Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Handling a bad review

How many of you have roamed Goodreads or Amazon reviews before you buy a book? If you're anything like me, you always read a few reviews before you make that purchase. Have you ever seen a horrible, awful, plain nasty review? I have. Have I ever written one? No. Have I given a book one star before? Yes. If I ever sell a book, I know for a fact I'll get some bad reviews. And that's okay. Authors have to get thick skin. It's just like getting a rejection from an agent. Not everyone will love your book.

This post is inspired by something I heard that happened on Goodreads a few weeks ago. I'm sure some of you have heard of this. An author got a bad review. One star I think, but I'm not totally sure. A friend of said author defended the author of the book and slammed the reviewer and her review. Then another author got involved and slammed the reviewer as well. Book bloggers and authors got into it. A whole reviewer/author battle broke out and I'm sure feelings were hurt, reputations were damaged and it turned out to be a huge mess.

Now I'm not a confrontational person. Like, at all. I avoid it at all costs. If someone ever gives me a bad review, I'll take it. It may hurt, but I would never ever attack that reviewer personally. It was their opinion. That's all. Not everyone likes the same books I do. I see bad reviews for books I love and great reviews for books I hate. It's part of the business. One book will not be for everyone. You know what I mean? Take it for what it is. An opinion. Don't freak out at the reviewer and go read some happy awesome reviews to make yourself feel better. :)

How would you handle a bad review? Or if you're already published, how have you handled a bad review if you've gotten one?

32 comments:

Cassie Mae said...

I'm not a confrontational person either. Usually have a major anxiety attack when people start debating around me, lol.

And I've had people who weren't thrilled with my work and were a little less than pleasant about it, but I took it. I leaned on people I knew who would smack me out of my insecurities about it. And I remembered that I love it. :)

Patti said...

I don't think it would help anything to say anything. Like you said everyone has a different opinion and different tastes. Books I like, others don't and vice versa. Being an author requires a thick skin.

Carol Riggs said...

I would hope if I ever get a published book someday, I'd realize all those reviews are simply people's opinions! I've been amused reading reviews on Goodreads lately, and come to the conclusion that YES, definitely people are all over the place as far as what they like. Hopefully that will temper my reaction if I get bad reviews!

Ru said...

I'm a pretty confrontational person, but I would keep my mouth shut in that situation. A critical review either presents a meritorious point of view or it doesn't. Readers should figure that out on their own. People, especially writers, are too quick to think that either a critic is too dumb to get their work, or that people reading a review are too dumb to get that the critic is off base. I hope that if I'm published someday, I have the sense to take good criticism and ignore the bad.

Jessica Salyer said...

You’re absolutely right; everyone has different opinions and are entitled to those opinions. I understand getting poor reviews, that is part of the business. Not everyone is going to like my book. In fact, there might even be people that hate it. (Well maybe just one and I'm sure they'll have really bad taste.) However, people do not have the right to be mean about the reviews that they leave.

1000th.monkey said...

Personally, I'm against spreading negativity, because it usually just feeds on itself... like the situation you mentioned.

I don't use Goodreads and if I was published, I doubt I would go out seeking reviews.

I'm not swayed easily by other people, and while, yes, it's always great when someone likes something I've written, I know I'm not going to change my writing to try to please other people, 'cause you can't please everyone.

When I see reviews trashing or extolling one book or another, I tend to look for middle-ground opinions. I also try to buy books that I've read a page or two of the text (Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature) because sometimes, I would never think to pick up a book due to the subject matter, but I will if I'm won over by the writing.

Jessie Humphries said...

Now my curiosity is going wild. What did the reviewer say? Something personally nasty (like people do about Stephenie Meyer all the time)? I don't like that.

Cynthia Lee said...

I've read some truly nasty and horrible reviews online before but I've never written one. And I never will, most likely.

If someone were to ask me for my opinion of a book, I would give it honestly. If no one asks (and no one does, generally) than I keep my opinion to myself.

I honestly didn't care at all for the Twilight books but I've been appalled by some of the things that are said about Stephanie Meyer. Some of the criticism I've read of the books I agree with and it's intelligent and thoughtful criticism but there's no call for sheer nastiness towards the author. After all, she's probably a nice enough person.

Maggie said...

I've never got a out and out maliciously mean review. (Please all of you don't rush out and write one now just for spite). But I have gotten negative ones and I actually look for the points of truth in them. If the writer says my characterization was good but my plot was so-so, I can nod my head and say "yes, I need to work on that more for next time."
If the review were simply just mean, I would just disregard it as someone taking out a really bad day on me. (Even though I know it would be hard to forget).
I would NEVER EVER get in a review/comment battle. That is very embarrassing for all involved. However if I saw a FRIEND had written me a nice review, I might email them privately and thank them.

Cristina said...

I don't write negative reviews. If I don't like a book, it really means nothing.. I would never put someone else's work down, they've worked hard to get where they are.

But if I love a book? I'll shove it in everyone's face, LOL

I hope if I'm ever published, I'll have iron for skin! and let the bad slide off...

Nick Wilford said...

I agree that you have to have a thick skin and no doubt if I ever publish a book I will get bad reviews. If so, I would prefer if they contained constructive points but if not, c'est la vie. I wonder if the author got her friend(s) to weigh in on her behalf, or if this was done without her knowledge? I'd be pretty annoyed and embarrassed (and having words with my friend) if they tried to stick up for me in this way!

Jenny S. Morris said...

I'm like you and so not confrontational. I always make my hubby do anything that might require a back bone, LOL.

I've never given below a 3 star review. If I don't like it that much, I'm not going to review it at all.

And, my curiosity is totally peeked about this situation. So not cool.

S.P. Bowers said...

