THE HOPEFUL NEWBIE
I’m still relatively new to the scene, having been published for almost a year with three novels and a Kindle Worlds novella to my credit. I’m currently working on my fourth, fifth, and sixth books and have learned a thing or two about the benefits and pitfalls of reviews.
At first, I anxiously awaited each and every review, scouring Amazon and other retail outlets several times per day for new posts. Early on they were all positive, boosting my ego a bit. Then, the inevitable hit job review hit me in the gut like an iron fist. I took those first few negative reviews personally, allowing it to momentarily take the wind out of my sails. What I quickly realized is that even the best selling books and most accomplished authors out there get negative reviews.
Not every reader rates a book by its quality, its uniqueness, or the myriad other attributes that make books valuable and enjoyable to readers. Some simply give a bad review because they didn’t like the decisions one or more of the characters made (news flash, without wrong turns stories would get pretty boring), or simply because the genre wasn’t their cup of tea. It could be the best vampire story ever told, but if that reviewer doesn’t like vampires and thought they were downloading an alien invasion book, they may slap you with a one star rating and move on.
Some negative reviews however can be valuable to a new author trying to make their way in the literary world. If a reader gives an honest review, pointing out a flaw with your story, don’t be insulted. Use the criticism to improve your craft. Don’t get me wrong, write for your passion of your work, but the consumer that pays your bills needs to be worked in there somewhere too.
My first series has a political bias to it. As polarized as we are today, I know it will never be agreeable to readers across all spectrums. When I set out on that venture as a never before published author, I was writing solely for myself. At that point, I had no idea if anyone would ever read my books anyway. Regardless of how wonderful you think your story is, if someone disagrees with the most basic principles on which it’s based, chances are they will not have many nice things to say.
As the politically motivated bad reviews began to roll in, I felt as if I had made a catastrophic mistake with my very first attempt at writing. To my surprise however, those reviews did not hurt my sales at all. In fact, they may have boosted them. Keep in mind the reason reader A hates your book may be exactly why potential readers B, C, and D will love it, and if not for that scathing yet revealing biased review, they may have never gave your book a second look.
For every hate filled, ideologically biased review I have received, there are more than enough encouraging reviews to keep me going. When I get one of those “I hope the author dies in a fiery car crash” reviews, I remind myself of Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “You have enemies? Good, that means you stood for something, sometime in your life.”
BE YOURSELF… NO WAIT, DON’T… I MEAN…
You can’t make everyone happy. As I stated earlier, what makes one person love your work will make another reader hate it. How do you adjust to that? Don’t. Unless of course if what they hate is your complete lack of ability to form a correctly spelled word or coherent sentence. Fix that part of your writing, but stay loyal to yourself in everything else. At one point, I thought about re-writing my first book to tone it down a notch. I quickly realized that might take away from the brutal honesty and edgy feel that many of my readers love. How boring would the world be if we all analyzed every thought to make sure nothing you say could be looked down upon by anyone who reads it? Just look at Fifty Shades of Gray, it gets lots of negative press yet has sold over 100 million copies. What if E. L. James wrote that book in a way that no one could possibly be offended? It would be a book of blank pages.
I’ve had some readers say I didn’t go into enough detail on a given subject while others said there was too much. One reviewer even wrote, “The author keeps flashing the reader with his proverbial trench coat of knowledge.” After I stopped laughing (with, not at) I realized there was no magic equation to determine what is the right amount of anything.
With that in mind, I’ll embrace my negative reviews as much as I do my favorable reviews and just keep on being me. I want to be the only me out there, and copying other people’s styles to play it safe won’t accomplish that.
BEWARE OF THE UNINVESTED READER/DOWNLOADER
Running the first book of my series as a free promo upon the release of book three was the best and worst thing I’ve ever done in regards to marketing. Almost instantly, I had a mind blowing number of downloads. I was excited beyond belief. That excitement quickly turned to horror when in mere hours negative reviews started coming. Remember what I said earlier about the person who wants an alien invasion and gets vampires? With no investment in your book, many people that may not be a good fit for it will click to download it without giving it any thought, just because it’s free. Then when on the first page when they realize they’ve downloaded a vampire novel… Bam! You get an “I hate vampires” one star review. Whereas if they were spending their hard-earned money, they would have researched your book and more than likely only made the purchase if they were a good fit for the content.
If you experience this, be patient. The first day or two will be flooded with reviews filled with vampire hatred and contempt, but once the people who actually take the time to read it have had time to get to your wonderful ending, the fair and honest reviews will start to push down the negativity.
Since then, my entire series has been selling better than ever before. Although I took many hits, I do recommend a limited time free promo if you need a sales boost, especially if you need to get prospective readers introduced to your series. Just be aware that your precious expression of your work will be the equivalent of a goat being tied to a tree as bait, and it may be torn to shreds by a predator.
Reviews are what can make or break us. They are also a very helpful tool for readers during their shopping experience. I’ve had my share of negative, heart stomping reviews, but they’ll never take away the joy I feel when I read a review from a reader who truly loves and appreciates my work. Be yourself, write for your passions, keep your readers close to your heart, and don’t be discouraged. Keep on being yourself and eventually the right readers will find you.