It’s a very brave thing we do, getting our work published. Yes, it’s exciting, getting a book or a painting or a piece of music or a photo out there in public. But as soon as you do that, the work is public property. The more widely known your work, the more it is open to criticism by total strangers – and some of them don’t take prisoners. So let me share with you a bit of advice.
NEVER leave yourself open to criticism about presentation
By that I mean typos, grammar and formats. Get your work edited, even if you think you’re good. Editors can make you better and they’ll find the typos you were sure you never made. Check your book files. Make sure you don’t have whole paragraphs in bold, that your font doesn’t change, that your book isn’t double spaced etc. Smashwords, Amazon and Draft 2 Digital all have different ways to enable you to check.
The last thing you want is a one or two star review which complains about technical issues which you should fix before they happen.
Take every review with a grain of salt
That’s the wonderful, glowing ones as well as the one star wonders. Yes, the five star ‘couldn’t put it downs’ are great, but don’t let them go to your head. Not everyone will love your work. Sorry.
See what you can learn
Sometimes careful reviewers will mention what worked or didn’t work for them. Especially if you see a pattern, with more than one person saying the same thing, take note. If readers have misunderstood what you were trying to say, maybe you should take that on board for your next book, or for a new version of this one. But this does NOT mean you should treat readers as beta readers, even if your book is free. Always offer the best you’ve got.
Don’t take it personally
Reviews should be about the book, not the author. That’s not always the case, I know. I’m sure we’ve all heard about authors behaving badly, bad-mouthing other authors’ works. There seems to be a group of people who delight in leaving one star reviews without even reading a book. They often use pseudonyms, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. Unless a review actually says something meaningful about your book, best to just ignore it.
Sometimes reviews have nothing to do with the book
I’m not the only one who has had one or two star reviews which relate to technical problems outside the author’s control, for example this two star review on Smashwords.
“Just wanted to tell you that I loved your book, Supertech, and couldn’t wait to read the follow-up, Morgan’s Choice, so I purchased it soon after. I would like to say that I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoyed the first, but I ran into a problem. The copy of the book I purchased and downloaded to my Sony reader died at page 63. I cannot move past that page, in fact it shut my whole reader down. I can’t even read it on my computer. I wish you the best of luck with all your books and am saddened I didn’t get to finish Morgan’s Choice. What I did read, however, drew me in and made me want to read more.”
That’s actually a pretty damn good review, really. (I managed to contact the reviewer and sent her a new copy of the book)
Above all, don’t react
I am of the school that says good or bad, do not respond to a review. Thanking someone for a good review smacks of sucking up. Criticising a bad review suggests the reviewer is not entitled to an opinion. By all means, share this stuff with your friends – but keep it out of the public forums.
For bad reviews, remember always that in the main you don’t know these people and they don’t know you. They might have had a bad hair day, they might be trolls looking for targets, they might be trying to drop your ratings to make their own book look better. The thing is, whatever you do, you’ll look bad. So just… don’t.
Recognise that people leaving bad reviews may simply be outside your target audience, in which case that negative review won’t matter.
Negative reviews don’t necessarily impact sales
In fact, the reverse is very often true – people don’t trust a pile of glowing reviews without some balancing viewpoints. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey. It has literally thousands of five star reviews, and just as many one star reviews.
So toughen up, authors. Negative reviews come with the territory. You’d better get used to it.
Genre - Science Fiction
Rating – PG-13