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18 July
2012
BadRedhead Says Viewpoints
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Bad Reviews Suck…and Why I Don’t Care

 

By Rachel Carsman Thompson, Founder of BadRedhead Media

Let’s talk about reviews, shall we?

We’ve all read instances where an author acts poorly in the face of a one or two-star review. It’s usually referred to as ‘authors behaving badly,’ usually for good reason.

Writers are generally sensitive, artistic types. We slave over our computers to pound out stories that will not get out of our heads. It’s a lonely occupation, even with the advent of social media and blogging because the ideas, the writer, and our medium are solely what bring our stories forth.

Then…after we’ve paid for editing, proofreading, graphics, and formatting (hint hint), we upload our books and wait. Martini or Nutella in hand, we wait.

What if people love it? What if people hate it? What if what if what if? (I do recommend using betareaders for a bit of loin girding.)

And so it goes.

Well, guess what: some will love it. Some will hate it. As anyone who creates art can tell you, no work is universally loved.

Most of us accept this, perhaps grudgingly and with a certain amount of angst. Then we move on. More to write. Right?

We’ve all certainly read books we’ve hated. I even threw out a CD once because the music was so incredibly god-awful, I couldn’t bear to deal with the hassles of returning, so I broke it and dumped it in the bin. And it felt good!

Why then are authors behaving badly? Or, are we?

Authors Behaving Badly – Defined

I’m of the camp that believes there are some authors behaving badly. Why?

I hear the argument frequently that one poor review will affect sales much more than ten positive reviews (though I haven’t seen actual data). And perhaps that is true. Yet, accept that when you write a book, you are putting yourself out there for any scrutiny or criticism people want to heap upon you. You are no longer the lone author in your office, tapping away to your iTunes playlist. You are now part of an established tradition and community, and you will be schooled in hard knocks whether you want to be or not.

You don’t like everyone you meet, right? Sometimes a person disappoints you, or isn’t interested in what or who you are. That’s life, baby. All artists must develop a hard shell to criticism, as a form of staying true to our own vision as well as not allowing others to manipulate our emotions. It’s been my experience that the authors who doth protest too much might want to look at what they’ve written instead. There could be merit. I’m not saying there will be; I’m saying there could be. (Example: some people object to the use of hashtags in the one-sentence intros of my second book, Mancode: Exposed. I read them. I changed nothing. But, I’m aware that the use of this tool annoys some. #ohwell.)

Peer Reviews

I, personally, would never write a scathing review of a fellow author’s book, knowing the effort we put into writing them. That said, there is a lot of crap out there (just as in music and in art), and though I’m an avid reader, I’m not a reviewer by practice, so I don’t feel comfortable advising someone else on what I believe they should have done (which I think is rather presumptuous anyway). I will email them with changes or suggestions if they’ve asked.

Meaning, I don’t review books as a book blogger – simply as a reader. I believe those who are book bloggers or professional reviewers should adhere to some guidelines (as many amazing reviewers do): review the book, not the writer; offer suggestions for improvement; point out inconsistencies or annoying tendencies; I would hope editing and grammar had already been looked at but worth pointing out if the author missed something in the process. Etc.

And yet, not every reviewer, reader, or book blogger ascribes to that. I’m often shocked at the horrible things people say that have nothing at all to do with the work itself.

(There are rumors now that Amazon will remove author to author reviews, unverified purchases, and other inappropriate commentary. If that’s the case, great. So far, there’s nothing in their official guidelines about it {though it’s been supposedly mentioned on their Facebook page}. I’m thrilled to see them taking steps to verify and set up better quality control.)

As writers, it’s our job to learn from these reviews; what we did well, what needs improvement. And move on.

Poor Reviews

Sometimes, a person will have a viscerally negative reaction to your book. They hate it with every cell of their soul. It happens. However, I have very little respect for negative reviews that attack the author personally or use inappropriate names, labels, or make judgmental statements regarding the author’s personal life. (I speak from experience. People often make these types of remarks about who I am as a person. Remember this: readers don’t know you. At all.)

