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General > Advice on Dealing with Negative Reviews?

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message 1: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie Chow | 6 comments I know that other members have talked about the pros and cons of doing giveaways (both via GoodReads as well as via Smashwords, Kindle Select etc). After reading those comments, I still decided that having additional exposure was probably a good thing, so I started a promotion (I'm only on amazon.com/Kindle right now, so that's where I did the promotion).

Now, I expected that my reviews would drop a little some of my friends or friends of friends have read and reviewed my book, and I knew that those were probably a little inflated). What I wasn't prepared for was low reviews based on the "language" in my book.

Background: my book is a contemporary/women's fiction story, it's written as a letter to an unborn child, I mean, these are not happy themes. It's an adult book.

That said, I don't naturally curse all that much, and so my characters don't end up using that much profanity.

Still, within the first day, I had my first 1-star review. She titled the review "Language alert" and said that "when authors feel compelled to include four-letter words, someone needs to state that many people don't like that kind of language..."

So, okay. That you know, sucked, but I thought, well, that's one person, and that single review has 72 votes already (with 27 people saying it was helpful) so I kind of said: okay, even though I never thought about it in those terms, maybe I should have said "warning: there is some profanity in this novel"

The kicker (at least for me) is that a couple days later, I got ANOTHER 1-star review from someone who didn't even READ THE BOOK!!! He downloaded it for free (and thus it counts as a "verified purchase" and then said that he read the reviews afterwards, and now that he HAS read the OTHER 1-star review, he knows that this book is "(apparently) full of four letter words." Since he finds "that type of language extremely offensive, he will delete the book without reading it."

And I just...

I almost don't know what to do.

I'm not willing to write completely without profanity. I don't curse much, but it's possible for me to create characters who do. In eight short stories and one novel, I have exactly ONE short story where they curse, and ONE side character in the novel who uses profanity.

But having these TWO negative reviews from people, one who read only a little of the novel and one who didn't read it at all, is extremely damaging to my overall rank... not to mention extraordinarily disheartening.

How have other people dealt with negative reviews in general? Or this problem in particular?


message 2: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn I personally wish they'd get rid of average ranking on book review sites and just have reviews up there with the rating. The plus side of your 1 star reviews is that readers are intelligent. They will look at those 1 star reviews and go... 'Oh, is that all?!' and likely dismiss it if language isn't a factor for them. At least that's my feeling.

I just wrote a blog post that was inspired by my first one star review: http://sabrinaflynn.wordpress.com/201...


message 3: by Kyra (last edited Apr 29, 2014 12:07PM) (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) These people aren't the audience for your book. I know it seems discouraging right now, but maybe their reviews will warn other people away who would otherwise do the same thing, read the book and be offended by the language and write a bad review. On the other hand, people who don't mind some strong language (your target audience) won't be put off by those reviews. As for the "I didn't read it" review, most readers of any sense will know that that says more about the reviewer than it says about you or the book.

Write your books the way you want to. Don't worry about what people say who get offended. No matter what or how you write, someone isn't going to like it - and someone else is going to like it for those qualities. You might consider putting a language alert in your book blurb ("contains a small amount of strong language") so maybe people can make a more informed decision. I put "for adults and older teens" with my book blurbs so people have an idea of what they're getting into. But don't censor yourself because of people who choose to be offended.

Also, this is why I only do very select giveaways (such as events being put on by authors who write books similar to mine). With the big public giveaways, you get people going Yay, free stuff, and they just grab it up without even looking to see if it's something they actually might like.

Finally, try to look at it like this - those low-star reviews give credibility to all the good reviews - you didn't just go out and buy a bunch of good reviews or have all your friends and relatives write glowing reviews for you!


message 4: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn Great advice, Kyra! And I agree, I think the Goodreads Giveaways are hit or miss.


message 5: by Judy (new)

Judy Goodwin | 12 comments Out of curiosity, what genre is your book under? Because that can make a difference on the type of reader you're targeting. Readers of thrillers and crime fiction are almost disappointed if there is a lack of "real life" language in a book, but readers of Christian fiction might be a lot more sensitive to it.

Adjust your book's genre listing if needed, and don't worry about the reviews. Reviews are highly subjective and say mostly what the reader prefers. Now if they're alerting you to problems with formatting, grammar or writing quality, those you should take heed of. But the fact you have some four letter words is purely a personal choice. Don't sweat it. If your character wants to swear, let them swear.


message 6: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie Chow | 6 comments Thanks for the advice and words of wisdom!

