Friday, December 19, 2008

What To Do When You Get a Negative Review

The following article is reprinted with permission:

Suck it up.

Alright, it’s not that easy, but the basic point is, if you’re going to put your book out there, you have to be able to take whatever comes back. This means the good AND the bad.That doesn’t mean you have to like a negative review, but you can’t last in this kind of business without developing a thick skin.

It’s not easy for us, either, because we love our authors and their books. The times we’ve had negative reviews arrive I can recall that sinking heart feeling - I know physically that’s impossible but it sure feels like something is sinking - as I read a review that doesn’t love the author’s book the way we do.

But that’s life, not everyone is going to “get” your book, or agree with the way you’ve chosen to present the topic. After my heart stops pounding, I’ll take a deep breath and re-read the review to determine what the reviewer didn’t like and what message I’ll want our author to take from it. That message varies; sometimes, if we have an author who’s chosen to take a risk with a book, we’ll note that this reviewer didn’t get it, or simply didn’t agree with the way the author told the story.

As the author, there are choices you’ll make about how to tell the story, how much you’ll tell, how long you’ll make the book, the character’s idiosyncracies and so much more - and they are all areas in which reviewers may disagree with your choices. If you’re at peace with your book and your choices - which were hopefully guided by a good editor (and maybe even a book shepherd) - then you have to accept that others may not agree. What matters is that the review in question is professional; that the reviewer offers his or her opinion on what worked or didn’t in a factual, not personal, way.

Unless you see an error in the review, it’s best to simply accept the criticism, decide if any of it has merit, and move on. If there is an error, contact the reviewer with the correction and stick to the point. Reviewers take pride in being factual and will be happy to make the correction. If you did not like the review, it’s still good form to thank the reviewer for his or her time and leave it at that.

You most certainly do not want to spend time sparring with a reviewer. For one, it makes you look unprofessional and also ensures this reviewer will never review anything you write again. Given how difficult it can be to obtain reviews, the last thing you want to do is alienate anyone who could potentially review your books. Also, the online book community is a friendly place where book lovers network, and if you make a fool of yourself, a good portion of the book blogosphere is going to know about it.

There is a recent situation that illustrates this example, but given how hostile and unreasonable the author has become, I do not want to give that person any further attention. Suffice to say, this author’s spat with one respected reviewer has been duly noted and commented on by dozens of other well-known online reviewers, and this author is now persona non grata. Don’t let that be you.

One reason authors fear bad reviews is they feel it will hurt sales. However, there is no data to document this phenomenon. In addition, read through any book blog following a negative review and you’re likely to see commentary from others who find the very things the reviewer disliked are things that make them want to read the book. Finally, if every review of your book is positive, it may not appear balanced to people who find your book and they may wonder if your mom, dad and other beloved friends and relatives have been recruited to gin things up. Author Brenda Coulter has a blog I enjoy reading, and a while back she addressed the issue of bad reviews on Amazon. I think she sums up the issue quite nicely, so I encourage you to check out her post: Why Bad Amazon reviews aren’t worth crying over.

Posted by Paula Krapf of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Watch for my response soon...

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