But…do I feel it’s worth reacting? No way. For all the time you spend agonizing and righteously whining over that one poor review, you could have written five chapters of your next book.

What to Do

So, is it then, a waste of time to read our negative reviews, if controlling our emotions about them is more difficult than moving on? That’s up to each writer, of course.

I read all my reviews. As I said, I never respond (though I do pull anonymous quotes from them occasionally for the entertainment value, ‘trustafarian dewdrop’ being my current fav).

Negative reviews actually legitimize your work. Many people look at a book with all four and five-star reviews and say, “Friends and family,” though (from my experience), that’s rarely the case. This is hard for most authors, especially new ones, to understand. I know it took me awhile!

Breathe. Relax. It’s just ONE review. (Wait til you have received ten, twenty-five, even fifty! Vodka helps.)

Bottom Line

I write my books with my vision. That is my success. If people buy it and hate it to the point of writing a one-star review, at least I’ve elicited an emotion and that, my friends, is a win.

What if someone recommends others not buy it? Don’t care. I have faith that anyone who is truly interested in me, my book, or my work overall will be intelligent enough to make their own decision, find out more about me, or move on. The sheep that can’t make their own decisions probably won’t enjoy my work, anyway.

Final words: Reacting defensively to a poor review reminds me of kids fighting in the schoolyard over something that seems monumental at that moment, yet which they will forget about within minutes.

You dig in to make your point, fight with everything you have, and guess what? Nobody remembers anything about your book anymore. They label you instead.

If writing is your profession, be professional. Name-calling and drama is fun for some, and if you think it will sell you more books, knock yourself out.

Truly, please. Then we won’t have to listen to you anymore.


About Rachel Carsman Thompson

Author Rachel Thompson is a successful self-published author and social media/branding consultant. Releasing her first title in January 2011 and her second in December, 2011, she’s sold nearly 15,000 copies of A Walk In the Snark and The Mancode Exposed combined. Snark hit #1 on the Kindle Motherhood and Women’s Studies lists last September, and in 2011 Mancode placed in the Amazon Top 100 Paid list as well as number one on the Parenting and Family list. She will release her next title, Broken Pieces, this winter.

Thompson has over 18K followers on Twitter, an expanding presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and several other channels. Her blogs at RachelintheOC.com (author site) and BadRedheadMedia.com (consulting/social media site) allow her to personally connect with readers. Give her a shout!

Thompson is the Blog-To-Book expert for Triberr, and her articles have been picked up by Catalyst Partnership, Business2Community.com, 12Most, and other popular social media sites. She was chosen by BlogWorld as one of twenty-three bloggers to watch in March, 2012.

 




107 Comments:

  • S.K. Logsdon says:

    I LOVED this— I think it should be posted for all Authors to take a look at and read. I’m new to being published. 3 Months out the door and 5 works out to the masses. 3 of which are apart of a series. I remember my first few 1 or 2 star reviews and I seriously thought I might croak. Especially when my mom called to tell me about them before I even saw them. She was more upset than I was. lol… But then as I move along I’ve realized I can’t keep everybody happy and to be honest I’ve thanked people who have written a bad review. Saying I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the book- But THANK YOU for taking the time out to read it.
    I had somebody comment about my age once, thinking I was younger than I am… Apparently age matters (not)– She thought my work was terrible with only reading the first 10 pages- Made a review… I about fell on the floor.
    Another talked about how I should have never become an author and should take a look in the mirror (not a quote but that’s the jist.)

    So, yes I see what you are saying. But the problem lies when the people who are loving your work don’t post reviews and those who hate it only do. People tend to post when they are angry more than they do when they are happy about something.

    Thank you for writing this. — It’s made my day.

  • HI S.K. and thank you for your awesome response.

