Monday, 27 August 2012

What to do with a negative review?

You have put your beloved book out into the world; you are going to get some people that don’t like it. That’s OK, we’re all entitled to our opinions and a few negative reviews are not going to ruin you. They are just going to help the right people find your book!

Ignorance is bliss

Many writers will say they don’t read reviews and this is a perfectly valid way to not have to deal with them. But if the marketing and publicity of your book is in your hands, it may be difficult to pretend reviews don’t exist. You may want to enlist someone who is not quick to make rash judgements to do an initial assessment on them first.

Sleep on it

Never react in the heat of the moment. You might be angry or upset at someone’s comments but that feeling will likely fade as the adrenalin leaves your body. Wait until the next day and if you still feel like you need to say something, do so in a thought out and logical manner. Authors that are courteous in their responses are much more likely to be given a second chance and also show potential readers that you’re a lovely, normal person instead of a crazed lunatic.

Make use of constructive criticism

Paying attention to what your readers think can help you make your book better. I don’t think reviewers should be acting as the role of editor, but where that crucial third party edit hasn’t happened, an aggregate of opinions can highlight the areas that really need work. Constructive criticism should be absorbed and used to make your next book better.

Change marketing

If you’re feeling that your book is being misunderstood and has landed in the hands of the wrong audience, this is a sign that your marketing needs work. Did you blanket request reviews or did you hand select bloggers that loved the same kind of books? Is your cover reminiscent of a sub-genre that’s nothing like your book? Can you change the blurb to be more reflective of the style of your writing? Did you compare it to a bestseller and leave people feeling let down by the lack of similarity?

Don’t draw attention

Really, if you don’t want people to see negative reviews, don’t draw attention to them. Pointing out that so-and-so has said horrible, mean things is going to make more people read the review and any of them with half a brain will take on board the criticism in the review. Egging on your fans to retaliate only makes you look bad and will get your fans into trouble. The network of readers online spans far and wide and we do talk to one another.

Don’t dig yourself into a hole

If you’ve made a mess of things, know when to apologise and to be grown-up enough to say you were wrong.

And remember Marmite…

Disgusting stuff but apparently half the population think it’s ambrosia. It’s still a hugely successful brand and product. We like to call books that split opinions, Marmite Books. You’ll either love it or hate it and that kind of discussion is what fuels sales. If people just read your books and go, that was good, and never mention it again, it’s going to fade away into the background. If opinions are divided, people might just read it to find out what side of the fence they fall on.

6 comments:

  1. Good advice! We've all seen authors who made themselves look ridiculous by paying too much attention to a "bad" review.

    I think the best advice it NOT to respond to a negative review. You should certainly not try and explain the book or bits from it. The reviewer has read the book in their own way and whatever you say, they are not suddenly going to like it.

    BTW a negative review isn't all bad news. I sometimes pick up a book because of something that was mentioned in the negative review. E.g., the reviewer might not like to read about relationship issues, while I do, and that's why they gave it a negative review, and that's why I do want to read it.

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    1. Yes, a review should help a reader decide if the book is for them; we don't all like the same things. That's why I mentioned the marketing and marmite. A negative review doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad book, it's just an opinion.

      I have had a few postive comments from authors on so-so reviews, so I wouldn't say never to comment, just that they do so with consideration.

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  2. I've so enjoyed reading your various how-to posts over the last few months. And I LOVE your point about Marmite. My first laugh of the day!

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  3. I love this post Ellie, I got threats from an author who didn't like my two star review and at one point I was going to give up. Then I thought why should I - some people said to expose them and the threats but in the end I just let it die down (although I did a fb page again bullying reviewers) and got some wonderful feedback from reviewers and authors.

    Great advice!

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  4. I think I would read them until I can't stand it anymore. I'd very much be a process of learning how to deal with it, as with any other thing in life.

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  5. "Marmite Books" - that's such a *perfect* description. (Tho' it would be Vegemite Books in my cultural context!) ;-)

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