The (inevitable?) negative book review and what to do

Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and PublishersEveryone (me included) will gets negative book reviews. All books get them, what you do is up to you. I defy you to find a bestseller without a negative review: J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Dean R. Koontz. Congratulations you have joined the fraternity of abused authors. John Grisham just got 66 “one-star” reviews for his last book. Maybe he deserved it, I don’t know, that’s not the point.

A book with nothing but 5-star reviews is suspicious in a different way, it looks like the jury might have been bought. It might be fun to try to keep your “straight ‘A'” grade point average but you do not actually have any control here. I do know some people who head straight for the low-starred reviews to see if the reviewer is just a crank and then go back to the high-starred reviews and decide for themselves on that basis.

After some 5 or 6 years of dealing with this, my best strategy to is to “bury ’em” with positive reviews. Find five other reviewers to review your book. How in the world would you do this? Find competing books in your niche, locate their reviews on Amazon, and contact the reviewers and ask them if they would like a review copy of your book. Many of them will have blogs or be relatively easy to find on Google. Sometimes they copy their reviews verbatim from their blogs into Amazon so you can just google a phrase from the review.

Retaliation is off-the-table, it never works. If you feel you must, you can “vote down” the review as unhelpful. That is anonymous, so it can be done. Resist the temptation to comment (“reply”) to the review unless it addresses an issue which was fixed in a later printing or edition. In that case, you can offer them a free review copy if you like. What you should NOT do is try to refute the review point-by-point, even if you know there are mistakes in the review. Remember what Mom said, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”.

Here’s some followup advice from Tyler Tichelaar, an article featured in “Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors”.

What If I Still Get A Negative Review?
If you have followed all this advice and you still get a negative book review, all is not lost.

  • Most importantly, don’t lose your temper. A negative review may point out weak aspects of your writing that will help you become a more effective writer of your next book or even the second edition of your current work.
  • Don’t hide from the world. The review is just one person’s opinion. It’s highly possible good reviews will still come.
  • Learn from your mistakes. If you get several negative reviews, you have work to do. You can republish the book with revisions.
  • Find something good in the review. You may still find a quotable passage to promote your book. The reviewer might not like your characters, but he might remark that the book is well researched. He may complain about the proofreading, but he may still like the story concept.
  • Build a relationship with the reviewer. Send a thank you note and tell the reviewer you appreciate his honesty. The reviewer will be impressed by your professionalism, and this will leave open a line of communication and a possible good review for your next book.
  • Remember, even a negative review is better than no book review. In the long run, you will become a better writer and hopefully sell more books.

About Victor Volkman

Author of "Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction" and six other books.
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