I hear a lot from authors who fixate on ratings and reviews. The importance of these cannot be denied, but how many take negatives to heart?
Authors putting their work out into the public domain are asking for bad reviews sooner or later.
What’s wrong with that statement?
It’s presuming a myriad of one star reviews and negative written reviews are going to destroy ones self-confidence and reflect badly on your book. It’s also a very negative statement too.
As an avid book buyer, I do check reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads. I’ve also started writing reviews for books I really enjoy too. Especially for Indie authors where feedback and ratings are often in short supply. If you read, then a review is the least anyone can do to support an author in their trade. Even a simple star rating is better than nothing. If you intend on writing an actual review then try not to make it a bad one. By bad, I mean ill-considered. Written reviews are to advise buyers, not to glam up an author. By all means do the latter, with justification, if they merit it.
Bloggers place their work out in the public domain all the time. Those that also write might not see it as another form of asking for feedback. That said, moderation often helps in pulling out spam or odd comments. We can decide what to let through and what not to. Yes, there is control on what comes through, but even a moderated negative comment can affect our emotions.
With a book, it gets personal. It has to. Writing one can take a great deal of time, even years, and that’s just to a first draft. After that is critique and editing, more editing and often edits to the edits. Then proofing and the decisions to seek agents and publishers. Sounds easy, but again that process can take months. Whereupon the editing is likely to start all over again.
Even self publishing is not removed from these processes. Not if you are serious. If anybody ever tells you “Anybody can write a book,” then the answer is “Go on then, try it, then come back and tell me again.”
Published books need reviews. Reviews, thought out and considered. Consider two examples.
“Five stars, brilliant”
“Two stars, author seemed to drift off plot half way through before returning to the story arc. The ending fell short and left me feeling cheated. If there had been an epilogue stating book two was to follow then that would have increased my rating.”
On the grand scheme of things five stars is a bonus due to rankings. Two stars are not what you really want if rankings are everything in your world. I suggest they shouldn’t be.
The first review tells me nothing. Thanks for five stars, but you might as well have just rated it and not written anything. If you want to give me feedback then the question others buyers are asking is “Why do you think it is brilliant?” The next question might be worse, “Does this reviewer know the author?”
As a buyer, to me that written review is pants.
The two star rating gives me far more. Drifting off plot suggests editing hasn’t been thorough. Is this author serious? is a natural follow-up thought. Same with the last point about ending and no hint of a sequel that might answer question the first one doesn’t. This review tells buyers something, and an author even more. Reining back the initial anger, one can actually learn from it.
The book that’s out is already done, the next book isn’t. Well articulated negative reviews can be tremendously helpful there. They tell you two things. One is the reviewer has taken time to actually consider their comment and two, they are telling you things to consider in the next one.
The same goes in the reverse scenario.
”Didn’t like it.”
Is a terrible review. It tells the author absolutely nothing at all apart from one person in the billions of readers didn’t like it. As a buyer I ignore this type of review straight away as useless. As an author the same applies. I want informative reviews, not childish ones that are of little value.
Yes I’d like a gazillion five stars, but the reality is once published the book has to speak for itself. It’s done, out of your control. Learn from good reviews and remember, if your’re writing more afterwards…
A good bad review is way more useful than a bad good review.
On an aside and entirely linked to reviews here are a few things to consider.
- Never respond to any reviews, good or bad. It sets a precedent and invites trolls.
- Review the reviewer. If on Amazon or GoodReads check their profiles. Do they actually ever leave good reviews. If not, then ignore it. It’s the worst kind of review possible because there is no balance.
- Compare Goodreads with Amazon. You might find duplicate reviews by the same person. I don’t count that as an additional bad review.
- GoodReads. Check them out, no avatar, few books, no friends. Then unlikely to be any use as a reviewer.
- Don’t get hung up on rankings. It doesn’t help and is entirely out of your control. Readers decide, not you. Keep mindful and read reviews for information that might better your craft in the next one.
You write because you like writing, everything else is secondary.
Obviously these are just my own opinions…
Everyone who writes is going to have to face the reviews if they intend on publishing. Mentally this can be difficult. Try and keep a firm grip on over analysing bad reviews, and by bad I mean poorly written one. Positive and negative must be treated with an eye for reasons. Anything else is asking for a mind melt.
