With my debut book, A YEAR TO REMEMBER, on the metaphorical “shelves,” I need to prepare for the inevitable reviews. These days, reviews are imperative to selling books. I don’t know about you, but the idea of it terrifies me. So terrified, I considered not sending out copies to reviewers.
Then I learned it’s not the professional reviewers I should worry about, but the private reviewers.
Reviews are subjective. I know not everyone will like my book. I just read a review of a book I loved that received a D rating from an online review site. It’s only one person’s opinion.
Authors need to accept bad reviews with dignity and grace. Unfortunately, not all of them do. Time and time again, I’ve read about authors responding to a bad review by leaving a comment on the website. It’s highly unprofessional and can result in a barrage of negative publicity. Even if it helps increase book sales, it will be more difficult for the publishing industry to take you seriously. Any hope of a sale to a publisher or gaining the attention of a reputable agent could be lost within minutes, simply because you didn’t act professionally.
In 2004, Anne Rice responded to negative online Amazon reviews stating they were “interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.” Additionally, she stated, “Your stupid, arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander.”
Personally, I would not respond at all. But if after time and careful consideration you feel it imperative to respond to the review, I would do it in a private e-mail to the reviewer. Then let it go!
Did it negatively impact Anne Rice’s sales? Probably not. I agree with author Shiloh Walker, who stated in her blog that if someone is interested in reading your book, negative reviews won’t matter. She believes that the “negative review may be the very thing that entices another reader to buy your book.”
I wasn’t the only one to agree with Shiloh. Inspired by her blog, GalleyCat posted a list of bestselling books with one-star reviews (See http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/10-bestsellers-with-more-than-50-one-star-reviews_b45800 ).
One-Star Reviews for Bestselling Books
1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (669 one-star reviews)
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (396 one-star reviews)
3. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (344 one-star reviews)
4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (169 one-star reviews)
5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (157 one-star reviews)
6. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich (119 one-star reviews)
7. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (118 one-star reviews)
8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (191 one-star reviews)
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (96 one-star reviews)
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (81 one-star reviews)
Feel better now? If you have negative reviews, you’re in good company.
There’s another issue involving reviews by private citizens- manipulation of book ratings. Last month, Publishers Weekly wrote an article about reviews by agents and authors commenting on citizen reviews.
Apparently, an agent worked with an author to boost the book ratings on Goodreads. The worst part? They got caught because they messaged about it on Twitter. It’s one thing to have your friends write reviews. It’s another to control your book’s ratings.
When you receive a negative review, shake it off. Use it as a learning experience. Writers are artists with sensitive souls who bare their souls on the page. But when that writer publishes her book, she’s entered an industry. The book changes from art to business. In every business, there are rules. If you want to succeed, you need to play by those rules.
In the meantime, use the hurt and anger you feel from the negative review and write it in your next book. Success is the best revenge!