This post is aimed at authors, whether you’re e-published, self-published, NY print published, or any other type of published.
If you have a book available to the public, it’s almost impossible to avoid seeing reviews. They show up under every online product page, in your Twitter or FB @replies, in link notices on your website, in your inbox, in magazines, or in comments on your blog. First I’ll say that all the above is a good thing. The more your books are talked about, the better chance you have to reach new readers. Even bad reviews are inherently good because again, it’s people talking about your book(s). Plus, what Reader A may have hated could be Reader B’s favorite thing, so bad reviews also sell books. The internet has, in my opinion, really helped level the playing field. Authors aren’t totally dependent on a push from their publisher to get the word out about a book – or on shelling out a lot of money. For example, can’t afford to go on a ten-city tour to promote your release (and few of us can!)? Then do a blog tour. It’ll probably reach the same, if not more, number of readers, but it won’t cost you anything except your time. Feel like your publisher didn’t send out enough copies of your books to review sites? Get a list of popular bloggers who read your genre and ask if they’d like to receive a copy of your book. Or host giveaways on your own blogs and politely request – don’t demand – that the winners post a review when they’re finished reading.
In short, the internet = win when you’re talking about increased exposure for your books, no matter how you’re published.
Of course, the internet can also be dangerous if you don’t treat it with respect, because once you say something online, it’s there forever. Deleting it won’t matter, there’s caches and print screens available to immortalize your words. So as mentioned above, even if you don’t actively seek out reviews of your book(s), they will find you. We all know that a review is only one person’s opinion. We also know that no book will please 100% of readers, so not all reviews will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Some might leave you downright mad, in fact. I think everyone knows that.
So why do some authors still go publicly batshit over a bad review?
It might just be wrong place, wrong time. I’m sure if most of us think back over the jobs we’ve had, at one point we’ve done or said something stupid, usually precipitated by having a really bad day. It happens. But even though the occasional professional blunder may be understandable, it still has consequences. For authors who aren’t careful with what they say online, the consequence can be readers thinking, “Wow, Author A is an ass. I don’t want to spend my money on his/her books.” Or, in some cases, an editor/agent thinking, “Wow, Author A is completely unprofessional . Maybe I should reconsider taking on his/her manuscript*.”
Reviews seem to be the biggest trigger in authors losing their cool online. I’ll be the first to admit that negative reviews can sting. Please don’t tell me all the reasons why they shouldn’t – the logical part of me already knows why they shouldn’t. But at times, Logical Jeaniene is asleep and Crazed Jeaniene is at the wheel, heh. Or sometimes Logical Jeaniene is at the wheel and negative reviews can still sting. Hearing “this was the worst book I’ve ever read” and having that be about a novel I’ve written just plain sucks, pure and simple. But no matter if a review is impartially worded or ends with the reader saying she burned the book out of loathing, the best response an author can give is simple: Silence.
Author Ilona Andrews sums it up this way:
What about negative reviews, the ones that make you cringe? Say nothing. Say nothing, say nothing, say nothing.
But what if they said this unfair thing…
But they brought up a really good point…
If you argue with the review, you look unprofessional. You are a weakling who can’t take criticism.
If you agree with the review, you look unprofessional. You are sucking up in hopes of future positive reviews.
You can’t win. Remember the guiding principle: if you are an author…you are not a person. You are a representative of a brand. If you have to say something, if you just can’t help yourself, say, “Thank you.” You must find your inner customer service representative, smile, and say, “Thank you so much for taking the time to read the book.”
It is really, really difficult to find that customer service representative sometimes. So if you can’t trust yourself to smile and say thank you, say nothing.
Thank you or nothing. From the business point of view, there is no third choice. (full link to post here)
After seven books, four novellas, and two short stories on the market, I’ve had every type of negative review posted, from ones that were objective and thoughtful to ones that attacked me personally and even threw in nasty comments about my family, too. Yet out of all this, I believe that saying nothing is truly the best way to handle negative reviews. Why? You can’t hurt your career by saying nothing. Have any of you heard of readers refusing to buy an author’s books because that author didn’t comment on a bad review? Or of editors/agents thinking twice about signing an author because the author didn’t start an online flame war? I haven’t, so while this method may be the least satisfying while in the heat of the moment, if you’re concerned about selling books, say nothing. At least, nothing in public. Do feel free to call your friends/family/Significant Other and rant to them, or write a scathing reply that you never, ever post, but damn, it feels good to spell out all the reasons why the reviewer is wrong, wrong, wrong! *wink* But in public, don’t comment, even if it pains you not to. From what I’ve seen, you’ll get over that pain far faster than you’ll live down an online flame war where you’re the target.
And if you have lost your cool and said something in public that you now realize was Dumb to the Tenth Power, admit you were wrong. Apologize**. You may have rinse/repeat both of those a few times, but you know what? Many people will remember the dumb thing they’ve done in the past and give you a second chance. As for the ones that don’t, well, that can’t be helped, but at least you tried. Live and learn and all that.
Personally, I recommend authors avoid reading reviews as much as possible. Reviews don’t help most writers improve their craft (nor should they; reviews are for readers, not authors) and stumbling across negative ones while everything else is going wrong with your day can leave you more likely to have a public meltdown. Reading a bunch of glowing ones might have an adverse effect, too. You don’t want to start believing your prose is flawless because no one’s prose is flawless.
Even though I avoid reading most of my reviews for the reasons I listed, I am ever so grateful they’re out there. Positive or negative, reviews are readers talking to each other about my books, something I dreamed about when I was trying to get published. Plus, most reviewers don’t get paid for their time; they do it for free because they love books, and that is very cool. So please, no one make any rude assumptions about reviewers who don’t only talk about books they like. I don’t like every movie or TV show I see, and I’ll mention the ones I don’t like in public, but that doesn’t make me a frustrated aspiring actress with an ax to grind. Following the same logic, I don’t subscribe to the theory that people who post negative reviews are aspiring authors who are bitter because they couldn’t break in. Reviewers are just people who take the time to talk about books in a public forum, and we could use more people talking about how much fun reading is, couldn’t we?
*Think this is an urban legend? Every agent or editor I’ve met has an “I would never work with Author ____” story, and it’s almost always based on the author’s behavior instead of the quality of their writing. Why burn professional bridges if you don’t have to?
**Apologies where you’re still blaming everyone else but yourself don’t count. Those just tend to tick people off, so if you can’t accept that you were at fault, don’t bother to apologize. It’ll be obvious that you don’t mean it.
Mirrored from Frost Light.