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group
This makes so much sense. I’m of the opinion that a 5 star and a 1 star need to have the most documentation with it, just like a performance review. But I will be the first to admit that with books, I rarely give reviews. (And now, I’ve gone and written my first full book review because of your post!)
Thank you Jennifer. I tend to think if there’s no argument thread then don’t leave a feedback comment at all. It’s great or it’s bad are not use at all to either a potential buyer or the author of the work. Qualifying why you think either is actually doing the job feedback is there for. Kudos to you if you’ve now left a review too. That said I’ve got eight read books to catch up with on goodreads 😱
I hadn’t realized that you can review the reviewer. Great post. thanks
Thanks! It acts as a way of making sure the reviews are genuine. I know authors who a paranoid when it comes to written reviews, but I find before taking something to heart it’s wise to step back and check what they say and if it’s a valid point or not. Even buyers should be doing that if there are mixed reviews these days!
Lol, occasionally I do have one or two of them!!
Great post, dear Gary. I think the most important to remember, in general, don’t let negative comments/reviews influence you too much….to a point, the original story is edited so much, it completely changed. It is impossible to please every single reader.
Thank you Patty. Very true words, you cannot please everyone and that’s quite natural. I feel the trick many miss is to ensure you reach out to the audience of readers that will appreciate the genre and tale. Build up a readership. Sounds easy, said like that !!
Haha… Well, I think a reader has a responsibility too. If you, per example, don’t like the genre fantasy, don’t buy/read a book of that genre. That’s to me asking for disappointment.
Yes they do. How many reviews have you seen saying “blah stars, wasn’t really my genre.” Why review it if it’s not even what you like to read? It’s why I say review the reviewer before getting over despondent.
1. Thanks for letting me know about that group in a previous post. I’ll be including them in a blog post soon.
2. Congratulations on being nominated for an award at the Blogger’s Bash. I’m proud of you!
3. Regarding your post: If there’s any truth in the criticism at all, look at it as a growth experience.
4. Tweeted and stumbled.
Thanks Janice and you’re very welcome. I hooked up with some of them on a NaNoHop two years ago and have tried to keep up with them ever since.
The nomination was unexpected. This time I know who to blame!
Truth in criticism is always productive and however hard it seems, must be taken onboard to grow, as you rightly say.
Many thanks for your input here too Janice.
This is super-excellent advice. And might I say, very well thought out. I wholeheartedly agree–a reader who doesn’t like a book but tells me why in a considered way might actually impel me to read it for myself. But, a bad review filled with no actual information just makes me think poorly of the reviewer, not the book. I also like the note that responding to reviews at the stage when the book is “out there” is likely counterproductive.
Great post, Gary!
Thanks Angela, very good way of looking at the reviewer too. I do advocate reviewing the reviewer on purchase sites. As a buyer nothing starts with me trusting what they say necessarily. Do they, for example, only ever give bad reviews, are they affiliated with anyone giving biased opinions, what comments sit under their reviews and so on. I do the same with over fantastic ones too.
Thanks for your feedback too. There’s a lot of comments that could create a follow up post now!
You make some very valid points, Gary. I always try to write a fair and honest review with a little bit of info about the book without giving too much of the plot away! Having said that, I am so behind on my reading that I have not written a review for a while! 🙂
Thanks Judy. Same here. I have a pile of read books I want to feed into GoodReads. Time is just not good at present due to self inflicted A to Z challenge mode 😳
It looks like the challenge is going well though, Gary 🙂
It’s not stalled yet so I take that as a yes!! Just started Tuesdays post tonight. Tomorrow’s is scheduled so if I can keep a day ahead maybe it will come good!! 😊
It is always a good strategy to try and stay one step ahead of the challenge! 😊
Very true….to wit, I better get a shake on today 😳
I appreciate well thought out reviews Gary. It is pretty obvious to me whether the reviewer has really taken the time to consider the book properly. And you’re right, criticism which is helpful is far more useful than vague comments.
I think the consensus here is we are all on the same page. Whether we are all that mindful when seeing a bad review to our own books is another matter entirely lol
It’s critique, good or bad, that is reasoned and constructive that we learn from.
In reviews the information should really be aimed at buyers to help them decide if it’s a book for them or not. How often does that just drip into vague comments and often vitriol? Mind you statistically more people are prepared to offer negative experiences than positive ones. It’s why recently I’ve been more aware of doing reviews.
