Search This Blog

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dealing with Reviews

I have a confession. I'm not keen on what it appears most people think is great fiction. Oh, I'm sure our paths will cross. Sometimes what is at the top is also something I enjoy. But I find many times when the writing community votes a short story or novel at the top of their list, whether it be a contest or someone's list on a blog, eight times out of ten I will find the story boring and not worth my time. Or maybe it will be just okay for me, but certainly not something I'd list as highly entertaining or moving me to an emotional reaction.

But that says more about me than anything. What it does say is that what I find appealing, interesting, exciting, is often not going to be what most people find appealing, interesting, and exciting. Next to big authors, many may feel my work pales in comparison. And because of that, it means my writing will, for many, not be that "impressive." For those who like an interesting plot, and/or interesting characters, I would hope what I write fits the bill. But if you're looking for prose that in and of itself is astounding, I'm probably not that author. I have my moments, mind you, but that's not what I find important in writing a story. And if my writing improves in that regard over time, great. But that is just icing on the cake, not what I'm primarily shooting for. I simply want to tell a good, fun, entertaining, and hopefully in some manner, meaningful story.

What this means is that I'm naturally going to have reviewers read my work and have negative reactions. Each reviewer has their pet peeves, those things that bother them. Each reviewer will have a different idea of what is trite, what is impressive, and what is boring. There's no way I'm going to please all of them. And no writer will, for none of us are perfect. There are stories that people praise with glowing reviews, but when I read them I'm bored to tears and I wonder what on earth people are gushing about.

Due to my last post on a review I received that wasn't an enthusiastic endorsement of my work, I felt it would be a good time to review how we as authors deal with reviews, especially negative reviews. Here are my suggestions.

1. Whatever you do, if you receive a negative review, don't go badmouthing the reviewer. Sure, maybe he/she got it wrong. Maybe it is obvious they didn't even read the book closely. Maybe they missed key elements that would have made sense of it, or they just flat missed it. Or maybe they simply don't have the good taste you'd hoped they had. Or it is also possible, just barely possible, that they have some valid points about your book that a reader would want to know about going into it.

Whatever the case, it never makes good sense to publicly try to tear down either the review, or the reviewer. For several reasons. One, it makes you look unprofessional. Two, you'll appear to wear your feelings on your sleeve, and other reviewers who are aware of that will be hesitant to review your book. Three, if an unfair negative review is out there, whatever sympathy you might have had from your readers may evaporate in seeing you on attack mode. Four, you'll burn bridges that you may later need. Five, in the heat of the exchange(s), you may hurt another person, unfairly tearing them down, and being guilty of causing them to stumble. Six, you'll give more publicity to the review than if you'd said nothing, and give more people reasons why they shouldn't buy your book.

Bottom line, it never makes sense to respond to a negative review. Keep it to yourself. Ignore it. Move on. The lost sales you are looking for are not here.

2. If they post a negative review on Amazon or other sales platform, where it could affect your sales, instead of violating #1 above by personally responding in defense, find reviewers who liked your work and encourage them to post their reviews on the e-store's website. Negative reviews are offset by having positive reviews, not by trying to tear down the negative reviews or reviewers. If you can't get any reviewer to give you a positive review, that could be an issue with the book itself. Learn from your mistakes and work to not make them on the next novel.

3. Just because a review says some negative things about your book, doesn't mean it is a negative review. Most reviews, if they are done honestly by the reviewer, include both positives and negatives about the book they read. What makes a negative review negative is when there are few if any positives listed. It is a subjective line, but when the negatives rise to a certain level in relation to the positive statements, it crosses over from a positive review to an unenthusiastic review. The book was decent for them, but nothing to write home to Mom about. They're not going to say to their friends, "Hey, I read this great book the other day..." But neither is it bad. It is lukewarm. Which is also bad, yes, but we need to take the review in its totality and just because they have some negative things to say, doesn't automatically make it a negative review.

As an author, I've always felt that I really want a certain amount of negative statements in reviews of my books. "What? Are you crazy!" No, being practical.

Key point #1: Reviews are (should be) written to benefit the potential reader, either to recommend a book or warn them of a book they'll regret buying.

While a good review is a good marketing tool for authors, they are not primarily written to market the book. Or they shouldn't be. But when a review has only good things to say about a book, it comes across to the reader as just that, a review written to sell a book, not to tell them whether they would really like it or not. Such reviews many readers will ignore or give only passing weight to in their decision to buy. It takes a large number of all positive reviews to convince the potential reader that this book is that good.

But if you have a review that list whatever negatives are there as well as positives, and mentions the types of people who will most likely enjoy the book, that is a review the potential reader will give more weight to. They feel because the reviewer is telling them the negatives, which they know most all books will have as no book is perfect, it means they are not acting as sales representatives but as fellow readers who want to give the reader honest information so they can make a decision whether this book is right for them. When the reader perceives that such a review is in that category, they give much more weight to the recommendations of that reviewer than they would several wildly glowing reviews that gush all over the place.

A review with some negatives in it is worth more in sales than the review that only has positive things to say about a work, except in the case when a specific reviewer known for his honest reviews does give a glowing review. Now, like most authors, I love the latter types. I want to hear that people adore my writing and my stories. I don't mind a little gushing. But I know those reviews, while they may stroke my ego, are not the best for sales or helping the reader to know whether my book is right for them.

Those are my top three things to be aware of when you get what you perceive to be a negative review of your book. What are other pitfalls to avoid when getting a negative review?

No comments:

Post a Comment