I remember the first ‘bad’ review I got for my first book. It was 2-star review on Goodreads, and I was angry, upset and lots of negative emotions. How dare someone think that! Of course, now I have moved on, and I realise it is just one reader’s views, nothing more, nothing less.
My point is – for new writers a bad review feels terrible. Someone who doesn’t care how much time you spent writing, what sacrifices you made etc. Correct – the reader doesn’t give a damn about that. He or she just wanted a good experience with the book they spent money on. If you go to a restaurant and order a meal, it arrives and it’s not what you expected, or you think it’s too cold, or too hot, or has garlic in then you will complain. You don’t care that the chef has a headache, or his car broke down on the way in. You want a nice meal. It’s the same principle.
I have a mix of ratings on my books from 1 star to 5 stars, some great comments and some… less than great comments. The books I write are NOT mainstream. Light Beyond the Storm features violence against women, murder, sex, slavery and other contentious topics. I’ve been told it can be difficult to read. Am I going to change it? No. The issues therein are part of the story and the world of Erana: Elves are slaves, Dii (the main female character) is an Elven woman who is not only a slave but a magic user. She has no rights in that society – and her very existence is illegal. The poor girl is at the bottom of the social heap. Olek and Archos are the good guys (and I use that term relatively), but they aren’t nice. Olek is a thief and an assassin – he kills, he steals, he blackmails. Archos is a sorcerer and he deceives, he kills, he flouts the law, and he is, essentially, a crimelord. There are very few really ‘good people’ – except Dii and Ozena. I can understand why readers might be shocked by what happens, or upset by the violence. Some folks are. But then again some aren’t.
Books are a varied as the authors – everyone is different. Readers are different.
So how to deal with ‘bad’ reviews.
- DO NOT COMMENT – Really just don’t. It’s unprofessional, it’s likely to backfire. A few years ago there were some individuals on Goodreads who had rated a particular author’s book with a low rating and unfavourable review; said author then started bitching about these reviewers. There was name calling, trolling and general nastiness. No one came out well, least of all the author. Such behaviour tarnishes other authors (and readers) who don’t behave like that and indie author suffers.
- ANALYSE THEM – is the reader just unhappy because the story didn’t fulfil their expectations? Or are they reporting technical issues? The first you as the author can’t do much about, but technical issues can and should be fixed.
- DO NOT GO BITCHING ON YOUR BLOG – this relates back to 1. Yes, you might be annoyed or upset but venting online will not help. People forget what is said online can be deleted but not removed. By that I mean if someone sees it, then it’s ‘out there’ – it can be copied, or shared. If you feel you must vent do it privately.
- MOVE ON – pretty much every book from Shakespeare’s plays to Game of Thrones will have a bad review. It happens.
- KEEP WRITING – don’t give up. Writing is a craft, and it takes practice, and commitment. One or two bad reviews can knock your confidence – but just shrug and keep writing. Look for how you can improve – which is pretty much the same as in everything.
- DO NOT COMMENT. Yep it’s that important I am saying it twice.
There are blogs offering reviews – and they can be useful. But don’t buy a good review – it will show and many sites (such as Amazon) will remove ‘fake’ reviews. This also goes for review swaps (I read your book and rate it high if you do mine). Indies don’t have the best reputation and behaviour like that doesn’t do anyone any good.
Don’t get your mum/brother/cat to post a review. They may indeed like your work but the review will be biased. Again most review sites will remove those, and in some places, your publishing account can be revoked.
Wait. Reviews will come. Not every reader reviews.
Good reviews are nice to have, but it’s not the end of the world if they are few.
As I said in my previous article you can’t please everyone. There will always be someone who doesn’t enjoy your work, and that’s fine. Move on. Keep writing.