I try to pick positives out of every book I review. If I really don’t like a book at all I would rather not review it. I don’t do one and two star reviews probably because I know who much heart goes into writing a book.
I’m with you there Marje. Reviewing is tough if your natural disposition is to be kind. I’m fully aware grammar and editing is an essential thing for any author. At the same time I’m also aware not everyone has unlimited funds to get it all done professionally. Rock and hard place for many.
At the same time, self publishing platforms enable anyone to publish. It removes peer critique a priori which means a too many publish that possibly shouldn’t.
Generally if I don’t like a book then I’m unlikely to finish it. If I don’t do that I won’t review it. If I have no valuable critique to offer then the same applies. Likewise on my blog spotlights. If I’m not keen on the book (and I stress that might just be down to genre dislike as opposed to anything else) then I won’t do it.
You’re dead right though, too easy to be negative for many and writing a book is no easy thing. On the flip side guess a buyer spending money has the right to have a say. Which is fine if they are critical and not personal.
Great post Gary. I can’t wait for you to leave a review about one of my books 😎
As authors we have to be ready to accept both positive and negative reviews.
A good training ground for aspiring unpublished authors is Wattpad because their reviews can be amazing and brutal. It will help the thicker skin develop. They also use emojis which adds a little extra to the process
Thanks Lucy. Been thinking about more writing related posts recently. Something for after the A to Z.
Will have to grad you after that for the WIP interview post too 😜
Wattpad…yes, I’m still wondering if it’s somewhere I’d benefit from. Mind you, I ought to sort out the social media I’ve got first. This blog seriously needs a makeover!!
Well said Gary! I always ignore reviews to books that are of few words. I just assume either they know the author (if it’s positive) or they’re a miserable troll who isn’t well read (if it’s negative). I’d much rather trust a reviewer if they’ve clearly given thought to their review. Having said all that, years ago I did a one word positive review for a friend’s book. I soon realised the mistake I made. But hey, we learn from our mistakes.
Nail on head Hayley. The one thing most reviews I’ve seen is a lack of reasoning as to WHY a person thinks it’s good, or bad. Any fool can say “I hated it.” That’s of no use to me as a reader thinking now there’s a good reason not to buy this book.
Learning from mistakes is a sign of intelligence too 😜 just saying x
I hope so! I’ve made so many that I try to learn from! X
Forgot to mention, you might see few reviews on goodreads soon. I think we are connected there now too x
I think some negative reviews are so bad they help the author. I always start with the one-star reviews when I’m considering buying a book. If they’re well-argued, I’ll take them seriously. If they’re just vitriol or inarticulate, I’ll ignore them and will probably buy the book.
As far as my own books are concerned, I’m more hardened to negative reviews than I was. I’ve seen enough negative reviews of books I’ve loved to realise that no book pleases everyone and no one likes all genres.
Agreed, except if a bad (negative) review is well argued then it falls into my good bad review status. It’s informative and contributes to a buyers decision and, possibly to an author if they take on board what’s said. Obviously most reviews are personal opinions too and we have to balance good and bad to arrive at a purchase decision.
Well done you too. Authors must develop thick skins if they are going to troll their reviews. Nobody can please everybody and generally speaking people are more inclined to leave negative feedback compared to those actually leaving positive. Conversion. rates from purchase into actual reviews are tiny in the first place on top of that!
These days I’m trying not to read books I don’t like. Having said that I left a 2 star review on GR yesterday for a book I only finished because I was writing about it on my blog. The author’s been dead more than 50 years, so I don’t think it will make much difference.
I’m trying to knock back ones more than I did. I read a lot more now and decided if it doesn’t grab me over the first few chapters then it’s probably not going to. I am probably reading wider though now across genres out of my normal habit. That’s purely a writer thing though. Some have turned out to be really good!
Great post, Gary! It’s interesting to see you include ‘don’t reply to reviews’ as this is something I wondered about when I first published. I’ve received some lovely reviews (and some not so pleasant!) and was tempted to respond but something stopped me – now I know why!
That particular thing about reviews came from several sources when I was looking into it a few years back. Bloggers possibly get used to replying to all comments and might struggle initially with trying to do the same on a review. One course I did that included feedback and how to handle it really emphasised leaving those alone. Never make it personal on a purchase site. It can open up a can of worms that gets potentially detrimental to you as an author.