Quick point of clarification (to Judy's point): I've always just classified my stuff as contemporary/adult/women's but I feel like the synopsis makes it clear it's not family/Christian stuff, which is why I think I was really surprised by the language comments (I mean, I write children's too and so if there had been profanity THERE, I would get it)


Some other questions though:

1. I like Kyra's suggestion of the language warning, but I also wonder if that gives away the fact that we're indie authors? (I mean, if you look at the bigger publishing houses, with established authors, you never see them saying: there's profanity here!). I have an upcoming Goodreads Giveaway and I am warning people in the giveaway blurb that there is profanity in one of the short stories in the collection...

2. My worry is that people won't even get to the part where they read the 1-star reviews. Downloads have gone way done since my overall average went down (this goes to Sabrina's point about the overall ratings), and I think people aren't even clicking on it now... I think the bar is higher for indie and new authors and when the overall star rating doesn't match, people just move on. What are your experiences?

3. Without the massive Kindle type of giveaways... do you find that you get enough traction/exposure?

Thanks again (so much) for the comments though!!!!


message 7: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn Definitely submit your free or bargain books to sites like Ereader News Today, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, Readcheaply, etc. Many of them are free. And there are a lot more bargain ebook sites than the ones I mentioned. Freebooksy worked great for me when I ran a free promotion.

Also, look for the ebook ad sites that are more geared towards your genre.

Eventually, with enough reviews, you can submit it to Bookbub, but read up on their requirements so you can aim towards it.


message 8: by Kyra (new)

Kyra Halland (kyrahalland) I looked at the Amazon page for your book, and it still has a 4.2 average, which is pretty darn good, and fabulous reviews. Sales have been really slow for a lot of people lately, and especially with a book that doesn't have really really broad mainstream appeal (your book sounds like it appeals to a fairly specialized audience), sometimes once the immediate audience has downloaded it, it's just going to take a while for it to filter out to new readers. So I wouldn't blame the slowdown in downloads on three pretty lame 1-star reviews. You're at #2 and #5 in the free store in your categories, which most writers are dying to be ranked like that. So it isn't that bad :)

As for readers knowing it's an indie book, I think fewer and fewer readers really care about that any more. Some still might, but you're not going to please them anyway. If it isn't the profanity warning in the blurb, it'll be the fact that the digital list price is under $5, or the fact that it says published by Amazon Digital Services. You can't worry about that. If someone wants to be prejudiced, they're going to be prejudiced. So don't worry about that either. Take pride in the fact that you took your creativity and career into your own hands, and offer up something unique that might not be considered "marketable" by the big publishers, and know that the readers who can also appreciate that will find you.


message 9: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
That must be pretty frustrating, given the criticisms don't seem legitimate (I've seen books given 1* because it was delivered later than expected...).

But, in general, most readers are fair and coming across such bad reviews won't affect them. I know one or two people who are likelier to check out a book if it has some 1* reviews, just out of curiosity.

Besides, Wild Swans has tons of 1* reviews and it hasn't done it any harm.

Can't speak for others, but if there's a game or book with 1* reviews I'll often check them to see if the criticism is mad or fair. I would guess others do likewise.


message 10: by Eric (new)

Eric Quinn (eqknowles) You're reviews are mostly good. The first review about four-letter words is actually helpful because those 28 people who voted it useful are 28 people who were going to be offended by your book. The reviewer who didn't even read your book is an anomaly; I voted it down and reported the review to amazon as abuse, but I doubt it will get removed.

Your average is good, and most of your reviews are great, so I wouldn't worry about it. You're going to get some crazy reviews--that's just inevitable.


message 11: by C.M. (new)

C.M. Skiera (cmskiera) | 2 comments My advice may sound flippant, but it's what I tell myself. The world is full of crazy people, and some of them are going to read your book. And personally, that's one of the most illogical reasons I've heard for giving a book a bad rating. It's not your job to reinforce people's narrow-minded views. Good riddance to them.


message 12: by Karen (new)

Karen Lynch My book is a YA paranormal and I have the F word sprinkled through it. Some reviewers have commented on it but overall it has not hurt my rating. I don't care about swearing in books so as a reader I just ignore those comments.

