Negative Reviews: Revisiting the Issue

First and foremost, you would think this topic would be very much beating a dead horse by now.  However, it seems many of my fellow authors cannot resist jumping in with their remarks on the defensive when it comes to a bad review.

I have received some negative reviews and what could I say?  I suppose I could say many things, but I think the more important question is why would I say something? 

In all honesty, I'm grateful someone would take the time to read a book by a nobody like me.  I'm not the fabulous Gail Carriger or the lovely Lia Habel or the hilarious Nicole Peeler, yet even those three ladies (just to name a few of my very favorite authors) have been castrated in reviews of their books.

Please keep in mind that a bad review is really just an example of the classic "It's not you, it's me" explanation.

Guess what?  I'm not going to read The Hunger Games.  Why?  It's not the series, it's me.  It just doesn't interest me.  Nor am I going to read 50 Shades of Grey.  Again, it's not the series, it's me.  It's just not my cup of tea. 

And what if I did decide to read either book to see if they lived up to the hype, and hated both? 

Sometimes a reviewer just cannot stand a character (or several characters), the plot, the way the book is written...  These are valid issues.  There are many books I've tried and failed to read, because I did not like one or more of these aspects.  That isn't to say the book itself is bad.  It was just a bad fit for me.  The same goes for my first husband.  He wasn't a bad guy.  He was just a bad fit for me, as a person.  I would definitely give him a negative review (roughly 1 1/2 to 2 stars). 

However, what I deem negative, others might find positive.

I feel that unless you have a chronic history of negative reviews, or a large number of reviews specifically addressing the same problem, then you need not worry about the occasional bad review.  A handful of negative reviews really ought to be expected, because not everyone is going to like your book.  These reviews tend to be from the point of view of personal preference.  Even if they do not point out any technical flaws, they definitely have merit and the reviewer's personal opinion should be respected.

Several reviews pointing out the same flaws, though, are probably a symptom of something deeper.  If you receive reviews consistently complaining about bad editing or other such issues, it's time to stop and think about what you might have done wrong.  If you published independently, did you have the book edited?  I don't mean by your best friend; I mean by someone who truly took the time to tear it apart and mercilessly point out errors.

While I am stoked about the contract for The Chronos Clock, and believe deep in my heart that it is my best work yet, I am prepared for people not to like it.  I can already imagine what they might say: the heroine is too snarky.  Covering up her pain with sarcasm is off-putting.  This or that seems extraneous...

Those things will happen.  Not every character or item in a story will appeal to every person.

So, one more time, with feeling: do not respond to negative reviews.  Read them if you must.  Learn from them if you can.  Then smile, appreciate that someone took the time to not just read your book, but say something about it, and move on. 

It's called professionalism.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

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