They are infuriating, annoying, and often stupid. They are unfair, depressing, and disheartening.
But bad book reviews are one of the harsh realities of being a published author today.
If you’re a seasoned author, you know what I’m talking about.
If you are a new author who is about to publish your first book, you will come to know soon enough.
I hesitate now when I refer to online book reviews because, in fact, on retail sites, they are not called book reviews.
On Amazon, they are simply called Customer Reviews.
There’s no difference between a book review or a review for a three-person camping tent.
On Apple iBooks and Audible, they are called Customer Ratings.
So, what’s the difference between a book review and a customer review?
A book review asks; does the book work for me?
A book review that you might find on a reputable book reviewer’s blog or perhaps a book club site will cover the basics.
When they review a book, they will give a balanced personal view of the strengths and weaknesses of the story.
Perhaps it will note one or two short passages from the book or provide a guide as to the book’s intended audience.
The reviewer may not like the book.
Even if it is a negative book review, it will usually be clear as to the reasons why.
But also offset it with at least one or two positive aspects. Even a terrific review might contain one or two, what I didn’t like, points.
There is often a conclusion and a reading recommendation, but rarely a star rating.
On occasions, a good review might extend to 1,000 words. It could even end with details such as publication date, publisher, and number of pages.
You can, of course, find many book reviews similar to this on Amazon and other online retailers.
When you receive a review like this, you should be very pleased.
Even if it is not glowing, you at least know that the reviewer read the book and is giving an open and honest opinion from which potential readers can make a buying judgment.
A customer review is different
Customer reviews can be, and often are, genuine book reviews from passionate readers.
But not all readers react in this manner.
There is sometimes an emotive, or even a recognition factor involved because a one-star review can help attract attention.
The majority of silly and nasty reviews I got over the years all had the necessary ingredients for wanton attention-seeking.
The hallmarks of a bad reviewer are personal attacks, derogatory language, and ridicule of positive reviews, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, online retailers, and especially Amazon, are reluctant to remove these reviews.
I have tried to reason with Amazon. But it has always refused my requests to take down a review unless it contains blatantly vulgar or racist language.
The worst of the worst
One of the worst sites for atrocious, vile, and even threatening book reviewer behavior was Goodreads.
I used the past tense intentionally because I gave up on this site years ago due to the infamous Goodreads Trolls.
It earned a well-deserved reputation for spiteful negative reviewers and also for authors, hating authors.
Goodreads may have improved its site behavior since Amazon acquired it. But I am not sure because I still have an aversion to visiting the site.
According to this article on The Writing King, things seemingly have not improved.
But, my author page is still on Goodreads. I leave it there for the decent people who use the site. But I don’t interact or even bother to check anymore.
Free ebooks can attract negative reviews
One simple way that I found to reduce the number of these ridiculous reviews and one-star ratings dramatically was to stop giving away free books.
It works on basic human psychology that when people buy a book, they usually read it because it cost them money.
Well, anyway, after I stopped using free Kindle ebook campaigns a couple of years ago, most of the one-star Amazon reviews ceased appearing.
There is nothing much you can do about one-star reviews and especially the ones written in spite.
But if you are using free ebooks as part of your book promotion, and you start getting a run of them, perhaps consider stopping for a while to see if things improve.
Amazon has at least tried to curtail free ebook hunting troll reviewers with its new condition that a customer must have spent at least $50.00 to post a customer review.
It has helped a little, I think.
Here we go again!
I’ve been around long enough to have a very thick skin.
But, unusually for me, one recent review really got right up my nose.
To give you some background, I signed with an audiobook publisher a little while back.
Two books have been published so far, and a third is in production.
I couldn’t be more pleased with my publisher and the narrators.
My books have been published on schedule, and the narration and production quality is top class. On top of that, copies are selling.
As part of the launch of a new title, my publisher has a sizable list of readers, well listeners in this case, who receive a free copy.
It is a good strategy, and one that I now understand is commonly used with the release of new audiobooks on Audible.
However, these listeners need to add a disclaimer to their reviews stating that they received a free copy.
I think this is an excellent idea, and one I wish Amazon would consider for readers who get free ebooks.
When my first audiobook was released, the reviews were excellent.
Very balanced, with some great, some good and some not so good reviews. But all with justification or expressions of personal taste.
But with my second audiobook, an attention seeker surfaced.
So the narrator gets it in the neck after weeks of hard work, as well as the story, which the reviewer didn’t bother to listen to.
The reviewer has obviously copied and pasted the disclaimer because of the correct grammar and spelling, which is not the case in the one line attempt at a review.
Why bother posting a review like this?
Perhaps it was due to a misunderstanding that it was an obligation, or maybe it was attention-seeking. I don’t know.
Well, after I got annoyed, I calmed down, and I clicked the this was unhelpful button. It made me feel better.
I thought it was a dumb review, and anyone with an ounce of sense will probably think the same.
So, in fact, no harm is done, really.
Except to reduce the overall review star rating for the book. Thanks for nothing.
It’s only a review
I didn’t write this article to deride those who post poor customer or book reviews.
The facility is there for them to use, and as an author, there is nothing I can do about it.
Retailers set the rules and standards, and by making my books available on their sites, I have accepted their terms and conditions.
But there is often a disconnect in perception.
Authors love their books, so they naturally take umbrage to negative reviews, comments, and ratings.
But for many readers, a book is just a book. There is no thought given to the hard work or the feelings of an author.
It is simply a free or two or three dollar consumable item.
As a consumer, they are free to say or do as they please because they are given the opportunity to do just that.
How does a book compare to a camping tent? Who cares. It’s only a customer review.
If you are an author and new to self-publishing, you need to understand how customer reviews work.
You need to be prepared to accept the good with the bad and try not to take too much to heart.
It’s not easy, and I know some authors who could not handle the unjustified criticism removed their books from sale.
But I think it is better to take a pragmatic view and learn to accept that there will be a range of opinions about your book.
As I noted before, if you think a review is stupid, spiteful or nasty, others will likely come to the same conclusion and ignore the review.
So it is not so bad, after all. It’s just one review.
Quite honestly, in my experience, ninety-five percent of people who post customer reviews are sane, rational, and decent people.
For the rest, well, there are always some who can’t help themselves.
Do you think you need a little help in accepting poor reviews?
Then you might want to read an old article I wrote about Wonderfully Bad Book Reviews for some light-hearted encouragement.