Seems like you listened to your instincts very wisely!
Thanks for sharing that too Shelley 😊
Fair and honest Gary! I correct a lot of fiction- 18 year olds work- and they do better when I am honest!! By better I mean their interest grows and their topics improve as a result.
Congratulations on well deserved nomination and good luck!
Do you think at that age they are more receptive to learning? Honest feedback then being taken as part of that process. I find older people less able to cope with being told something might work better another way. Obviously that is a generalisation, but I get the impression while still in education people are better listeners to appraisal. Although might be because they have to pass exams so there’s an element of motivation lol.
Thanks re the nomination. I must put up a post and get voting on the others myself too!
It becomes even more thorny a subject when one person thinks they are giving “constructive feedback”, whereas others feel that its negative. Another factor comes into play, and that is culture! Though I may be opening up another can of worms 🙂 Good post, Gary, and good to see you writing about your experiences as a writer.
Very much so. Of course the big issue come into how the person (author in this case) mentally greets the feedback. Half baked negative ones are more inclined to be self harming than half baked good ones. It’s a perspective thing. Good feedback in either place is what reviewers need to aim at.
As for worm cans….the comments are already bundling up for expanding this post lol.
Many thanks for your feedback Suzanne
Gary, isn’t that great when comments produce more fodder for another post 🙂 Cool!!
Very much so. I need a journal to keep up with these ideas at the moment. A to Z challenge is really taxing me at the moment and I’ve got a string of author spotlights coming up too.
Need a journal…what am I saying….start using the one I just remembered I have! DOH!
This is a fantastic post, Gary!! I’ve noticed so many posts on BookRiot and the like about how people are removing all of their negative reviews under the guise of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”. Well, thanks for throwing your fellow readers under the bus and not sharing your honest feedback!! A lot of people don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine (respectful) critique and mud slinging. 😔
Sadly that’s very true. I’ve often thought Amazon could slay some if that by only permitting reviews from authentic purchasers via their site.
One reason I say review the reviewer is to try and get some rationale about who they are and if they just troll or not. Feedback without explanation is not much use to the wider public in terms of informative flow. Mudslinging just makes the whole review system flawed. Another reason authors should never respond to them…good or bad… read and leave 🤔
Hi Gary, an interesting post. I’ve been reviewing Indie books for almost a year now and I’ll throw something at you to think about.
“Indie authors want their books to be reviewed to the same standards as conventionally published authors, but when it comes to an Indie author reviewing another Indie author’s books, they do not judge them by the same standards!”
What do you think? I am amazed by how many Indie authors give 5 stars to any and every Indie book, regardless of the fact that a particular Indie book is obviously flawed, with basic errors in plot and grammar that bring Indie publishing into disrepute.
That might sound harsh, and of course it’s a generalization. But I get the impression that there’s a lot of mutual backscratching going on in Indie publishing, and not enough honesty.
I would be interested in your feedback.
You make a fair point Denzil. Often it’s obvious when a personal friend writes a review. More so on Amazon really and GoodReads too. There is an element of back scratching indie wise, or potential for it. I understand the reasons too.
Trad publishers have an armoury of reviewers they use. Those reviewers are unknown entities for the most part and do it as almost a job in exchange for books. Indie authors are on their own. They must network and part of that I think is almost working in partnership to help self promotion. I tend to do author spotlights rather than full blown reviews. So far I do it on proviso I know the authors work. If I don’t like it then I do turn them down rather than do a bad one. Often we get proof copies too. These are often the basis of the review point. With these the actual copy should have errata removed before publish date. However, the indie route is more costly in some respects too. A book is only as good as the editing and proofing. Both of those have an expense that many can’t afford. Amongst that are people who truly should not publish, possibly think they can both self edit and proof. Any half decent author will tell you doing your own work is folly. Too close and won’t be able to see the wood from the trees.
Around this is also a bit of mutual backscratching. That can’t be denied to be happening. However around that are some genuine people and support groups. Often Indie writers hook up, not as friends at first, but because they are attracted to a writing style and/or community. Within those there are grades of quality too.
I’d also throw in… I’ve read some awful dross coming out of trad. publishers too. It is tough being a new author trying to break in though. Resources and professional guidance are in short supply, made less onerous by the ease of Kindle and similar routes in. Probably another two posts worth in this off the cuff reply!