Thaddeus is right in that most reviewers will be honest. There are some people who seem to live to give a negative review and you won't please them no matter what. I have a 1 star review that calls my book racist and there is nothing at all about race in my book. That one hurt my feelings, but I moved on. I had one person who said she loved my book and only gave it 4 stars because the next one is not out yet. I just shook my head and said WTH! I even have someone on this site give me a 1 star for book 2 which is not out until December. Talk about frustrating.

I checked out your reviews on amazon and I see that several other people commented on that review in your favor. Take heart in that. Just don't let anyone provoke you into commenting or responding in any way. That only lowers you to their level. Be proud of your accomplishment. My reviews were slow to come at first but now I have a bunch.


message 13: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Kyra wrote: "These people aren't the audience for your book. I know it seems discouraging right now, but maybe their reviews will warn other people away who would otherwise do the same thing, read the book and ..."


Kyra, I agree. There will always be someone who doesn't like a book, or is offended by an aspect of it. You simply can't please everyone. If someone doesnt like swearing then they don't.


message 14: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie Chow | 6 comments Thanks to everyone for all the advice. I think I probably will put in a disclaimer on everything, in the future.

For me, I think part of the frustration is that I knew that some people wouldn't like how it ended anyhow, and so I knew some negative reviews would come in... to have negative reviews based on something I hadn't prepared myself for, hadn't even realized might be a possibility, was what I found toughest...

Also, I feel like I just don't "get" Amazon's review policy. I have a friend of a friend who wrote a review (no profanity, no spoilers, etc) but it got removed. Now, I have reviewers flat out saying they haven't read the book, and that's acceptable. It just feels almost like a way to condone a particular brand of bullying almost. I want to respond, but I don't want to get into an argument with a reader because you guys are right, you can't please everyone and then I think it just makes me look... even more foolish.

Getting off soapbox now though. Thanks again for all the advice!!


message 15: by Melyssa (new)

Melyssa Williams | 2 comments When a book (especially an Indie) has nothing but fabulous reviews, I don't trust em ... so a few bad ones sprinkled in actually pull me in. Maybe I'm a weirdo! As a reader I especially would flat out ignore the one who admits to not having read it - so that review's a total wash. Keep your head up! I have a secret desire to get totally slammed or maybe plagiarized or some such thing: it's a sign of success. Wink, wink. ;)


message 16: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
It does seem a bit catch-22.

All good reviews = clearly dodgy
All bad reviews = not worth reading


message 17: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 48 comments Same as good reviews coming from Goodreads friends, which, in my experience, have become friends after giving reviews and then sending a friend request.


message 18: by Eric (new)

Eric Quinn (eqknowles) When I see a book that has a ton of five star reviews, a couple of four star reviews and nothing worse, I do get suspicious--enough to scroll through the reviews. Usually I find the reviews come in large clumps, often within the span of a few days. I found one book for which the reviews were so blatantly padded that one reviewer actually said, "I haven't even read this book, but all the reviews sound so exciting!" (five stars).

Go figure. There were around a hundred reviews! I did some research on the author and discovered that the author has a moderately popular podcast (unrelated to fiction). Most likely he was pushing his audience to support his book. I can't actually fault him for that, though I don't like the results of his efforts.

In trolling for fake reviews, Amazon seems to be currently focused on drawing personal connections between author and reviewer. I imagine they will eventually start looking at frequency of reviews. There is no natural way for a book that is three months old to accumulate dozens of reviews that show up in clumps of one-two week periods.


message 19: by Karen (new)

Karen Lynch Eric, my book has been out a little over 4 months and I have 272 reviews. Over 200 of them are 5 star. I do notice that reviews seem to come in spurts but I can guarantee that I don't know any of those people and I am not asking anyone for reviews. I don't think you can look at the number of reviews and the patterns to determine if they are fake. BTW I do have reviews 3 stars and less and some of them were painful to read.


message 20: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Wow, that is a good haul. Well done


message 21: by Eric (new)

Eric Quinn (eqknowles) Congrats on the great reviews, Karen! Since you also have negative reviews, you don't actually fit the profile I was describing--even the best books get bad reviews, which is why I was referring to books that are top heavy with tons of positive reviews but have no negative reviews.


message 22: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie Chow | 6 comments Also, I guess whether anyone else here lets negative reviews make them think: maybe this isn't for me? Maybe I'm meant to be the second-string gal who plays the sport on the weekends as opposed to someone who turns pro and does it for a living?

