dee stated, it ruins the reputation and credibility of both author and reviewer. I will admit that one smear campaign by an author changed my personal opinion of her. I still read her books but I view them differently.

    I welcome all feedback on my reviews because it helps me. It gives me insight on what I may have missed when reading the book, what to look for and what readers are interested in when looking for a book to read. Those are the things I try to incorporate in my reviews.

    1. Deatri Post author

      Hey ‘Cilla, thanks for dropping by.

      I used to belong to a review team and authors would contact me when they weren’t happy with their reviews. Sometimes I would have given them a good review, and I’d still have to hear about some part they didn’t like.

      The insanity needs to stop. Granted, it’s rare that you have authors and their buddies get out of line, but when they do, it is U-G-L-Y.

      Dee

  2. Patricia

    When I first joined Authonomy.com in 2009, my novella was attacked by a group of writers. Perhaps I wouldn’t have attracted the pack, had I not acted defensive towards the first negative review, which did have some grains of truth in it. If I had kept my cool and acted professionally I could have saved myself grief. Fortunately, that was the only negative experience I had with Authonomy. And I learned an important lesson. Not to mention I rewrote that novella several times.

  3. Debbie

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a firm believer that a bad review is a *good thing* – it means your book is being read outside of your target market of Lemon-Lovers-Monthly or whatever, so you are hitting the big world out there. Some will love you, some won’t.

    I have an astoundingly bad 1* review on Goodreads. It’s so bad I love it!

    1. Deatri Post author

      I hear you, Debbie. Of course bad reviews hurt. Who doesn’t want to be loved by all, but that’s just not realistic. Thanks for chiming in.

  4. Shelia Goss

    I try not to take reviews personally. Not saying that I like negative reviews, because I don’t. I’m a writer and I’m sensistive about my stuff :) I’m also an avid reader and I don’t like every book I read so I don’t expect every reader to like mine. We all have opinions so I would never publicly go back and forth with a reviewer about their opinion.

    1. Deatri Post author

      I’m with you. I do read a lot and there are books I just don’t like. That doesn’t mean the book is bad. That means I don’t like it

  5. Carol Marlene Smith

    This is interesting to me because I just got my first review on Amazon on one of my books which is doing quite well really.
    The review was a 3 star and both pleased me and upset me. The review was well written and stated that she liked the story but she found errors.
    This is what upset me for I had edited the book many times before publishing.
    Yesterday I spent the whole day editing the book again and had to agree I found the errors. I was grateful to that reviewer because now I can upload a new and better version of my book.
    I would like to make a comment that the book has been revised and thank the reviewer for pointing out the errors found. Do you think that would be okay to do, or should I just leave it alone?

    1. Deatri Post author

      I think that would be great. You are thanking them for the constructive criticism and you took action to rectify the issue.

      GOOOOD LUCK, Carol Marlene

      Dee

  6. Jean MacIntyre

    Thanks ever so much for this information, Deatri! I just received a really negative review on Goodreads for a book that has had nothing but very positive comments on Publicbookshelf. The gut reaction – how dare you! – but I agree – not everyone likes the same books. So I’ll just ignore that one and carry on with what I love doing best – writing.

  7. Barbara Grovner

    Hello,

    A reviewer is just that…a reviewer. We are not critics. There is a difference between a review and a critique. A review can let others know whether they enjoyed the book or not. He/she can also let others know if there were too many editing issues that may have made the book difficult to read, but we as reviewers are not qualified to point out every grammatical error, and we are certainly not all professors who teach the English language. Let’s leave the scrutinizing and nit-picking to the critics.

  8. TyLeishia

    This is certainly golden! I have to share this post. Indeed you can learn from these rich nuggets…I appreciate the time you take to care in helping writers and authors understand the right way to go about handling readers upon giving their reviews. Very enlightening and good to know! Thanks so for stressing this to the hills!

  9. FormerlyFromTokyo (a.k.a. N. L. Armitage) v(^_^)v

    “I’ve had reviewers angry because my book wasn’t interracial” – I find this incredibly ironic because as I grew older I started to notice the trend of books only having one race of characters in situations where it easily could have been any race of person given that there were no cultural restrictions. I understand that people “write what they know” and perhaps in that case they may not feel they “know” what another race of person would do in a situation (sounds strange, so I’m merely theorizing), but still. Granted, I’m more into classical literature (in which omitting other races kind of makes…I don’t want to say “sense”, but…), so this only bothers me in modern-day mainstream fiction. If the story is about a person/couple and their circle of family and friends, if the story showcases particular cultural norms, okay, but in other cases, I feel like something is missing.

    Ideally, I don’t want race to be the issue at all. That’s why I’ve made it a point to either be ambiguous about my characters’ races, or only mention their races/ethnicities when it has cultural significance. Actually, a lot of my characters are interracial. The thought that has stayed in the back of my head has always been to have characters that anyone can identify with. Because in all honesty sometimes when we look for characters to identify with it starts with the character’s race. That said, I do not think that everyone in ANY particular group is the same. I think that this came to bother me more and more over time because I also love movies and I love to see diversity in film. It is, of course, up to the writer/director, but it is something that I notice. :o/ It’s almost like an unnecessary absence of diversity, which is contradictory to the real world.

  10. Krystol Diggs

    As an author it does hurt to receive negative reviews. I treat my books like they were kids. No one wants anyone talking their babies. If I fee that the review is constructive then it will help me further my along into my writing when my title comes out. But, I don’t think authors should trust reviews nowadays. I mean it’s people that get their family and friends to write them. Who says they are legit? Now, as a reader if it’s something that I don’t like in the book, I won’t comment on it in the review. Why should I? There is a saying that goes” What you eat don’t make me Shhhh..” Okay you get it. Just because I may not like something in the book and i thought it was terrible or wrong doesn’t mean that others will feel the same way.

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  12. Chaeya

    I got a negative review of my book by a reader and I left it alone, and the interesting thing was my sales went up for that day. I guess her review inadventently interested some people.

  13. David Lowbridge

    You couldn’t be anymore right. Some people will like your book and others will not. There is nothing you can do to change that. However you can change your credibility and professional image – both which are important for continued success. If you feel your book has been unfairly judged, the best thing to do is seek reviews from one of the many review blogs to counter it. If it is a good story, well written and edited professionally you will receive more good reviews than bad reviews in the long term.

  14. Pavarti K Tyler

    Well said, as a blogger, I’ve been lucky that any not so stellar reviews I’ve given have been received by the author well. I’m a hard reviewer and tend to write up lengthy critiques, but for me that’s turned into some great conversations with authors and (I hope) led them to make changes in either that book or future projects for the better. I’ve been lucky to make some great friends this way actually. Some of my 3 star reviews have led to ongoing relationships.

    As an author, my negative reviews are there, but for the most part they are either legitimate opinions or somewhat expected. Someone rating a book of mine low because they didn’t like reading about something that happens in such graphic detail is totally their right. I expected those reviews. Maybe I’ve just gotten by easy so far that no one has gotten personal.

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