It happens to every author eventually. You may have your name or book titles set up in Google Alerts to monitor publicity, and a link appears to a review of your work. Nervous and excited to know somebody actually took the time to buy, read, and review your book, you click through to read but your spirit soon plummets. Somebody has indeed read your book, and not only didn’t like it but decided to let the world know why.
Seeing a less than glowing review of your book can prove frustrating. What author wants to associate a one or two-star rating with a work he/she has spent months, even years, crafting to perfection? One has to admit, too, that such a review looks like a blemish on a sales page, and if you have been the recipient of a bad review you might wonder how you should respond. Here follows two of the best methods of handling this situation:
1) Respond in the comments of blog or sales page: “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my work.” Then move on with working on your next book.
2) Do nothing. Move on with the next book.
That’s it. Oh, you may be tempted to fire off a scathing rebuttal, or vent via Twitter about how the reader obviously didn’t “get” the book, or recruit friends and family to vote down a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble so other readers won’t see it, but let me give you this one piece of advice – don’t.
As an author, you need to think before you act. How you carry yourself off and online could affect how well your books sell, perhaps more than a mediocre review. When you fly off the handle and berate somebody for their difference in opinion and/or taste, you risk not only the loss of that reader (who may actually buy your next book to give you a second chance), but the loss of more sales now and in the future. It is important to remember the following:
1) Reviews are for readers. Yes, you can use the most glowing praise for promotional purposes, but readers write reviews to let other readers know what they think. When you see reviews as a written favor to you, you may be more inclined to explode at a bad one, and that is unwise.
2) Reviews are not to be taken personally. It is important not to view a bad review as a personal insult. A reader who gives low points on your book isn’t necessarily judging your ability to write. Negative reviews may not be linked to quality of writing, either – a reader may not have found the story compelling, despite your knack for good dialogue. If you can take anything from a negative review, it is that you provoked somebody to write about your book.
3) Even bad reviews can help. You must always remember that reviews are subjective – one person’s opinion. Consider a book or movie you recently enjoyed: did a friend not like it? Chances are a reader will see something in a negative review that will inspired him/her to read your book anyway.
4) Nobody escapes criticism. Stephen King, JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, and even Shakespeare have had their share of thumbs down.
For an author, the worst type of review is the one that is not written. The next time you find low marks on your book, just shake it off and take something constructive from the experience. Keep writing!
Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with several fiction publishers. She also specializes in articles on social media writing.