Mean Book Reviews Are A Fact Of Life For Self-Published Authors
Today’s book market gives power to readers – even the not-so-nice ones who post mean book reviews.
Less than ten years ago, readers had little opportunity to review books.
You could only find book reviews in newspapers and the back blurb of books. But times have changed.
Nowadays, every reader can have their say about a book.
Book reviews are everywhere
There are, of course, online book reviews on Amazon. But there are also a lot on dedicated social media book sites such as Goodreads.
Then there are book review blogs, of which there are thousands. With the freedom to have their say, readers have the collective power to make or break any book.
Fifty Shades would never have seen the light of day without its initial popularity, which was driven in total by online readers.
It is also worth recalling that not all reviews of the initial or even later versions of the book were positive.
There were many nasty and mean book reviews when the book was first self-published.
New self-publishing authors need to understand that a book buyer and reader are not always the same due to free ebooks.
Reviews can range from being ambivalent, supportive or offering balanced criticism and praise.
But they can also be downright nasty, mean-spirited, and even rude.
The infamous one-star troll, as nasty book reviewers have often been labeled, will remain a part of the book publishing market.
So you have to accept it as a fact of life.
Not everyone is nice and in a good mood
Learning to cope with and ignore blatantly spiteful and nasty comments is something all authors have to do.
But for new authors, the first few bad book reviews are always disturbing, even traumatic.
It is a natural reaction after putting one’s heart and soul into writing a book.
But getting book reviews is not easy, and it’s because very few readers bother to post a review for books they read.
However, as has been seen many times, especially with trolls on Goodreads over the years, some reviewers can often be nasty and habitual.
I know it’s hard, but you should really ignore people who simply vent their spleen like this on social media forums.
Poor reviews are not always mean
But when it comes to readers who write rational and balanced reviews which criticize a book, don’t ignore them.
A bad review is not necessarily a mean review but a reader’s honest appraisal of a book.
If the review is not personally attacking, balanced, and contains comments that suggest that they read the book, then this is honest reader feedback. It should be of value to the author.
Thinking back to the time when readers had no voice, this direct connection between reader and author is now something that should be viewed as positive and constructive.
A book is a product, and like any other product that people buy online, it is subject to buyers’ reviews.
Restaurants, hotels, and even bicycle pumps are subject to the same kind of buyer opinion and feedback.
Today’s authors cannot escape it.
Learning to handle the good with the bad is very much part and parcel of being an author and book publisher.
How to handle mean book reviews
1. Accept that not every reader will like your book. You will always get both good and not-so-good reviews.
2. Never respond to any book review on Amazon or other retailers, except perhaps click the ‘Was this review helpful’ button.
3. Never respond to bad reviews on any social media forum or blog because you will never win the argument.
4. Learn from honest, balanced, and critical reviews.
5. Totally ignore the mean and nasty trolls. Yes, tough to do, I know.
6. Always celebrate your fantastic reviews!
Related Reading: Fix Amazon Book Reviews – Problems And A Workaround
9 thoughts on “Mean Book Reviews Are A Fact Of Life For Self-Published Authors”
Thanks so much for this post, Derek. It was heartening to read and I feel better after reading the comments here from other authors too.
Under my real name I’ve published all-ages fiction and received some good reviews but began publishing erotica + erotic romance under a pen name a year ago. For one book I received a 5-star rating but no review from a buyer (not Amazon) but on a different book (not Amazon), a scathing 1-star review containing personal attacks, stating events that didn’t actually occur in my book, as well as lambasting it for being ‘disgusting’ and ‘porn’ – a book which is clearly labelled as erotica (!) I found it baffling because compared to a lot of other erotica, the content was rather tame. But since that review was posted, I haven’t made a single sale of that book in that store. What’s going on here? Potential buyers are deterred by a review complaining that a book correctly labelled erotica is disgusting and porn?!
Recently I sent some more books out for review via a website which specialises in this, and this same book has been given a few 4-star reviews as well as some 2 and 3-stars. I respect the reviewers for taking the time to read and review, but one was in broken English, another mentioned something that doesn’t actually happen in the book (either from misunderstanding or misreading the male lead’s intentions), and a second reviewer almost word-for-word repeated that review, which I found strange and bordering on plagiarism, tbh. However, I did receive a lovely message from one reviewer asking whether I had plans to write a sequel, so that cheered me up!
Although it’s a different book, again I’ve received a review saying essentially ‘this is porn’ for a book clearly labelled erotica. Again, the content is tame compared to a lot of other books of this genre. I hope this doesn’t sound as if I’m complaining, as I’m grateful to the readers who took the time to read and review my books. I’m just concerned that the 3-star average will negatively affect sales, and also perplexed why people would complain about explicit content in books which are clearly labelled as erotica?!
I was given a whole stack of one star reviews for my comic novel Schrödinger’s Caterpillar as soon as it was released. Turned out it was some troll neighbours who I was having a boundary dispute with, and their offshore workmates and their local friends, and their friends’ kids and so on. I was gutted. Then I discovered that any reviews boosted the book’s visibility and ultimately ratings, Their campaign to enlist everyone they could find to trash the book must have given it lift-off. So for that I am sincerely grateful. The audiobook will be published soon, Meanwhile I now proudly publish my negative reviews on ‘ZaneStumpo.com’. Thank goodness for energetic trolls!
I received several 4 star reviews when I first published my book. I was thrilled because someone took the time to give their honest opinions and criticism. Then someone gave me 5 stars! One morning I logged into my account and a puny 1 star blinked at me. How could that be? It must be a mistake! What’s wrong? A woman said that my book deserved a low rating because I omitted something from the story. My book is a novel about a small town during the 1960s. The woman pointed out that she’d lived there at that time and she was an expert on the town’s history. I almost responded with my opinion of her, but I knew it wouldn’t change anything. She is a book review troll just like all the other trolls out there. People can be hateful!
The first review for my book was a mean comment. Obviously the reviewer was set against the genre & latched onto the book title to rip everything apart. I was beside myself. Fortunately other reviews started flowing in both from those passionate about the genre (paranormal/psychic phenomena) as well as skeptics. The latter response was particularly eye-opening. The skeptics, even if the content wasn’t to their liking, focused on the research and style of writing and this lead to some great comments being posted.
Our mothers have ALWAYS taught if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone DON’T say it; and I believe the same applies to writing a book review. Which is why if I can’t give at least 3 STARS I don’t post the review.
Many mean reviews I feel are due in part to the authors who FORCE their books on individuals who aren’t interested in the book’s genre; which is why I don’t accept requests to review a book, I only review books I obtain myself, and those I win in giveaways for books I’m interested in reading. I know I’ve written a good review when I receive a compliment from the author who’s book I’ve reviewed.
On the whole Robin, I think genuine book reviewers/book bloggers behave very well, and usually give a very balanced account of their thoughts on the books they read. Even less than complimentary reviews contain balanced reasoning.
The mean reviewer though, is very often a social media troll, who is acting purely out of spite for whatever reason. They normally post only one short line of very negative text, which I think potential readers have now learned to ignore.
These days I don’t bother to peruse the reviews both good and bad of any of my books. Unless that is, someone tells me of a four or five star positive review. Then and only then will a take a look at the review in question.
I think readers are learning to ignore silly reviews too Jack. It doesn’t take a lot of nous to spot the mean ramblings of an idiot reviewer.
That’s for sure. Although the first review I received was far from good, most of the comments did not reflect at all to what I had written and said the book was about. It did however, make me realise that my editing was not as good as I thought. I then used an editor to revise it and for my next book, a memoir that was much longer than my ebook.
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