I guess I'm asking, as self-published, indie authors... what gives you a sense of validation? That it was the right thing to do? When you get a good review? When you get a sale? Or is it completely internal for you guys?


message 23: by Karen (new)

Karen Lynch It's hard to say exactly what gives you that sense of validation. I could say sales but you could sell a lot of books and not really wow anyone. Or you could sell a handful and receive glowing reviews. My friend has a book of poetry that has sold a lot less than mine, but her reviews are all wonderful whereas I have some pretty negative ones. Both of us are happy with our accomplishments.

You have to ask yourself, is it worth it to you? Most of us write because we can't imagine not writing. It takes a lot to write and publish a book. That is a huge accomplishment in itself. Whether you just want to see your work in print or you want to quit your job and write full time, you have to decide what it means to you. And don't think that those full time writers don't deal with the same negativity and doubts. Any artist who puts their work out there is going to face criticism. We just have to develop thick skins or we will let it beat us down until we give up. Writing can be a lonely profession, but you are definitely not alone in this.


message 24: by J.M. (last edited May 08, 2014 11:56AM) (new)

J.M. Rankin (jmrankin) | 54 comments I'm always wary of the books that not only have all five star reviews, but where a lot of those reviews appear either before or on the first day of publication. I appreciate review copies can be given out prior to publication, but all five stars? Maybe the books are brilliant, but you do have to wonder.

As for validation, I completely agree with Karen. I tried to publish traditionally for years, so maybe I developed a thicker skin than say someone who is completely new to the whole scene, but I was surprised at how much my first negative review didn't bother me. I was peeved a little due to the nature of it (spoilers without saying so, not the readers usual genre, not even sure the reader read the entire book, etc) but it didn't upset me. I've felt extremely lucky thus far to have received pretty good reviews (5 - 3 stars) so the one negative was reasonably easy to ignore. A thick skin is definitely needed. I love to write and always have done. I couldn't bear to see my manuscripts collecting dust any longer so bit the bullet, and am happy that it's gone reasonably well so far, but I wouldn't let negative comments stop me from doing what I love. Some people will always be out to put a downer on others just for trying, unfortunately.


message 25: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
Mika, well, quite. The problem is that some people *do* get friends/family/paid people to give 5* and "OMG! This is teh AWESOMEZZ!!11" which means it's hard to tell if something is genuinely good or not (obviously we can download samples and check, the flipside of that is that checking samples takes longer than glancing at reviews).


message 26: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (rlbrody) | 1 comments Re: whether it's realistic to get a bunch of reviews early on - one marketing strategy is actually to provide advance copies in exchange for honest reviews, so I think it actually is quite possible to get a bunch of reviews at the outset - one person I spoke with said they'd opened with around fifty reviews on launch day through using this strategy.

That said, I agree with the people who are saying that the wider the spread of reviews (and the more specific the criticisms of lower-rated reviews) the better. I'd rather someone leave a 1-star review with some kind of indication of what made them write that than leave a 1-star with nothing at all.

Also seconding the idea that not everyone will like everything. I edited and contributed to a book about climate change (short speculative fiction) and we received a 1-star review on Goodreads - when I went and looked at the reviewer's review profile, her preferences leaned heavily towards "50 Shades"-style reading. She just wasn't someone who would ever have been likely to enjoy the book I'd contributed to. Similarly, I got a review once from someone who specifically ran a blog dedicated to slamming peoples' work. I don't know what people get from that but I don't think it's worth worrying over - especially if your book is getting the kind of feedback from other readers/reviewers that indicates most don't feel that way.

In the end, if you get a negative review, I think the best solution is to go out and try to get more reviews -- in the end the product will be able to speak for itself. :)


message 27: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments I'd say just forget it if you get a bad review - unless there are lots all saying the same thing then it is just one reader's opinion. A book could be loved by Bob and hated by Betty.


message 28: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Reddy | 80 comments Consider the age of this self-publishing boom. The average rating should be rising. The authors who want to be pros have been learning and so have the audience and new authors. There's no reason for any reader to get a book that isn't 'worth the money for the entertainment' average, three stars.

