How to respond to a review that you see as less than ideal.
Ignorance is, for some people, bliss.
However, when that translates into comments in their book reviews, it can also be rather revealing.
I’m not talking about the nasty trolls who leave one-star ratings with hateful comments that demonstrate no evidence of even having read your book. Those are in a class all of their own, and way beyond anything I could logically explain.
I’m talking about the reviewers who buy and read a book, then leave a review that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Consider these examples. In the interests of brevity, I have paraphrased them.
What they wrote: “A mix of Romeo and Juliet with Rapunzel… too much like spoiled five-year-olds instead of sixteen-year-olds. Sex on the first day? 2 stars.”
What I thought:
Have you even read Romeo and Juliet? Or watched the movie? Those were Shakespeare’s ideas, not mine.
Oh well. Some people don’t like his writing, either. I’m in good company.
What they wrote: “I didn’t expect a horror story.”
What I thought:
But it clearly says it’s a horror story! Did you read the product description? Did you check the categories in which it’s listed? Obviously not.
Does that mean you “one-clicked” me? Awesome!
What they wrote: “I don’t read poetry. I don’t like it and I don’t understand it. So I didn’t really understand this book of poetry. But it was OK I guess.”
What I thought:
If you don’t read poetry… and you don’t like poetry… why would you buy a book of poetry?
You “one-clicked” me, didn’t you? Alright!
Freakin’ A! I have two fans who buy my books, even though they don’t like what I write. Brilliant. Now I just need about a million more and I’ll be set.
To be honest, I actually very rarely read my reviews. Those are there for the benefit of other customers who need to know if they want to read my books (they do) and if they’ll enjoy them (they will).
I certainly don’t respond to them. That’s like hanging a target on your own back, and can cause far more heartbreak for an author than any review ever might have done.
Of course, the stores like us to get reviews, too. Amazon say it’s to inform other customers, but every Indie author I know thinks it’s so that they have something to feed their algorithm monster in the basement, and so they have something to take away from us when it appears we’re doing a little too well. Thankfully, other stores let us keep the reviews we get.
I don’t worry about the occasional baffling review. Reviewers are so rare that I’m reluctant to complain. Besides, it balances all those lovely shiny five star ones and makes everything look much more realistic. I don’t think any writer can reasonably hope for their work to be loved by everyone.
If your reviews are consistently negative, it’s fair to assume you probably have some work to do. The best way to avoid that happening is to ensure your book is properly proof-read, edited, and has been given a thorough working over by beta readers. You’re not doing yourself any favours by skipping those things. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it properly.
A critical review here and there doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, nor that your book is terrible. It just means that your book, like any other author’s book, isn’t to everyone’s taste. And that’s perfectly okay.
The best response is to ask yourself if there’s anything useful you can take from it, make a note, and walk away.