What Should An Author Do About a Poor Review?

Recently, on a list I'm on, authors were discussing what to do when a poor review was received for a book. In the case they were writing about, the reviewer had clearly gotten some facts wrong about the book, making the author wonder if the book had even been read.

Another author cited a really nasty review posted anonymously.

From there the discussion led to whether or not the author should try to defend the book to the reviewer or on the review cite.

The consensus was to leave it alone. That's what I've always done too. However, it's difficult, especially when you know the reviewer didn't bother to read the book, nor even glance through it, but only repeated what was in the blurb on the back of the book.

During my blog tour for Lingering Spirit, I received a review that criticized the book for something it wasn't and for not being the kind of book she wanted. Strange. I decided the best tact was to say I was sorry she didn't like the book while thanking her for taking the time to read it.

Of course, everyone has a right to his or her own opinion--and when you ask for a review you are asking for that opinion. We all know everyone has different tastes and preferences in books, so sometimes my book or your book isn't going to be the kind of book a reviewer likes to read.

I've had plenty of wonderful reviews from all sorts of places that I do not need to worry about the couple of reviews that weren't glowing with compliments.

So, it's time to take my own advice and forget the not so good reviews and rejoice for all the terrific ones.



C. N. Nevets said…
I haven't dealt with reviews a lot yet, but I know it will be a challenge. I still remember the editorial reviews I got from a submission when I was sixteen to a scifi magazine that sent actual reviews and comments not just rejection slips. One was positive. One was neutral, with a reasonable perspective. The third seemed to have not actually read the story, and was entirely negative.

I still wince about that one. I'd like to hope I'm tough enough to accept criticism and wise enough to understand matters of taste. But I struggle with is the type of situation which you describe: being criticized for something I did not, in fact do.

It feels like being yelled at by my parents for something my cousin did (to draw an analogy).

But I also understand that's part of the business, especially with the anonymity of the internet, so I will grit my teeth and bear it as it comes.
Sue said…
You're absolutely right. Some reviewers can be inhuman sometimes. I once read a review on a new writer's book. The reviewer actually said, "This book should have been titled 'How Not to Write a Book'". I also noticed the author (who'd also received good reviews) ignored her - best thing.
C.N.I think we've all had reviews that we weren't thrilled with, but it seems to all be part of the business.

Sue, definitely, holding our tongue or typing finger is the best things to do.
The Book Buff said…
As a reviewer and author, this is a tough subject for me. Sometimes, I think the book is absolutely terrible, and I want to express my honest opinion. I try to list specific things I didn't like in a constructive way, that way, people can use my review as a guide in case those things don't bother them, and they will read the book anyway. My goal as a reviewer is not to encourage or discourage people from reading the books, but rather tell them why I did or did not like it so they can decide for themselves.

As I am an aspiring author, I know how much work goes in to a book, so I never flat out trash a book, I give a review I would be comfortable receiving myself, even if it is negative. When I get negative criticisms, I look at it as an opportunity to improve my writing. There are some rare times when I did not enjoy a single aspect of a book and I have a hard time writing a review. Some of the books had never seen an editor, and it puts the reviewer in a difficult position.

A few weeks ago, I had a bad experience on my blog, where I gave a negative review and listed specifically why I did not like the book I read, and the author had all of her friends trash my blog. I felt that the review was very matter of fact, not mean spirited in any way. They spammed it with rude comments and spammed other opinion oriented gadgets that I eventually had to remove. I wish the author could have seen this article before she trashed my blog.

I think we need to have a thick skin in this business. Also, I think it is important to really look at past reviews of a person before requesting a review. I won't ever submit my book to the Smart B****es blog because I don't feel like their reviews aren't constructive. If someone has a history of posting brutal reviews, you shouldn't submit your book to them.

C. N. Nevets said…
Kate, that's terrible. I definitely think that's inappropriate and I'm sorry an author responded in that way. No matter how unjustified I might ever feel a reviewer's comments were, I would never do something like that.

Essentially, that type of activity amounts to, "You didn't like what I wrote, so I don't like what you wrote and I'm going to drown you out so only my voice gets heard."

If I don't try to squash books or stories with different vantage points than my own, why I would even think about squashing a reviewer with a different perspective?

It doesn't click for me.
Jacqueline Vick said…
I think the problem comes because reviewers feel they should entertain readers rather than inform, and somewhere along the line, rude became entertaining.

When I review a book, I remember a person expended a lot of time and effort. What are the good points? If the bad points can't be ignored, there is always a gentler way to point them out.

"There were a lot of editing errors that took me out of the story" isn't a slam, it's a fact, and it suggests the story was worth staying in.

As for anything posted by an Anonymous, if a person doesn't want to stand behind their comments, I'm not going to take them seriously.

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