Positive reviews help writers sell books. Wonderful things happen when our books receive a glowing 4- or 5-star review. The more reviews a book gets on Amazon, the algorithms do a happy dance in our honor, which means that more people see our book upon searching. With a minimum number of reviews, writers can also gain access to promotional sites like Bookbub.
But what do we do if some of those reviews are negative? Reader reviews are the most important marketing tool a writer has. How does a writer handle reviews that could potentially hurt not only her sales but her reputation?
WRITING IS A BUSINESS.
A negative review isn’t a personal attack (at least, the honest ones aren’t, which I’ll talk about in a minute). Your job, as a businessman or business woman, is to deal with the disappointment in an appropriate, professional, and productive way.
Carefully consider the review, word for word, subtext and all. Many negative reviews, when written in the spirit of honesty and genuineness, contain gems that can help authors improve their work. Don’t run from a review all because it isn’t a 4- or 5-star comment. There may be something there that your subconscious mind knew all along but that you couldn’t admit to yourself. Here could very well be your chance to grow a little bit.
The more you put your work out there, the more critics you run into. Some critics flay writers raw, others are constructive, while a few are clearly fans. You cannot write to please everyone, so you need to concentrate on your target audience.
The urge to respond to negative comments may strike you, but generally that isn’t a hot idea. If you feel you must respond, then do so in a professional and humble (or humorous) manner.
Leaving a thank you note in response to kind words about your work is great practice and can only help both reader and writer feel good. However, responding to negative reviews can be risky. Unless you’re thanking the commenter for offering points to think about or can pull it off with aplomb, defensive rebuttals can blow up in your face.
Keep in mind the spirit in which the negative review was written. Those that offer solid reasons with quotes or scenes to back them up can actually be helpful to authors. Nasty reviews that tear down the author and/or the book are not written with sincerity or honesty.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ‘TUDE.
Negative reviews or comments are a part of the writing and publishing process. Don’t let them limit or define you. Assess each one, learn from each one, and plan your next action step. You’ve gotten as far as getting your work out there, don’t let negative reviews or criticisms stop you now. Keep making it better, appreciate your fans and your loyal supporters, fight for what you want, persevere.
Loving criticism sounds pretty strange, I know, but you’re better off accepting that you will get your fair share of negative reviews than thinking you’re going to ace this quest. Accepting that you need to grow and learn will only make you a stronger writer, and you’ll more easily deal with the cruel criticism.
The difference between cruel criticism and constructive criticism is encouragement. Feedback that points out your strengths as well as the areas that need work is criticism you can use to your advantage. Not much you can do about the project in question, but seize the opportunity to make your next project shine.
YOU CANNOT WRITE TO PLEASE EVERYONE.
One person might have hated the ending of your book, but that doesn’t mean you wrote a terrible ending. Take your time with all comments that are thoughtfully written, weigh them with an open mind, ask for advice from trusted fellow writers.
Negative or positive, the reviews that are honest and worth noting will have valuable information. Even though we of the book world are bound by relationships, we aren’t doing writers much good if we write sappy reviews so sweet it makes our teeth hurt. Honest, worthwhile reviews will be professional, fair, and will back arguments with specifics and clear rationales.
When you’re faced with a review that isn’t singing your praises, read it over to see if it meets the above parameters. If it’s clearly a sabotage, then just dismiss the reviewer’s words as sour grapes. But if it’s written with a fair hand, then try to consider whether there is any merit to the criticism.
It’s never easy to hear less than lovely things about your work, but if the criticism is just, then you are also given a golden chance to do better next time.
For more information on how to handle negative reviews, check out this informative guide on Online Reputation Management, a site that educates both individuals and corporations in the best methods to protect and enhance their reputation online.
Have you received a negative comment or review? How did you handle it?