Why I Love Negative Reviews and How to Help Your Fellow Authors When They Get One by Melinda B. Pierce

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Welcome to Melinda Pierce, author and blogger, on getting negative review and what to do about it!

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No, I’m not a negative person by nature, so when I say I love negative reviews I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. For this post I’m talking about turning a negative into a positive.  Think glass half full with your choice of drink.

I think we’ve all seen them, and you may follow some of them even looking forward to the next entertaining review.  By “them” I mean Ms. Snarky reviewer from Goodreads holding on to a 2.5 or below average rating for reviews, or the Amazon drive-by Mr. Meanie who leaves a scathing one paragraph review for almost all the books he reads – in genres he obviously hates.

It makes you wonder, if they aren’t reading for the enjoyment – just what are they reading and reviewing all these books for?

My best guess is they do it for the same reasons we sit down and pour our hearts out on the page for our novels.  They crave to be noticed for writing something entertaining, and unfortunately, those that follow their words as gospel are some who still enjoy sitting at the head table with the mean girls. Like in high school, when you see your friend pushed down by a mean girl your first reaction is to stand up for them. Retaliate. Leave a comment for them letting them know they are not as cool as they think they are.

I’m here to tell you that mindset is the worst possible way to handle a bad review for your author friends.

Each author has a process for handling their own bad reviews. They gripe to spouses, friends, co-authors, critique partners, writing groups, and writing loops.  They eat chocolate, cry in the tub, or down a glass a wine (or three). Some don’t read reviews while others respond to the reviewer defending their work, and I think you’d have to live under a writing rock to not see how that has backfired on more than one poor soul. But what happens when it’s not your work garnering the negative attention, but an author friend?

If you are like me, then you may feel vicariously offended, and if you are a critique partner of said book, sometimes responsible or defensive.

True story – a couple of years ago in my tight knit critique group of seven, a fellow author pointed us in the direction of a review of her newest release that can only be categorized as hateful. It was by a Ms. Snarky (not real username) on Goodreads with a low rating. This girl lived for putting down books she was getting for free from NetGalley. Worse than the review, her followers were thanking her for saving them from buying said book – just based of her full of snark review.  Our group knew the book, loved the book, and had lived the book with our critique partner.  We were enraged on her behalf, and started posting and plotting on a way to hit her hard. I’m talking A-Team tactics here, and embarrassingly enough I was leading the way on ideas.

Lucky for us, our critique partner stopped us cold. While she did want us to share in her misery and trash talk the audacity of this gal in private, it would be unprofessional of us to respond in any way to this reviewer or the review.

And with that enlightening comment from our level-headed CP comes the author brand/marketing tie-in – it would be obvious that we were supporters commenting on her behalf and it could possibly reflect negatively on her author brand.  It could result in follow up discussions that could bring in to question how she herself handles reviews, and possibly cause her other books to be reviewed by this Ms. Snarky with similar results and missed buys.  It simply wasn’t worth the possibility of tarnishing her image as a professional author. That only covers her author branding.  We were also risking our own. It’s a small world between reviewers and authors, and people have long memories.

So, what were we to do? Absolutely nothing.  Seems obvious, right? Well, I like to take it a step further than nothing. I like to buy the book, read it, and enjoy it.  If you are a person who likes to review and post those, then you can also post an honest review as payback.  That’ll show them.  Believe me, it really will. The reviewers look at other reviews too. After all, you just became their competition.

But there’s one more step I like to take when I see a negative review of a fellow author – and this is really the reason I love them.  I like to turn it into a learning experience. Especially, if it is for a critique partner and I can turn it into a study of craft. If the reviewer made comments about how the hero was a male chauvinist who acted like a cave man, I can reflect on that specific issue while reading and play devil’s advocate.  Is it a valid comment or just a matter of taste? Or is Ms. Snarky against all strong alpha heroes and by her hating on this hero, does this mean the author has done his/her job making the hero alpha enough to stand out?

See my point now? There are many different ways to look at a negative review for your fellow authors without letting it crawl under your skin. There are plenty of negative to turn into positives, and all the while keeping a professional image.

So, tell me your stories. Have you fumed over your author friends reviews that have come from those holding a mean girl status?  A critique partners? How did you handle the situation?

Thanks for stopping by, and always Happy Writing!

Melinda

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Melinda PierceMelinda B. Pierce is an author hobbyist, mother of two, and self-proclaimed trophy wife – although her husband defines her as being more high maintenance than anything else.  When she has time she writes in almost every sub-genre of romance and refuses to follow the path of most resistance.  Connect with her on Twitter @MelindaBPierce

 

 

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4 Responses

  1. Georgeann Swiger says:

    My debut novel comes out in November. I am expecting to get a few negative comments. Even best selling authors are plagued by people wanting to bash their books. I often wondered why some people seem to enjoy being so negative and hateful with the reviews they give. Your article gave me a new prospective. I do agree there are people who revel in being the “mean girl”. It must give them a feeling of power. I just hope I have many more readers and reviewers who fall in love with my story and find it worthy of a good review. I think that will soften the blow of the haters.

  2. Frustrated GR author says:

    This article is so spot on correct in the best way to handle negative reviews. What is harder than a negative review is a negative rating where they leave no review. I recently had a goodreads “person” leave me a 2 star rating on my book because she didn’t win a book in the giveaway. Although, every review I had was 5 star this one little act of vindictiveness dropped my book rating to 4.2 stars. Very frustrating, since authors do not choose the winners of the giveaways. Yes, I know 4.2 is still a decent rating, but if rating of 2 stars dropped it that much is it worth all your hard work to risk it on hosting another giveaway? These are hardcover books where the author must also provide the shipping, not a free ebook they downloaded. I am wondering how you and our fellow authors feel about those situations when they happen. Of course, I hosted another giveaway not willing to be cowed, but it does not make the frustration any less knowing it could happen again.

  3. Jane Riddell says:

    Interesting post. My learning from the two reviews I’ve had on my recently e-published book (Water’s Edge), is to focus on the content and not be too hung up on the number of stars awarded.

  4. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for stopping in with your comments.

    @GR – this might be the time to review the policies on Goodreads about reporting review abuse. This is something that I didn’t discuss above. I believe you are always within your rights to have whoever – Amazon, B&N, Goodreads – monitor reviews that are not actual reviews and ask them to be removed.

    But, if you were just “star bombed” and it sounds like you may have been, I think readers are going to pass by this type of review and look to those who took the time to place comments.

    I like contests 🙂 I’ve won a number of books from them, so don’t give up on them just yet. Not everyone comes back to leave a review, but they do tell their neighbors, book clubs, moms, sisters and others about books they’ve won and enjoyed. Don’t discount the power of word of mouth. I think it is mightier than any stars.

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