    It certainly is a wonder sometimes just what people are thinking when they write their ‘reviews’ and I put those quote/unquote marks there intentionally. Many times, 1-star reviews show up as ‘verified amazon purchase’ because they’ve downloaded it free. They also leave the bare minimum of words (I think it’s 20 but not entirely sure). They also tend to include very general statements, which is like trying to write a term paper using made-up facts LOL.

    Regardless, keep writing. It’s what we DO.

    Best,
    Rachel

  • Rick Carufel says:

    You completely fail to even address the serious problem of the gangs of stalker trolls who maliciously down-grade books with the specific intent of damaging sales. Goodreads and Amazon have so many no-read 1-star ratings and reviews by trolls that their APIs are completely fraudulent. Multiple oomplaints have been filed with the FTC about this since it amounts to consumer fraud.
    For example when Goodreads finally tried to stop the constant personal attacks on authors by it’s members in September the troll culture responded by maliciously leaving thousands of 1-star rating for books they’ve never read. These ratings determine the chances a specific book will come up when a search for a specific genre is queried. So this malicious down-rating will cause a book to never show up in a search. Neither Amazon or Goodreads will do a thing to remove the malicious members of their websites because all they are interested in are the numbers of ratings and reviews with absolutely no regard for their validity. they need the preponderance of numbers to create the illusion of legitimacy. Both websites actually need the fake rating and reviews to pad their numbers. This has and does affect the sales of books. The bad reviews prevent books from coming up as options to buy. 15-20 malicious ratings can destroy sales of a great book. why not look into that problem?

    As far as BBAs are concerned that is mostly myth created by the trolls to justify their personal attacks on authors disguised as 1-star, no read, book reviews. They eagerly bait authors and if any author makes any comment about a review they attack. Most times they intentionally post inaccurate info about the book and if an author rises to the bait they are crucified.

    The worst offenders are the Gramazon trolls who don’t even know what a book review is. They think it is a weapon to be used against an author to try and destroy the writers reputation, livelihood and career and not the critique of a literary work.

    The malicious attacks on authors and books are a huge problem and cost millions in sales every year.

    One of my latest books, “The GMO Killerz”, was reviewed by an Amazon vine verified reviewer and given a 5-star rating by the kind lady who bought and read the book. Yet on goodreads the book is rated at 2-stars with 15 1-star ratings and/or reviews by member who have not read a word I’ve written.

    So the problem with reviews is not the occasional legitimate 1-star review but the direct attempt by the members of goodreads and Amazon to maliciously down-rate books with the intent of destroying authors.

    Any comment made by an author on the goodreads site is considered a bannable offense and Goodreads will ban an author in a flash. But they will absolutely refuse to remove a book from their site. I unpublished three ebooks from Amazon to get them removed from goodreads and goodread refuses to even look into any DMCA takedown orders. You can read all about this on my blog: indie-publishing. blogspot.com.

    Online reviews have become so badly corrupted by troll attacks that they are basically worthless. Anne Rice frequently criticizes this in the Amazon forums but AMAZON DOES NOTHING. An author cannot contact goodreads or amazon by any means other than email and the response is always some canned BS auto-response and nothing is ever done.

    • Hi Rick —

      All valid, salient points. Oh believe me, I’m aware as well.

      If you notice, the date of this post was July of 2012. MUCH has changed since then, particularly with regard to the ‘Goodreads gangs’ etc.

      I too have been hit with ridiculous 1-star reviews on Broken Pieces (nonfiction) which make zero sense — I address childhood sexual abuse, date rape, abusive relationships, and the review said that the characters were boring. I mean.

      I’ve reported a few to Amazon and they have removed about three so far.

      Sadly, the system that exists is the system that exists. Now that Amazon has purchased Goodreads, hopefully they’ll impose some stricter guidelines.

      Thank you for reading and your comment.

