All authors get bad reviews. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. While it is inevitable, it can help us all, authors and readers alike, to understand what a bad review is. Before we can do that, we must ask ourselves, what is a book review?
What is a book review?
A book review, or any review for that matter, is an opinion about a product or service. They are subjective because they are dependent on experience. No two people experience the same thing the same way. This goes for movies, classes, paintings, and even books. We try to bring some objectivity into our reviews, but at the end of the day, these are our opinions, not facts.
At the same time, book reviews can offer valuable insight for prospective readers and the author of the book. If book reviews are thoughtful and thorough they can say something about the book. So, then, what should you do if you get a bad review?
As an author – Not all reviews are created equal
Kevin just finished reading a book. Long story short: he didn’t like it much. He doesn’t know why, exactly, but he feels the need to share his experience with others, so he writes a review. In his review he shares his distaste, he says he had a hard time finishing the book and he won’t be reading more from the author, but it is what he doesn’t say that is more important. Why doesn’t he like it?
I Got a Bad Review, Now What?
We wish we could attribute this message properly, but we cannot find where it originated. If you know, comment below and let us know. It goes something like this:
There are only four types of reviews. There are smart-good reviews, ignorant-good reviews, smart-bad reviews, and ignorant-bad reviews. As author you should only pay attention to three of these kinds of reviews.
Smart-good reviews can tell you what you are doing right. They can bolster your confidence and help you move forward. Ignorant-smart reviews too can bolster your confidence. It helps to know that people like your work. As well, smart-bad reviews can offer insight into areas where you can improve as a writer. Believe it or not, no one is perfect, and bad book reviews can help you improve no matter how great you are. After all of that, however, authors (and readers) have no reason to read an ignorant-bad review. It will deal a blow to your confidence without providing any constructive feedback. In the end, it is the equivalent of a slap in the face without an explanation.
As a rule of thumb, longer reviews tend to be more insightful. If you see a 1-2 star review on Amazon and it looks like a flimsy paragraph at best, don’t bother reading it, it won’t do you any good.
As a reader – Make your voice count!
Now, if you’re reading this, you have likely written a review before. If you’re worried you’re writing ignorant reviews, here is some advice. Take some time to gather your thoughts. If you don’t like a book, know why you didn’t like it. Could it be the character development? Are there too many errors for your taste? Maybe it just isn’t your kind of book. If it’s the character development, mention it in your review. Are there errors? You should mention spell check. If it’s not your thing, mention that, say what you expected so that other readers don’t expect the same thing. A review is more than a thumbs up or down, its a service to authors and readers alike. Do your best and provide pertinent information. If you can’t do that, then maybe you weren’t invested enough to offer a valuable opinion in the first place.
When Should I Give a Bad Review?
Did you not like the book (or product)? If you don’t like something, and can articulate why you don’t like it, then give it a review. It’s that simple. Honestly, indie authors want your reviews, good or bad. A insightful bad review can give an author insight into ways to improve. Don’t be afraid to give your honest bad review. Keeping that information to yourself only keep the author from receiving feedback on their work. They want and need that feedback for future endeavors.
When Should I Give a Good Review?
Did you like the book? Give it a good review. If you can articulate why you liked it, all the better. Now, you may notice a discrepancy here. This kind of policy favors good reviews, and there is a good reason why. Bad reviews do much more harm than good reviews. Bad reviews can do damage to a book’s reputation, an author’s reputation, and perhaps more importantly to the author’s self-esteem. Authors are an introverted bunch. Criticism hurts them, especially when it is something they have spent a lot of time on, perhaps their life on perfecting.
People don’t remember the thousands of compliments they receive, but they do remember every little piece of criticism along the way. Therefore, if you are going to be critical in your review, you need to make it count. There is no point to needless cruelty. By providing feedback, your doing a service to the author and potential readers. However, if you offer nothing constructive, you are doing a disservice to everyone.
Now go out and give some reviews!
Great post. Writing reviews is an art all of itself. I had to learn how to do it.
And it’s really a shame that reviews are becoming so important in today’s marketplace, but customers (and readers as well) often don’t have a thought about what they’re writing.
I love this post but I’d point out that bad reviews don’t necessarily mean the author’s work was “bad” or “needs improvement.” Plenty of Pulitzer or Booker Prize winners have smart-bad reviews, where the reader simply didn’t like the way the author crafted the novel, or the subject matter, etc. There’s also subjectivity: for instance there are fantasy novels where half the reviewers thought the world-building was well done and the other half thought it was lacking. Smart-bad reviews do authors a service by helping shape the book’s market. If someone didn’t like a book because it contained graphic violence or had a sad ending, that’s not necessarily something the author should change, but it is still valuable, because it may draw as many readers to the work as it drives away.
We absolutely agree! When the reader articulates why they don’t like a book, then it provides valuable information. As well, there is an unfortunate subjectivity to reviewing. What some people like and appreciate, others do not. Telling prospective readers why you do, or do not, like a book helps them decide whether or not they will like/appreciate it. All we ask of anyone is that they do their due diligence when reviewing. Information is power!