The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Reviews
Online reviews are now a part of our everyday lives. Everything product and service seems to have a user review, and reviews of the same product/service can vary wildly from one reviewer to the next.
Indie publishing is no exception to this rule, and if you choose to sell your works on Amazon or Audible (an Amazon company), reviews are key to product placement. Good reviews can mean higher placement in Amazon's search engine which can help drive sales.
There is a downside to online reviews though, and if you aren't careful, you can quickly become discouraged by negative reviews.
Let's face it: not everyone will like your book. It doesn't matter if you have a successful series of books like J.K. Rolling or Stephen King, or Mark Twain all do, they will not appeal to everyone. Whether you a new to the world of publishing (self or indie-published or traditionally published), a negative review can sting.
But it doesn't have to.
I'll admit that I made more than a few mistakes with my first self-published novel. Some spelling and grammatical errors managed to get past my editor and were only corrected at a later date. Some readers were kind enough to point out these issues, while other's went on a complete rant about finding some mistakes. Having my mistakes made public was embarrassing, but I sucked it up, made the corrections and moved on.
For awhile that seemed to quell the negative reviews, and my books started receiving a significant number of complimentary reviews. Soon there were more positive than negative reviews from readers and listeners who had enjoyed the stories.
Even though the majority of the reviewers liked my printed or audio books, there were still some people that didn't like them. Some even hated the stories, and for various reasons.
Any artist (and yes, writers are artists) who has summoned up enough courage to chase their dreams and put themselves in the public eye deserves some credit. Not everyone can or will do this, even if they are incredibly talented. Putting yourself "out there" for the whole world to see means that you could be making yourself a potential target for some very negative individuals.
I have been self-published for a couple of years now, and for the most part the reviews of my work are more positive than negative. However, I still have some reviewers who simply don't like my stories, and I am fine with that.
This is not an uncommon occurrence in the writing world; Twitter, author blogs and Facebook are full of indie artists who chat about how they cope with negative reviews (not to be confused with constructive reviews that help the author improve). Even big names such as J.K. Rolling, Stephen King, Margaret Mitchell and Mark Twain receive negative reviews, and some of them are quite amusing!
A quick search on Amazon will illustrate how ludicrous some of the negative reviews can be:
"It's witchcraft!" - one star review for Harry Potter by J.K. Rolling.
"Is this child pornography?" - one star review for IT by Stephen King.
"I lost the book so I'm giving it one star." - IT by Stephen King.
"Racist!" - Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
"The story wasn't as good for me now as it was when I was a teenager in the 1970's" - Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
There are even more instances of one star reviews being given for the actual print quality of the books, which has nothing to do with the story or the author.
My most recent run-in with a negative review came from a lady who had listened to the audiobook version of my first novel, Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor. She goes on a rant about the characters and story line (it is FICTION, by the way) and how the antagonists are portrayed in a negative light; she says that they lack character, integrity and common decency. If my antagonists were good people, how would they be antagonists??? I guess this particular listener has never come across a TV show, movie or book that has characters who are not nice or act in bizarre and over-the-top behavior in order to drive home a point, or to entertain. Thank goodness she hasn't watched or read any science fiction!
I make a point of reading all the reviews that are left for my work, both the good and the bad. I have also been taking the time to look at the history of a reviewer. Most sites that allow reviews will also post the history of the reviewer (just click on the reviewers screen name) which can prove to be of value. More often than not I find that someone who leaves a wild rant about how much they hate something has a long track record of doing the same thing for a myriad of other products and services. This can also come in handy when you are looking to make a purchase - not all reviews are real, and too many 5 star reviews can be as much a red-flag as too many 1 star reviews.
Negative reviews will happen and the advent of online reviews gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion, even if that opinion is contrary to your own. You can't please everyone, but sometimes you can learn from the comments that reviewers make. Some will even make you laugh.