Add a language warning to the book page and ask Amazon to remove the no longer valid complaints. They removed a no-warning review for me.


message 29: by Richard (new)

Richard Parise | 3 comments Amazon did away with the like button next to eBook titles when they realized that authors were swapping likes back and forth through various sites such as LinkedIn and Goodreads. I feel that they should do the same with reviews. Many authors get friends and family to write 5 star reviews. All one needs to do to verify this is to click on the reviewer's username and all reviews by that person will be listed. Nine times out of ten, this will be the only book reviewed which indicates it was done only as a favor to the author. Reading the "Look Inside" should be enough to inform the reader as to whether the book is something they might enjoy.


message 30: by Sharon (last edited May 18, 2014 07:39AM) (new)

Sharon Reddy | 80 comments Eric wrote: "When I see a book that has a ton of five star reviews, a couple of four star reviews and nothing worse, I do get suspicious--enough to scroll through the reviews. Usually I find the reviews come in..."

Eric, they should almost always come that way. Authors run book promotions to get reviews. You'll find those clumps always correspond to the author doing something to get them, like a sale or giveaway. What I'm trying to do is get indie authors to accept they are pros and put their reviews in the editorial, not customer, review areas for books, where the label is "customer." That's on Amazon.

Review by another author is peer review. That's what we read on the backs of books, standing next to shelves. No-no, terrific author with an eight-book series, your name goes where it's a nice brag, not down where nobody connects it. It should be favorable, without helpful customer voting. The attitude we're JUST indie authors is pervasive and unintentionally deceptive. We are our accreditation. The professional opinion that suggests the reader sample the book is given credence by its positioning. Or, as the agent put it, "If you want to be in the spotlights, act like a celebrity."

I'm dancing in joy as Science Fiction broadens out of mass market economic constraints, and most new work couldn't, not wouldn't, be published. Lots of dystopian fiction featuring corp-did-it out there. Reality is reflected with a what-if.


message 31: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments "When a book (especially an Indie) has nothing but fabulous reviews, I don't trust em ... so a few bad ones sprinkled in actually pull me in. Maybe I'm a weirdo!

I've had to pay a friend to write BAD reviews, just to maintain balance per above. (joke)

Do the very best book you can, then let it go. If you learn a thing or two from your reviews, great, otherwise fish wrap. Silly to take things so personally; it's not like your children are being disfigured. Instead, write an even BETTER book.

Last author standing WINS! On'Ya Good Readers. PS> I'm a weirdo too!

Gurl-Posse Kidnap (Sonoma Knight PI, #2) by Peter Prasad


message 32: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Reddy | 80 comments Richard wrote: "Amazon did away with the like button next to eBook titles when they realized that authors were swapping likes back and forth through various sites such as LinkedIn and Goodreads. I feel that they s..."

It wasn't misused. It didn't work as intended. I was never lying when I liked an author's book page. I didn't review much on Amazon and never upvoted or downvoted any reviews except per guidelines. I didn't go to pages to do that. Not wanting authors' opinions of books is silly. We read a whole lot and notice a whole lot.

Only readers can legitimize the opinions of indie authors in the area where they should be placed. Go see who that person considered a great rec is, with an open mind. Note the prejudice an indie author is a wannabe. Wannabe what?

Published. Check
Good reviews. Check.
A nice-size fan group who never miss a release. Check.
We are moving mentality out of the Twentieth Century. A vast number of sales doesn't define a pro career. Years of steady sales always have. The defining difference is every reader can find 'perfect' authors, or reviewers, and explore their recommendations, too, 'accumulating' far more "favorites," whose books they never miss.

The market is supposed to splinter like that. That's why 70% is appropriate. Authors don't make a lot of money. However, the immediacy of e-pub makes it far more likely a story, "whose time has come," will explode in popularity and make an author a hot ticket.


message 33: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments Well, if the above is true, i think I'll start my own negative sock-puppet reviews. (joke).


message 34: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Brink | 38 comments Marie,

Getting those kind of reviews is certainly hard and, yes, it drags down your overall rating, but don't sweat it too much. Conscientious (did I spell that right?) readers are going to look at that 1-star review to see why the book was so terrible. Then they'll say, "Well that guy didn't even read it! How the hell does he know?" And they might even say of the other one, "What, you've never heard a naughty word before?"

In short, it definitely stings, but these are pretty petty reasons for slapping your book with such a poor rating, and other readers are going to see that as well. You can't please all of the people all of the time. Let those folks go read something more suited to their sensative eyes and let those who enjoy your work enjoy your work.


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