7 Steps to Overcoming a Bad Book Review
The nightmare among authors is to get a bad review. One star reviews can be horrible. Especially the seemingly well-written and intelligent bad reviews – “seemingly” because the information is false or misleading – that kill sales. But if you just follow these seven steps, you can overcome some bad reviews.
But first, a rant.
Lately I’ve been getting several bad reviews for my thriller The Torah Codes, a Jewish version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. And it’s odd because my book used to always get four and five-star reviews.
Here’s an example of some of the reviews I received.
“The writing is stilted, the characterization lacking, and the plot predictable while still being improbable.”
“The characters are so cliched and unbelievable that you will soon find you are only reading to find out how it all ends.”
“The characters are ridiculous and without any resemblance to real people. The plot is ludicrous from beginning to end, in too many ways to even list. Suspense? How can you care after the first hundred pages of this never-ending chase?”
Oh, wait. Those above are actual bad reviews for The Da Vinci Code. Here are the bad reviews for my book:
“The plot makes no sense, the characters motivations are contrived, and the jokes fall flat.”
“I found it to be extremely boring and probably won’t read it again.”
“One of the most boring, predictable, useless books ever written. The plot had no vital juices. The characters were devoid of all emotion and energy. Even more devastating to the book is how it all ended.”
Oh, wait. Those are actual bad reviews for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Which leads me to step one of what to do when getting a bad review.
1. Look at the bad reviews of your favorite books
Go to your favorite book and read the one-star reviews there. This priceless advice was given to me by Katheryn Lane, author of Her Latin Lover, a Contemporary Romance (all her reviews are 4 and 5-star reviews except for one flatulant 1-star review). Here are my book’s actual bad reviews:
“I cannot agree with the good reviews, it was simply woeful. It was badly written with a terrible story.”
“I kept turning pages and trying to find a reason for some of the plot…it is so thin and so little character development.”
See the resemblance? Great. I’m as good as Dan Brown and Shakespeare.
2. Scoff at the review with your friends
One reviewer of my book said:
“Speaking of weird and bizarre, that ridiculous creature called Sophia, yuck. I really didn’t like that character at all. She was acting like she was demonically possessed but the characters in the story were acting like they didn’t notice this. [Author’s Note: Sophia is an epileptic and after having a seizure she is rushed to the hospital.] Nathan’s acts of ‘goodness’ have no mention of being motivated by God and yet scripture plainly tells us that; Only God is truly good. But when you belong to God, His goodness permeates through those who love Him. Nathan definitely did not have any love for God within him, so what motivated his acts of charity?”
Clearly, I offended her religious beliefs.
Though I have no intention of offending people, I am thankful that the bad review did not stem from the quality of my writing. In fact, the ability to upset a reader should actually be a compliment for writers. The worst review for a writer is hearing that the book was boring and full of typos.
3. Ask your friends to vote it unhelpful
On Amazon, you can ask your friends to vote a bad review on Amazon as being unhelpful so that it appears lower in the filter of most helpful reviews. This is not the best thing to do — I don’t think it changes much for the experience for the browsing reader — but I throw this step out there as an option. Feel free to practice on the one-star reviews listed here: http://amzn.to/TheTorahCodes.
4. Ask more people to review your book
By getting more friends, family, and people who won’t be offended by your writing to give you great reviews, the ratio of five-star reviews to one-star reviews is greater and browsing readers will respect that. It’s especially good to have reviewers who have a large online presence to review your book because their review, if posted on their blog as well as on Amazon, can promote more book sales for you.
I’m currently working on getting more reviewers to review my book.
5. Check in with your writing
This is the most important part. After you have bitched about and scoffed at the readers who left a bad review, after you have taken care of yourself and your ego, come to the review wearing an analytical hat.
What did they say that could help you improve your writing? What helpful feedback did they give?
If there are minor things you can fix that will make your story much better, consider fixing them. Then resubmit the book to your print-on-demand company like CreateSpace or Lightning Source, and/or resubmit the file as a second edition of your ebook.
It’s always good to improve your writing.
But if the bad reviewers didn’t give any helpful feedback, they can go f*ck themselves.
6. Don’t contact the reviewer
Whatever you do, don’t contact the reviewer. It’s tempting as hell to want to explain yourself. Don’t do it.
I consider myself a very tactful person when it comes to writing. I know better than to say, “You must be a robot because you clearly didn’t get the emotion Nathan felt when he got the phone call, you schmuck.”
Even saying this is bad: “I think you misunderstood what I meant in my story. What the characters think happened isn’t what really happened.” Now you’re accusing the reader of not knowing how to read.
I once sent this out to a reader who gave me two stars: “Thank you for rating my book! How do you suggest I improve my writing? I value your feedback!” I never got a response. It was wrong of me to try. Some people enjoy thrillers, others don’t. More often than not, the bad reviews will be a result of personal taste and not based off of the craft of your writing.
The biggest problem with contacting the reviewer to explain yourself is that the correspondence can quickly escalate into a fight that can be made public and hurt you even more.
So whatever you do, don’t contact the reviewer.
7. Contact the reviewer
This is actually a great suggestion by Alicia Dunams who works with helping business entrepreneurs create a book for promoting their business. She works with non-fiction authors.
What she suggests is to contact the reviewer, apologize that they had a bad experience with the book, and offer to refund their money. And, if they’re willing, they can remove the review if they want.
I think this definitely works great for business books where the buyer spends money to learn something. If they didn’t get the promised educational experience, it was a waste of money.
In the case of fiction, however, it may work differently. Some thriller readers will like my book, some won’t. Some religious people will be offended by my book and some won’t. I can understand offering to refund a reader’s money for being bored by a novel. There are no feelings attached. The book was boring, they didn’t get their money’s worth.
I’m not so sure about offering a refund to people who are offended by my book. If they already hate what my book stands for, making any further contact with them might only fuel their fire. I can just picture it now. In a revised bad review, the reviewer adds, “the author just tried to bribe me to take down my review. He is clearly the son of Satan.”
So here’s the best way to contact a reviewer. First, plan to contact only the ones that have smart, well-written, level-headed reviews explaining the flaws (typos and craft issues) in your novel. Second, fix those flaws and upload the fixed version to your distributor and book sellers. Third, contact the reviewers to thank them for pointing out the flaws in your book, offer a refund, and explain how you fixed the flaws and can send them a revised copy of the book.
Otherwise, don’t contact the reviewers.
So if you get a bad review, don’t worry. It means you’ve just joined the likes of Lee Child, Norma Roberts, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austin, and Shakespeare.
Book marketing mentor, Ezra Barany is the author of the award-winning bestseller, The Torah Codes. Contact Ezra now to begin the conversation on how he can help you. You can connect with Ezra via Facebook, Twitter, contact him through this blog, or by email: EZRA at THETORAHCODES dot COM.