Celebrate Reviews ~ The Good, The Bad, and The Indifferent

Ah, the dreaded review. A five star has us leaping over the moon and sharing with one and all. A one star will have us bemoaning those who don’t realize what it took to write our book. I’m fairly certain all of us have received a less than stellar review at some point in time. That one sticks with us, makes us rethink our dedication to the craft. Some authors have declared they’re ready to quit after their first bad review.
Is that the way to go?

Absolutely not. A review is someone’s opinion about our book. There’s no need to troll the reviewer’s stats, searching for a reason they didn’t like our book. Please don’t post derogatory comments about the reviewer, either on the sales site or your blog. Ignore the review, unless the reviewer makes very valid points about plot content or proofreading/editing problems. Then it’s time to go through your book with a fine tooth comb and ask yourself if you could have done better. If you don’t see anything wrong, ask a person you trust to be blunt and truthful to look over your book and give their opinion. Be ready to hear the worst news. And rejoice when they say there might be a few things but nothing to warrant a poor review.

I’m no different from anyone else. I love seeing those five star reviews, but they aren’t a real picture of how good your book is. The sales reflect that information. Let’s look at how the review system is used at this moment.

5 Stars: A stellar book. No mistakes at all. Keeps the reader’s interest from the first page to the last. No sagging middle. No hanging plot points. No stiff characters. You haven’t made a single mistake and the reader is telling you that.

4 Stars: Good book. Some mistakes. The reader liked what you wrote and is telling you that, but you also need to see why they didn’t go for the top rating. Maybe the characters don’t talk like real people. Do you eschew contractions completely? Remember, when people talk and think, they use contractions. Use them yourself. Make your dialogue and action real. You might have also left a plot point dangling, which causes the reader to be confused. That’s where a stellar proofreader will help you.

3 Stars: Book is still good but there are problems. Spelling errors, incorrect grammar, poor characterization, or any of the other points previously discussed. Your book still needs work. Don’t obsess over these things now. Wait until you’re ready with the second edition and move onto your next book, but keep in mind that you have to watch for those problems.

2 Stars: The reader wasn’t in love with your book. They didn’t have a good time reading it. There was little to no connection with the characters. This indicated two problems. You might need to completely rewrite the book, or the reader really isn’t into this type of novel. If it’s the first problem, engage a beta reader to point out the problems. If it’s the second, move on. You can’t please everyone all the time.

1 Star: More than one reason exists for the lowest level of review rating. The reader absolutely hated your book. The reasons vary. Some for the content. Some for the plot. Others just hated the book but never really explain why. Then there are the trolls, who write unfavorable reviews only to get commentary. Ignore the last type of review. They’re not worth your time and effort to argue with a person whose only reason for writing what they did was to get a reaction. I do suggest going over your book to see if there are problems you ignored previously, but otherwise accept that some people won’t like what you wrote.

We, as authors, know we need reviews. Ideally, we would like those reviews to be from people who have purchased the book and liked it. Those are the best reviews. We also trade books with other authors, each of us writing a review to assist the other. We faithfully post those reviews to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, and hope others do the same for us.

In the end, a great review with the reviewer explaining why they liked the book without giving spoilers can help sales. A poor review may cause others to rethink purchasing your book, but it’s how you handle reviews that eventually attracts readers. Cheer for the good reviews. Don’t talk about the poor ones, unless you’re asked. If you are asked about a poor review, don’t denigrate the reviewer. It is their opinion, after all. Stick with a simple “I can’t please everyone all the time.” Your quiet acceptance that you will receive poor reviews without bashing that person will get you more readers than if you tell everyone what a louse that reviewer is.


Edita A. Petrick said…
Just wanted to say that three and four stars aren't always about grammar glitches or plot holes or even contractions or unlikeable characters - they can be about the pace of your story. Too slow to unfold, too detailed to one's liking, etc. The problem with these kind of reviews is that they are simply a matter of taste and - according to that age old saying - there is no accounting for the taste. Not all stories can unfold quickly; not all plots can be hung upon bare-bones structure. So what do you do about reviews like that? Not much really, other than to move quickly past them and continue looking for like-minded reviewers -- which is the hardest thing in the writing game. Writing is easy, finding a reader who shares your reading tastes down to the smallest detail and who is willing to do reviews...now that's hard. Thanks for the post - it's a good reality-check. Edita
KC Sprayberry said…
Very true, or they could be about the reviewer not wanting to go lower than a 3 star review. I hate crushing anyone with a 1 or 2 star review and always look for any reason to bring up the rating. Unfortunately, I had to rate 2 books with 2 stars. They just shouldn't have been published.