I want everyone to read those two words and embrace them. Everyone doesn't like the same things. That's what makes the world interesting. Seriously, how many times have you read something people were raving about and had it fall flat? For months my entire neighborhood, coworkers, the girl at the checkout in Target, etc. were abuzz about how fantastic Fifty Shades of Grey was. I know lots of people loved it. I didn't get it beyond housewives finally getting a taste of the porn their spouses have been reading for years. Go look at the ranking stats on Goodreads. I've never seen a novel so evenly distributed among 1-5 stars. My point here isn't to pick on Fifty Shades of Grey. It's to remind you that what Sally next door likes isn't necessarily what you like. To expect nothing but glowing or even good reviews is unrealistic.
After listening to some fellow authors cry about their 1 or 2 star rankings on Goodreads, I felt it necessary to point out the obvious. 1 star on Goodreads means 'I didn't like it'. Not 'it was awful' or 'the author is terrible'. If you have a hard time with this concept, return to personal taste. Amazon is a bit crueler with 1 star meaning 'I hate it'. Of course with Amazon, you can't rank something without a written review. I've noticed people rank books on Goodreads as 1 or 2 but don't leave a review. You won't have that problem on Amazon. I can't help but wonder, of the 73,000+ people who left a 1 star ranking for our example book, how many actually read it.
Statements like: "I didn't connect with the characters", "Started so slow I couldn't read past the first few chapters", "There were so many grammatical issues, it pulled me from the plot."— these are par for the course. If you get reviews like this time and again, learn from them. If they're solitary incidents, suck it up and forget it. Yeah, not easy, I know. Can someone explain how we can gloss over the glowing reviews to focus on the few negatives? They stick in the brain like little parasites, gnawing away at our sanity bit by bit until we're reduced to mindless mush playing with gifs.
The Two Types of Negative Reviews
1) Personal Taste Review: I didn't like this book and here's why. Constructive, about the book itself. Advice- It's over and done. Deal with it however you can, but put it behind you. Only let this one affect you if you're seeing the same complaint over and over again. That's a red flag that you may need to change something in your next novel.
2) Author Bashing Review: I didn't like the book, and the author should be drawn and quartered for writing such drivel. This author sucks and I hate her along with that stupid dog in her author photo. I mean who does she think she's fooling... you get the drift. Advice- I sure hope these don't happen often. Do Not Engage Reviewer. Feel the need to respond? Don't. You'll end up in a war you can't win. People like this are looking for attention, so don't play into their hands. Seriously, you don't need to say anything. The review speaks for itself. It's nasty and distasteful. Be the bigger person and ignore it.
I know all negative reviews don't fall into these categories. I've read a few recently where an industry novice (reader only) presented his/her opinion as irrefutable fact in the review. This is problematic on so many levels since most people reading the reviews aren't going to check the reviewer's profile to see if they're qualified to make such statements.
I really don't think most people write negative reviews for any reason other than to get their opinion out there. Think about it. It's well-known that people tend to write reviews when they love or hate something. How often do you write an ambivalent review?
There's also advice floating around the web to ignore the reviews for your book. I don't know about you, but I can't do that. I'll read every review. Love the good ones. Linger on the bad for months. Try not to let them destroy my self-esteem or affect my writing.
And lastly... Does it bother me when a reviewer doesn't use their real name? NO. Why should it? Lots of authors use pen names so why can't reviewers? Sure people hide behind the anonymity of the internet; they always have and will find a way around any rules you put in place to reveal them. If you don't engage these hate-mongers, they'll go find someone who does. So, no, I didn't sign the petition emailed to me numerous times about Amazon requiring real names for reviewers. I understand both sides of the argument and I chose mine.
How do you deal with negative reviews? If you're a reviewer, do you write negative reviews?