Dealing with Bad Reviews

Today's guest post is brought to you by Sabrina Benulis

Angelus

Every author dreads them, and every author gets at least one in their writing career. The good ones have the ability to give our creativity an enormous boost, and they bad ones can dry it up entirely. Either kind can elicit every emotion in the book: elation, surprise, anger, indignation. Sometimes they're fair, and sometimes they're frustratingly biased. That's right. I'm talking about reviews.

Bad reviews in particular will be my focus for today. No one needs tips and insight on managing good ones. If you get a good review for your work, by now you already know you'll be walking on clouds and feeling entitled to gifts and candy.

But the bad reviews? They're another animal. Some authors can't handle them at all. So here's some information on how to maintain a reasonable perspective throughout this potential minefield. You might be surprised what you learn.

1. Bad Amazon.com reviews - These are unfortunately the worst. And they do happen. I say they're the worst because out of all reviews, people actually pay attention to them most and they sometimes affect the sales of your book. A troll posting a nasty review (or series of reviews) has the ability to sink your little career ship like a stone if they're dedicated. There is very little authors can do about it. Honestly, this is partly the fault of Amazon.com themselves, who have admitted in recent years the fraud that goes on in their reviewing process. This ranges everywhere from other authors making fake profiles to sabotage other authors, to publishing companies hiring ghost profilers existing solely to give people fake bad reviews. You know--just because money talks.

So let's say you get a one star review of your work on Amazon.com. What can you do? The best tactic is to encourage fans who enjoy your book to post their own thoughts and opinions about your novel to balance out the nastiness. You can do this by asking nicely, but it's much more fair to give them something fun in exchange, whether it's to mail a bookmark or allow them to enter a giveaway for your novels.

Eventually, the truth will win out. That awful review will become buried as it deserves in the pile of better reviews now sitting on top of it, and you will be freer to sleep easy at night. And with an unstained conscience to boot.

2. Goodreads.com bullying - Another unfortunate reality, this problem exists solely because Goodreads is also a social media platform, and thus even people who haven't taken so much as a real glance at your book can give it a star rating. For every five decent users on Goodreads.com, you will encounter someone who gets kicks out of making you cry.

The internet works as an anonymous screen for people, so you'll have to expect that there will be some who say the most awful things simply because they can. Some authors have had nightmarish scenarios with Goodreads.com because they interact within its community too much, making them vulnerable. Like Amazon.com there is very little you can do about this insanity, except to understand  that many people who visit Goodreads.com are aware it has a share of internet trolls, and they will ignore a very nasty review accordingly.

3. Whatever you do, DON'T RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW. This never turns out well for you, the author. Novels are an art form like any other, and some people will not like your book because they just don't. You'll have to take this in stride and resist the temptation to shoot back to justify yourself. Authors who have done so--and there are many examples out there--make fools of themselves and come off as egotistical, narcissistic, and overbearing. Believe it or not, this is also the rule for a good review. Thanking every reviewer who has given you four or five stars makes you seem like a vulture perched on the reader's shoulder and breathing down their neck. It's understood that authors maintain a reasonable distance from both kind of reviews and manage them with dignity.

4. As I said, some people are picky with their art. But it can still be hard not to take some reviews personally. You, the author, have slaved for years over your novel and many people will not understand that or care. That's life. Especially the life of an artist with something to say. It's important to remember that some of the most avant-garde and imaginative authors of their time were torn to pieces over their novels--only to have them become classics of literature. What's good and what's bad is often in the eye of the beholder, subject to popular culture at the time, and even influenced by the peer pressure reviewers will feel to follow the general crowd in its opinion of your work.

5. Use social media wisely. If you're that author who likes to talk politics and religion, expect people to take shots at you because they just don't like you or your opinions. Also--and this applies especially to Twitter users--resist the urge to not only respond to a negative review, but also to passive-aggressively support subtweets attacking a reviewer for their possible negative opinions about you. That will make YOU a bully. And the whole 'eye for an eye' philosophy will follow your career into its grave.

6. NEVER STOP WRITING. Just don't. It's entirely in your power to write until your fingers fall off. For every success, you will encounter an eventual failure. For every failure, you will eventually meet with success. People tend to think that creating a book people love is often due to chance and amazing talent. It's not. It's due to persistence. The more you write, the more people will become exposed to the ideas in your head and the worlds and characters you're creating. And there are people out there who will love them. With a billion or so human beings walking around on this planet, that's an inevitable fact.

7. Focus on the positive. You have fans, even if it's just one. You live in a time where you can at the very least self-publish as many books as you please, into infinity. You have the technology of a computer or tablet, not a typewriter or feather pen. The world is actually your oyster. In terms of possibility for writers, there is no time thus far that has been better than now. Take advantage of it. Bombard people with your amazing novels. Smile when others enjoy them and take notice of your talent. And if someone tries to make you frown, remember that in the end, it's about you: your dreams, your future.

And no one can take either away.

About the Author

Sabrina Benulis lives in the Pocono mountains of PA with her husband, daughter, and a spoiled but sweet cockatiel. When she isn't writing or cooking up another story to tell, she's learning to be super Mom.  Her third book in The Books of Raziel series, Angelus, is released on February 9, 2016.