I have to admit I stay away from reviews. I get book recommendations from people/bloggers I know (in person or through the computer) and respect.

Angela Brown said...

I haven't received a review, not yet pubbed, but I did participate in an online group where people could crit or give you advice on how to improve your sample. I got one review one time where the guy went on and on about how I wasn't JK Rowling and that I never would be her and that I don't write like her and her writing was unique and on and on...but nothing about my story. I mean, yeah, I'm not JK Rowling. Glad for her success but I'm not her. My writing shouldn't be hers.

I was floored.

It was the first really bad reaction I'd gotten to my writing. I didn't respond to the person, but we did have the option to reach out to the site operators, which in this instance I did. My concern wasn't that he did or didn't like what I wrote, my concern was his lack of following the policies set by the site. I never understood why he got his undies in a twist. But, responding directly to him was out of the question. I knew it wouldn't help me and certainly wouldn't help him.

So now that I've had a chance to be skwered, I know NOT to respond to negative reviews. There are people who won't like it and I'll just have to deal with it.

Angela Cothran said...

I think there is enough negativity in the world without adding to it. I also think there is a tactful way to say that you don't like a book. And I don't think so highly of my own opinion to think that maybe I'm wrong about a book or a writer.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

By keeping very still. Worst thing an author can do is protest, especially in public. It usually bummed me out for a day or two, but something always lifted my spirits again.

Alex Cavanaugh posted a list of really positive ways to respond to bad reviews today with samples of his own bad reviews. Brave man!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Interesting, Diane! I'll have to check it out!

Stephanie McGee said...

I think that if I ever get there I'll just have to do my darndest to ignore it. Nothing you can do about it so why worry about its existence?

JEFritz said...

I hope I'd ignore it. A lot of times, people post things like that because they CAN. Plus they get a lot of attention for it and can remain virtually anonymous. There's no point in engaging them.

Meredith said...

I totally have your philosophy. Bad reviews are just part of the job, and I would never try to attack a reviewer just for expressing their opinion!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think the best advice I've heard is to not read reviews. AT ALL. Sure, the good ones are nice and can make you feel like Wonder Woman... but then they also make you feel you have to perform like Wonder Woman. Then the whole defeated perfectionist thing happens and you can't seem to write and badness ensues and there you go. Stay away. :)

Megan said...

There is a teeny part of my brain (very, very small) that knows in some ways it would be better if I were never published at all because I would read every review even though I KNOW doing so is such a terrible idea. I would never get into a battle with a reviewer, but oh lord I can imagine my sister lighting up the internet when I get bad reviews (and of course I would, everyone does).

Melanie Jacobson said...

I commented on someone's 1-star review of my book. But it turned out to be a really positive experience, which is what I intended it to be or I never would have commented. In general though, I've seen lots of examples where this has gone really poorly and no examples where engaging with a bad review has gone well.

Jolene Perry said...

I don't star books if I want to give them less than three, and I usually don't have a lot to say.

The thing is - I see SO many one-star reviews where people have put some serious amount of time into their one-star review.

Really??
You hated it so much that you wasted an hour of your life pulling quotes from another book?
Or in another case i saw a one-star review where the reviewer put huge spaces between each line of text so that her review was HUGE.

WHY????

Can't we all just get along . . .

What's funny about the whole mess, is this:

When you get out of high school and go to college you think - awesome. People will act their age.
And they don't.
And then you start your "real" job after college, and think - now I'm dealing with professionals, and they'll act like it. And they don't.
My husband went to law school and thought - NOW, surely people will act mature, and responsible . . .
And they don't.
And then Mike started working as a lawyer, and the petty crap that he sees attorneys arguing over makes him crazy.

Also.
I'm long-winded and may use this as a blog post in some future date . . .

Megan @ Reading for Refuge said...

You know I'm not scared to speak my mind! I have given bad reviews before- if I don't like a book, I'm certainly not going to pretend I do. Funny story though-- I gave a book a bad review and the author contacted me about it, wanting to chat about the book and why I felt the way I did. Since it was the first in a series, I told her I'd read the second and let her know my thoughts. Not only did I love the second AND third books in the series, I also made a great friend. We've been emailing back and forth for months, so not all bad reviews lead to Goodreads freak-outs. Sometimes they lead to a great friendship! :)

Sierra Gardner said...

My mom always said you never regret being gracious. I've had a couple of people not like my stuff and I take their suggestions, look for the things that will help and forget about the rest. If a reviewer decides to be vitriolic, the best thing you can do is refuse to respond.

Ruth Josse said...

If I got a bad review I would take a like a man. Then go hide in the corner. And then come out looking like Gandalf the White because I've just been through fire and I'm better for it. :)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Ah ha ha! Ruth, this is why I love you! :D

Samantha said...

I completely agree with you! There is no rule that constitutes what is a "good book" and what is a "bad book." We only have our opinions. As a writer, if you have to take it all in stride.

Madeline Jane said...

People always say write for your audience, right? Well, if someone doesn't like your book, they're not a part of your audience. It's not your fault they read a book that didn't satisfy their tastes, now is it? Great post. :)

Nicole said...

It definitely wouldn't help to respond with any comments of my own. I might cry/whine/yell with my friends...but not publicly.

If parts of the review were legit, I might even try to incorporate some suggestions into my next book, to make it stronger.

Melanie Fowler said...

I'll let you know in about a week....

But in the past when I've read it to my hubby. I know that I start to feel down and start thinking that I'm a terrible writer and that my story is crap.

Then I make him give me lots of hugs and I feel better.

THe best advice that I've recieved about reviews. Is to look it over or hear it out. THen the NEXT DAY start fixing your novel. Don't do it the same day as your critique.