      • Rick Carufel says:

        Thanks for the quick reply and happy holidays, Rachel. :)

        One point that I never see mentioned is that both Goodreads and Amazon rely on the fake ratings and reviews in two ways. First the troll culture is by far the most active members on both sites and and therefore generate the most ratings and reviews and secondly both sites actually need the fake ratings and reviews to garner the preponderance of numbers to pose as the authority. Neither site has any policy or mechanism to check the validity of any reviews or ratings.

        Here’s a link to a recording of me on the phone with Amazon where they tell me that no-read 1-star attack reviews are not in violation of their guidelines. Clearly the problem comes from the top.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM16hcENbqc

        It would have taken goodreads 25 years to gather the number of reviews and ratings they sell if there was any checking on the validity of the ratings and reviews on their site. Therefore it can only be surmised that goodreads is intentionally fraudulent for the sake of rapid growth.

        Take for instance the absurd requirement on goodreads that a book review has to be at least 50 characters long. One can barely do a review with 50 words let alone characters. Then there is the “Top Reviewers” who according to goodreads are doing hundreds of reviews per week, how is that possible?

        Goodreads is a fraud and they are selling a fraudulent API, Amazon is the same.
        Goodreads also steals copyrighted material and refuses to remove it even after repeated DMCA takedown orders.

        Yes BBA is the catch all phrase for badly behaving authors. This is part of the sociopathic mindset of the trolls. They delusionally believe that in all instances the author is to blame and they deserve the malicious ratings, reviews and personal attacks. All sociopaths believe the victims are to blame. No difference here. They firmly believe that it is their right under the first amendment attack authors with the intent to destroy their careers.

  • Jonathan says:

    “Well, guess what: some will love it. Some will hate it. As anyone who creates art can tell you, no work is universally loved.”

    Too true, at least as far as _fiction_ writing goes.

    When writing fact more is at stake. A bad review reflects on the author’s expertise, and not just the book, which they may rely on for other work.

    So what does an author do when confronted with not just an unfavourable review of their non-fiction book, but an unfavourable review that contains erroneous statements (falsehoods) about ones work.

    I recently had such a review of one of my books. It was in a professional related publication too and so my core market in my home country saw it. Alas, after thinking about it for a while, I decided all I could do is point out the reviewers falsehoods, and this is what I did…
    http://www.science-com.concatenation.org/reviews/antoinette_mannion_reading.html

    Was this really behaving badly?

    (It’s a sincere question.)

    • Hi Jonathan — good question.

      I can relate, because my 3 releases are all nonfiction. Here’s the thing: a bad review sucks but will trying to correct someone’s perception of our work change their mind?

      I’m not saying you behaved badly — not at all. I’m just questioning the effort — is it worth it? Will it make a difference? Now, if it’s a publication that did the review and the facts are grossly misrepresented, that’s a consideration. However, most reviews are made by readers without any real guidelines in mind. Readers write from emotion for the most part.

      Not sure if this answers your question, but the way I look at it is that even a correction likely won’t make a difference. Our work just isn’t for everyone. So just keep doing your thing and move on.

  • When someone writes an article he/she maintains the idea of a user in
    his/her brain that how a user can be aware of it.
    Thus that’s why this piece of writing is perfect. Thanks!

  • Jonathan says:

    Cheers Rachel

    Yup, I think you’re right. It is important to move on.

    I guess I did not want false statements (my work left out fundamentals (a), (b) and (c) etc when they were in there (and in the contents page at the front and index at the back) being made without being challenged.

    Anyway thank you. This has been a useful thread.

  • […] on the same subject: I love this post Bad Reviews Suck, and Why I don’t Care by author Rachel Carsman Thompson in San Francisco Book Review. What I especially love is that she […]

  • […] 7. Bad reviews that somebody forwards to you with the subject line “FYI.” (here is a pep talk blog) […]

  • […] you will get bad reviews. Oh, well. Holler, scream, feel vindictive and shitty about it. That’s okay. But do that […]

  • […] Bad reviews suck and why I don’t care […]

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