Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on bad reviews

Before I dive in, here's the link for my first interview as a writer. Check it out. Good stuff on there.


Now then...

You can't please everybody. That's one of the old sayings. Unfortunately, this week I picked up some proof as I got my first two 1-star reviews on my debut novel The Unknown Neighbor. Not gonna lie, that stings.

Not as much as this, though.

Now how to deal with such a thing? One popular author cites the quote above and says "Don't worry about it. I never read reviews of my work." After all, if your book actually IS good, then the good reviews will pretty much always outnumber the bad ones. Some particularly sensitive people might report it to Amazon and request the review be taken down. I've also heard horror stories of some mean-spirited authors collecting their friends and practically waging war against the reviewer, down-playing every review they've made and bombarding them with spam emails and other tactics. 

If you can't deal with people not liking your work. Quit while you're ahead. Free speech is one of those rights people seem to be particularly attached to, and if you put your work out there for public consumption, they're going to speak their mind on it. 

"But bad reviews hurt our profits!!" I hear the resulting cry. "If you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all!!" 

Suck it up. Nobody is going to make a real profit on one book, and if you have more than one book out, most likely you're not that concerned about a few bad reviews. (Now, if your book is 75% bad reviews, maybe you should just accept you've written a bad book or badly written a decent book.) I believe most of the people whining and crying about bad reviews are trying to claim to make a living off of one book. News flash, unless you wrote an automatic best-seller or hit a movie deal, (in which cases, you're unlikely to be fazed by a few bad reviews.) you're not going to be bringing in $3000 a month on one book. 

Again, I'm not going to lie, after the two bad reviews, my book has dropped in sales. Significantly. Like from 20 to 0 in the space of a week. It hurts, no bones about it. But I'm not going to whine that they shouldn't be allowed to talk about my work like that. I'm not going to start a smear campaign against the reviewers, and I'm not going to report them to Amazon calling them liars and tools. (Even though one review is a little suspicious.) 

What did I do about it? I looked up my favorite book of all time, Jurassic Park, and pulled up some of its one-star reviews. Now few people will argue it's a good book, even with its issues. But looking over its bad reviews served as a good reminder that not everyone has the same tastes in reading and what some will like about a book, others will hate. There will also be a percentage that just doesn't "get" the book as it's written. Nothing you do is going to appease those readers, and even if you wrote a book specifically for them, there would be other people who don't like your book. 

I've had this discussion on a few forums and you can't change people's minds about whether or not bad reviews should be allowed. Some people are just wusses who can't stand the idea that other people's opinion of their work could actually hold weight. Most of my views I've expressed here, I had before my book was even published and now that I am and I've gotten some bad reviews and seen first-hand the damage they can do to sales, none of its changed. 

So to sum up.

If you've written a best-seller, multiple books, gotten a movie deal, have three-times more good reviews, or you're just plain confident in your work; then you don't worry about bad reviews. 

If you're squeezing the life out of the idea that one book's worth of work (or less) can make you rich and famous; you're probably one of the ones that screams "Foul!" at every bad review. 

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

~ Shaun


  1. I think you are so right. Listen to all of the reviews and remember these are your readers. You cant please everybody but its your first book and you did a great job! Again I never expected the ending. I cant wait for the next book!!! Kelley

  2. Fabulous post. I did the same thing with my first 3-star review (haven't received any 1-stars yet... but I am bracing myself because I know they're coming... you CAN'T please everybody)... went and read a bunch of the 3-stars on Harry Potter and felt MUCH better afterwards! :)