Thanks for your reply Gary. I certainly have come across some brilliant Indie authors and try and support them strongly. Looking forward to seeing your next posts on the subject
Contrary to my advice upon not replying to reviews from purchase sites, I always try to do so here Denzil!
You’re right too, there are some truly amazing indie authors. Sometimes you have to go that route to get noticed. The traditional path can take a great deal of commitment and time. Years in some cases.
That’s the part that concerns me. I don’t have years to wait. 😱
I agree with your views. It’s better to have a well written bad review. At least we can take it as a learning and shrug off the initial disappointment.I always leave reviews where I can offer both good and bad points when I don’t like something so that the buyer gets a complete review and so does the author or company that I am reviewing.
Thanks Ophira. I know opinions on reviews vary a lot, but most guidelines are similar and that is to ensure people reading them have a clear understanding of why you like or dislike something. From a buyers perspective they can then judge it better and, in the case if an author, see where things might be improved upon next time.
Going into it as the writer, you have to be mindful that what you draft is not going to be liked by everyone too. Letting negatives get to you isn’t going to help, especially if the point made is a good one.
A good post Gary which outlines and answers much that I agree with…I find reviews hard to write sometimes especially if it is genre that I am not a reader of and i.e. it is a friend…So your post was very helpful particularly to me…A great read 🙂 x
Thanks Carol, it is a tricky subject. A writing course I was on run by Future Learn tackled feedback as a subject in its own right. They were of the opinion friends and family are tricky to get true opinions off because they have a tendency not to say up front why they don’t like something. One reason is they don’t want to hurt you and the other being generally they are not writers themselves. They tested us all with blind feedback. Submitting a piece that went to random participants with guidance on giving feedback, but not knowing which candidate it was from. That was an eye opener as it showed more honesty and try critique.
Reviews on purchases have to answer certain criteria…the biggest being WHY you like or dislike something. Amazon has good guidelines on how to do it, but few people actually know it exists. Wrt genres that are not your choice of reading it’s better to politely refuse to give feedback unless you are genuinely impressed by the writing. I try and be unbiased there. It’s far easier to give true feedback on your own genre taste than one other people are knowledgeable about. Often doing that invites those people to flame your review as they might recognise it’s out of genre.
Bottom line is to consider the purpose of a review is to offer information to potential buyers. They want to know why they should invest, or not invest, in the book. On reflection, I should have emphasised that more in the post.
Hope that makes sense 😊
Thank you, Gary and yes I think you are correct and I will be sticking to reading a genre that I like in future.. It is so easy when people you like on line bring out a book and you just buy it to help them …Family and friends are definitely a no no…..Thank you 🙂
You’re very welcome, but don’t necessarily avoid trying other genres. Just be wary of leaving feedback if it’s not your cup of tea. Buying books in support is a wonderful thing to do mind. Leaving a rating feedback rather than a full on review is always better than nothing too. The review itself has to be honest and if you think it will cause issues with a friendship then wiser to leave that bit for others 😊
I’m with Ritu. All feedback is good feedback. 🙂
I’d caveat it slightly though. As a buyer “It’s great” or “It’s bad” isn’t telling me much 😊
Good advice, Gary, and on such a thorny topic.
I appreciate critical feedback much for than a bad good review (love the title, BTW 🙂 ). I’m not (yet) a published author, but I can see where critical reviews would be taken to heart. When I was in college I very much enjoyed receiving feedback from my professors – they always had something helpful to say. Even though a writer may not entirely agree with a critical review – he or she can often find a small piece of information that can be taken to heart, or worked upon. Great write-up, Gary!
Absolutely, college does tend to harden people to accept critique usefully. With book reviews sifting the actual ones (good or bad) from those I refer to is hard if you just see a rating and disappear into despair. Readers are who we write for so listening to them is vital to self improvement and making the next book better. I’ve actually used the title tag loads in comments which is why I chose it fi4 this too 😊
Thanks for your comment and I’m certain you will soon be published and reading this again 😂
Love this Gary! I try to review the Indie books I read as I know it is something that can help a fellow author !!!
Thanks Ritu, it was inspired by a course I did ages ago that included critical feedback. That and how people can focus way too much on negative reviews that are, quite frankly, poor. I hope it helps writers to rationalise those better and use comments to improve the next book. Not easy, I know because minds see negative as bad.
All feedback is good feedback!!