On author sites, I see a lot of people saying not to respond to bad reviews (which I think is good advice), and in amongst it, occasional advice not to read reviews.
If you’re the sort to be easily discouraged or put off by a negative review, I suppose it makes sense. No matter how thick skinned you are, a bad review can make you wonder what you’re doing as an author, whether you’re in the right job, or whether you should just scrap that sequel you’re working on and go watch paint dry instead. So I can totally understand why someone would choose not to read their reviews.
However, it’s not something I can do. I check Amazon and GoodReads daily, and I read every new review. I love reading reviews, since in many cases, it’s the only contact with my readers I get. (Maybe one day I’ll start getting fan mail, but not yet.) Sure, there are some that have made me take a few deep breaths and take a break from reading, but I keep coming back for more.
Because for every bad review, there are two, or three, or even four good reviews. And while I could do without the bad, it’s the good ones that make me pick up that novel again, and get enthused about my writing. Every time someone says, “I can’t wait for the sequel,” it reminds me that I’d better get working on it! Ever time someone says, “I couldn’t put it down,” it makes me smile.
Sometimes, you have to take the bad to get the good.
I guess I might think differently if I was seeing mostly bad reviews, or even an equal mix. However, I’m not the type to bury my head in the sand. If I was getting mostly bad reviews, I’d want to know so I could do something about it, rather than continue writing in ignorance. Critique is always hard to accept, but sometimes it’s necessary to grow as a person, and as a writer.
How about you? Do you read your reviews? And readers, do you think authors should be reading what you write, or are you writing only for fellow readers?
I definitely read ALL reviews and often comment on them – although no-one seems to read the comments. Occasional bad reviews are just par for the course. You can’t please everyone…nobody can, so there’s no point in worrying.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who reads them all. And I agree, you can’t please everyone, and even the best selling novels are usually characterised by having as many bad reviews as good ones.
Hehe have you been hacking my laptop? My post today is about this, after I got another (much harsher) one-star review. Unfortunately my good reviews don’t outweigh the bad, but I’m still refusing to take it to heart. When I had my art exhibition I got lots of comments along the lines of ‘my five-year-old could do better’ and ‘wouldn’t give you a fiver for the lot’ but I also had one or two that said people were moved by my paintings, that they ‘got’ them. I used to be an apologist for my art, and my writing, but I’m trying to shrug off the negative, push my shoulders back, and say ‘you can’t please them all.’ After all, I hated Skyfall, and I imagine plenty of people would disagree with me!
Yep, you can’t please everyone. To cheer you up, take a look at the reviews on 50 Shades of Grey some time! The bad reviews are at least equal to the good ones, if not more!
I wouldn’t stress about that review, it’s one of those that people are either going to look at and go “I don’t want to read about that”, in which case you DON’T want them to buy your book, or “That reviewer is living in the clouds” and buy your book anyway. At least they were concrete in what they didn’t like!
I really need to try posting a review of your book on Amazon again. I really did enjoy it, and I think perhaps I was just a little too enthusiastic, and if I worded my review more carefully, they probably would leave it.
Maybe make it 4-stars? Lol. I tend to discount five-star reviews as written by family! Hehe. I’m amazed at how unbothered I am, actually. A bit like when the kids say they don’t want me as their Mummy anymore. Not personal (or at least only at that tiny moment…)
It’s amazing how much being a mum prepares you for being an author! That’s the best attitude to have.
I have a half-written blog post on why parenting is like being an author! Must finish it, but I keep coming up with new ideas…
I haven’t yet released a solo book. I’ve read reviews for anthologies in which I’ve appeared, and I’ve been lucky that the times I was mentioned in the reviews, it was positive. At this point I think I will read every review and try to contextualize. I’ve taken a great deal of negative criticism in peer groups and workshops over the years, which has toughened my skin a bit, and I know that no novel can please everybody. If I caused someone a negative time with my work, I kind of want to know that, especially if there’s a valid complaint tucked away in there. I’d be more likely to dismiss a review that was just an attack, just as I dismiss attacks on the fiction that appears on my blog. Writing about gay and genderqueer characters, I know I’m going to get hate mail.
I agree, John. I want to know if there is a problem with my writing! I haven’t worked with critique groups yet, but I have worked through editing comments, and some of those were hard! But they did help me grow as a writer, so I appreciate them.
I think books that tackle controversial subjects will always get more negative reviews, but sometimes one person complaining about a particular aspect of a book will be what causes someone else to buy it! I know I’ve bought books based on the negative reviews before, because they assured me that the book did/didn’t cover a certain topic.
As a reader I write reviews for other readers. I don’t write bad reviews (this coming from the author side of me) because they don’t help, either the reader or the author because reviews are so subjective. What I like someone else may hate.
Yes, reading is so subjective! Some storylines I may hate (like romances where all the hero and heroine’s problems would be solved if they would just TALK to each other), may be just what someone else is looking for. I think reviews that talk about what they do and don’t like specifically are so much more useful than ones that just say they did or didn’t like it.
And I agree, reviews are written for other readers. That’s the way it should be. I’m just peeking through the curtains as a writer.
Now, as I reader when I see a novel that I like I do read the views. This really only effects when I’ll buy the book.
I have enough sense to realize that my tastes and likes aren’t for everyone, and vice versa.
I’ve noticed that some books that I love love loved, and read reviews that gave it less stars than I would ( I’m like um did you read the same book as I, BC that was awesomeness!) and I find out that books I really didn’t care for had gotten many stars than I would hive it.
but to let someone else opinions sway you from a book purchase is you being bias.
( if its a product as for as creams, meds, electronics,ECT that’s completely different )
there are so many genres, sub genres, topics and choices that it would be difficult to keep everyone happy. I wouldn’t want a thriller reader that (doesn’t read romance) to review a romance book, that would be silly. Anyway I say the world could use a few good books, and a few bad…. Maybe practice makes one hell of a journey and possibly leads to one hell of a book.
Yes, that’s true. So much affects whether we like a book or not, from whether it’s our normal genre, whether the subject matter is one we feel strongly about, or whether we’re having a good day or a bad one!
When I see a bad review I check out the reviewers OTHER reviews (where it says ‘see all my reviews’. I then compare them all. e.g. I’ve seen some reviewers who only give 3 stars to all books they’ve read, regardless of merit.
If this is the case, I pretty much ignore their rating.
I concur! I get confused when they leave a 2star and then brag how great the book was…. I’m like ah** ok
Oh yes. I’ve seen that a lot! A lot of the lower star reviews I have on Amazon (many without actual comments) are from people who generally rate books very low. I think everyone has their own interpretation of the star system, so it can vary a lot.
One reviewer left me a very bad 1 star review for Goodbye Junie Moon on amazon. It amazed me when a bunch of readers I DID NOT KNOW jumped to my defense. One called the mean reviewer a ‘sick puppy’ and one said she was now going to buy the book just because the reviewer had been so harsh. My sales went up after that. Not only that, but I felt great to have such wonderful defenders and I also got a good laugh from it.
I really think a good controversy can help sell books! Most of the big selling books have been ones surrounded by controversy, and strong opinions for and against, so I don’t think bad reviews always are bad for sales.