Every author, especially indie authors, craves reader reviews. Oftentimes, the success of a book depends upon those reviews, so positive reviews are the most prized, even though critical (and even negative) reviews may be informational. Many authors use the feedback contained within critical reviews to refine and improve their work. I know I do.
There are polite guidelines to leaving reviews, the most important of which is to direct one’s comments only toward the product. A reader review is not the place to critize the author’s political philosophy, question the author’s parentage, or otherwise make personal comments—especially of a negative nature—about the author. A review of a book should concern only that book.
In the years I have been published as an indie author, my books have received all manner of reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon. Not all of them have been positive, because no one can please everyone. That’s fair. Marketing isn’t necessarily a precise calculation. Savvy marketing pros use data to guide their marketing efforts. Authors who do most or all of their own marketing must balance their marketing efforts with other obligations as well as working on the next manuscript(s). That means authors must choose which marketing platforms and media they will focus their efforts on.
Marketing incurs a cost. Sometimes that cost is time and effort. More often that cost combines time, effort, and money. Reviews become a part of an author’s marketing strategy. A book must accumulate a certain number of reviews before Amazon’s algorithms keep it in front of potential readers’ eyes. A quick Google search shows that a book needs to get 20 reviews within the first two months after publication to take advantage of Amazon’s “new book” promotion algorithms. To continue to be included in the “also read” listings, a book needs at least 50 reviews.
Quantity doesn’t equate to quality. A review that merely says “I liked the book” is as good as a detailed recitation of why a reader liked or disliked the book. Authors and marketing pros, of course, prefer the detailed reviews, as customer feedback proves exceedingly valuable in refining the search for potential new readers and writing to market with greater precision.
When it comes to negative reviews, authors have few options. Common wisdom states that authors should not contact whoever leaves a negative review or respond to that review. It simply doesn’t go well. There’s no need for an author to become emboiled in a digital brouhaha.
Negative reviews aren’t necessarily detrimental to a book’s success. Sometimes a review is so hateful that people will buy the book to see for themselves whether it deserves such vitriol. Negative reviews, especially amid a plethora of gushing, glowing, 5-star reviews, add credibility to those positive reviews. A potential reader is less likely to believe that all those wonderfully flattering reviews were posted by the author’s friends and family members in an effort to support the author.
When someone leaves a review that spews hatred toward the author (i.e., it contains negative personal comments), that violates the “rules.” The author has only one real option which is to report the review to Amazon. Amazon allows anyone to report an abusive review. “Abuse” may consist of inappropriate remarks, harrassment, or something else. If Amazon agrees with the report, the review will be removed.
The ability to report a review does not give the author the right or the obligation to report every negative review. Case in point: one of my books recently received a negative review. It’s pretty brutal. However, the reviewer restricted her comments to the book and did not attack me on a personal basis. Therefore, it’s fair. She’s entitled to her opinion.
That doesn’t mean those harsh words don’t sting. That doesn’t mean I agreed with her. It only means that I recognize she plays by the rules … and I respect that.