Monday, August 27, 2012

So you want to leave a bad review?

Okay let’s face it, most people, and I stress ‘most’ don’t want to be negative, most don’t want to leave a negative review, but there are times when it is a must.

I have spoken to many readers who have repeatedly told me that when they read negative reviews, there are certain things that they gloss over and things that make them dismiss the bad review all together.

As an Indy author, I have received my share of negative reviews.  I also have read, via other Indy authors, a load of negatives. When I read reviews for potential purchase, I pay as much attention to the bad as I do the good. I want to know why people didn’t like it and is there merit in what they are saying.

First, I have stopped reading my own reviews. They aren’t for the author they are for the reader. My email is readily visible to anyone who wants to tell me bad or good. Unless I’m directed to take a peek at a good review, I don’t go there. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to swim in the glory of praise, but I hate the fact that I beat myself up over a bad review. Even if it doesn’t have merit.

There’s that word again, merit. Merit and intention.

I used to write an abundance of reviews years ago under a pseudonym, I admit, most were great reviews, But I wrote one bad review of World War Z. I didn’t like it. My opinion, the first part kicked butt, the second part, in my opinion was drab and slow. So I gave it 3 stars. And for that, I was slammed with 27 comments telling me I was an idiot. I took down the review and stopped reviewing. Why? I should have been able to express my dislike of a book.

Not everyone is going to like every book. Period. That is a good thing. There needs to be balance. Every book once it gets more than ten 5 star reviews, no matter how stinging, has to have a negative review in there because no one will take the positives serious, every reader knows, not everyone like the same book.

One of my novels has just as many 1 and 2 stars as it does 5 stars. Which tells me, as a reader, people love it or hate it.

Hate is a strong word. Many newbie reviewers feel the need to be ultra negative when writing a review, not realizing, a good reader will scoff at the negativity and founded or not, assume the reviewer is another author with a chip on his/her shoulder.

Which, by the way, happens. I won’t mention names, but I received an email from an author apologizing for leaving a nasty review of my book. They admitted they purchased and returned it without reading, just to be a verified review. One star, slamming me for the sheer purpose of knocking down my rank. Karma got them and they felt guilty. Guess what, that one review killed sales and even with its  eventual removal by the reviewer, the book never recovered.

When you’re famous and popular, bad reviews don’t harm sales. When you’re an Indy, one can be a death sentence. Not because of what it says, but because it brings down the overall star rating.

A well written bad review can be as helpful as a well written good review. It halts those nasty things called refunds. It allows the potential reader to see a balance of good and bad. It really does aid in helping the reader make up their mind. If the bad review is well written. A good reviewer leaving a bad review will actually do it so well, it leaves the potential reader open to making their own decision.

So here are my tips for anyone who is faced with the daunting task of having to write a bad review and for anyone who wants tips on how to sift through them.

--Who is the review intended for? If it is for potential buyers, then aim for them. If it is for the author, send them an email or facebook. You can bet that you’ll find contact information for them somewhere.

--Don’t get personal in your review. Amazon will take it right down.

--Be specific on why you didn’t like the book without giving away important plot points. Focus on story structure, story value, plot, character development and pacing. All of these are helpful to the potential reader. Expand on these.

--Don’t be vague.

--Don’t use fake sounding reviewer names and for sure don’t let the one star review be your only review. It’ll look like a torpedo. If you are truly a reader, then surely you can review a couple more and post them all at once.

--Is it worth one star? One star tells people the book is trash. If you liked some of it, and it has some positives, is it all that different to leave 2 stars?

-- Watch how much you ramble about grammar. If it is so riddled with grammar errors, surely they would be present in the sample. No sample is cleaned up that much, because authors don’t know what Amazon samples. People will question why you didn’t see it in the first place. Simply mention the manuscript can use an editor or  red pen and that it has issues that distract.

--Don’t respond to attacks. It’s a sad thing that we cannot express our dismay without risking backlash. Even if you were having a bad day, even if you wrote an evil review, you are expressing an opinion. Leave it be, don’t intimidated if people slam you.

Finally … my list of overused bad review terms.

1. This book sucks – really, in your vast literary adventures you couldn’t find a better adjective?
2. Don’t buy this book – It is understood you are trying to stop readers from making an error.
3. I wanted to like this book – Of course, you did.
4.  I wanted to throw my Kindle – That is really a strong statement that says a lot for anger issues.

Remember only 1% of book buyers leave reviews on Indy Books. Whatever review you write, good or bad, make it strong, make it have a point, let the reader know ‘why’ you felt as you did. And more importantly, if you take time to review a book, on behalf of all authors, thank you for doing that. You’re in the 1%. Bet you wished you had that luck on the lottery.