Last week I stumbled across a Facebook comment from a reader who said: Gentle reminder for authors: if you can’t handle negative reviews, you need a new career choice.
It was an interesting comment and got me thinking about negative reviews and author reactions.
Obviously most writers would prefer to wow the socks off readers with each book they put out. I don’t know a single author who likes negative reviews. In fact, most authors I know would prefer to get five stars all the time. Some authors even get mildly irritated at four star reviews and have been known to question a friend or family member for leaving anything less than five stars.
However, having reached twenty published books (including three novellas), I’ve realized it’s completely unrealistic to always get five star reviews. Authors only set themselves up for disappointment if they expect mostly positives. I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve heard lament (mostly privately) about how hurt they were by a low-rated review.
And as tough as those reviews can be, I’ve learned to let them roll off my back.
In fact, I’ve even come to the conclusion that getting some negative reviews can be a positive thing. Here are three reasons why authors can benefit from having a mixture of reviews:
1. A mixture of positives & negatives makes the reviews more reliable.
Readers will be more trusting of reviews that contain both positives and negatives versus a whole slew of five-star. When readers see mostly five-stars, they may begin to wonder if the author somehow “stacked the deck.”
The negatives keep the reviews real and more reliable in the readers’ eyes. They rationalize, “If readers can be honest about the negative, then they’re honest with the positive too.” Thus, the negative adds credibility to all the reviews.
2. A mixture of reviews can stir curiosity in the reader.
For example, I once received a two star review that said: “RATED R: Violent/Disturbing Images.” Another time a reviewer gave me a one star for having too much romance: “This was the worst type of historical romance fiction as it had way more romance than I like in any other historical fiction I have read.”
It’s precisely those kinds of statements that can spark curiosity. Someone else reading the review might say, “Hmmm, I like romance. So if that reader thinks it has too much, then it might just be the kind of book I like.”
What one person dislikes might be exactly what another person loves in a story.
3. A mixture of reviews pushes the author to keep improving.
As much as I’d like to write a perfect book, I haven’t accomplished that yet! Negative reviews keep writers from becoming complacent. They remind authors that they still have room for improvement, that they still need to keep learning and honing their skills. And sometimes those reviews even contain morsels of feedback that writers can take away and apply to their next novel.
Negative reviews also keep writers from taking themselves so seriously. With that R-rated review, I chuckled to myself rather allowing myself to be shocked or angry. Realizing that reviews are VERY subjective eases the stress and keeps writers from becoming overly discouraged.
What about YOU? How do you feel about giving or getting negative reviews? Do you think there’s a gracious way to both give and take criticism?
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