Monday, September 16, 2013

The Value of a Negative Review

Lindsey Rietzsch
If you haven't yet experienced the stab to the gut feeling of reading that first negative review of your first beloved masterpiece - well, don't hold your breath...sooner or later you will.

It's funny how more than often it doesn't matter that you may have received ten or more wonderful reviews from your loyal readers - when that blow to your heart & soul strikes all those other excellent reviews seem to go right out the window. Strange how that happens.

Well, here's a valuable lesson I learned from taking a negative review and turning it into something good. Yes, you read right - turning something negative into something positive. It can be done!

I remember getting my first negative review on my most recent book, and being frustrated that the reader gave me a bad review because the characters in my book were of a non-denominational Christian upbringing and this particular reader was an atheist. I didn't think that was fair for her to give my story a bad review because she didn't agree with the beliefs of the characters.

After a few days of letting off steam and receiving a few more similar reviews, I finally realized the value of this harsh review. My book was categorized under "paranormal" as it is very much a suspenseful, paranormal book. However as much as it mentions demons and dark apparitions, it also mentions angels, light and miracles. I realized that most paranormal readers prefer dark stories without the happy feel good endings. My book needed to reach readers who prefer happy feel good endings where good triumphs over evil. I needed to re-categorize my book under  Christian Paranormal.

Yes, my friends - that made all the difference. I realized that these other readers were angry. As much as they wanted a good ghost story they didn't want to hear any mentioning of Christian influences. They just wanted the ghost story. As soon as I changed my category I found the right readers and it was a match made in heaven. The good reviews began to pour in. My new readers became big fans and had nothing but great things to say about my book!

Had I just been angry about those bad reviews and left it at that, I would have continued receiving more bad reviews. Instead I chose to listen to what the reviewers were saying  - I was targeting the wrong readers. After becoming proactive I saved the repuation of my book.

You see, all reviews especially the bad ones, tell us valuable information about our book. They give us clues as to what we can do to avoid more bad reviews. Whether it be that we need to have our book better edited or just that we have it placed under a more fitting genre - we should listen to what those readers are telling us.

With that I offer a small caution. There are certain instances when readers are not being respectful or helpful with their reviews. Instead it appears as though they are just plain bullying you and your book. Go ahead and Google "authors bullied on goodreads" and you'll see what I mean. It happens quite often.

I remember with my first book How to Date Your Spouse - one woman gave it a low review because it didn't save her marriage. She said that her husband was unwilling to read the book and try any of the date ideas. She did however state that it was "a great book" and she learned "all kinds of stuff". Now it didn't seem fair after saying it was great, that she would rate it low just because her husband didn't want to read it and try the ideas. Also in the beginning of my book - it states that it's not for couples with serious marital issues. But I have no control over that and as an author I have to respect her rating. I can rest at ease however knowing  that most people who read her review will take it with a grain of salt realizing her circumstance.

I will admit from personal experience that goodreads reviewers are much more harsh than Amazon reviewers. It's not uncommon to have a higher rating on Amazon than on Goodreads in regards to the same book. When this happens you just have to bite the bullet and disregard the comments or it can destroy you if you let it. Bullying behavior can be reported but there is never a guarantee that it will be dealt with by Goodreads or Amazon. For the most part, if the majority of your reviews are wonderful than you really shouldn't let a couple of pointless bashing remarks bother you.

Take the reviews that seem honest and see what you can learn from them - even if you disagree with them. There is great value in doing this.

Happy Writing!

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