There are so many blog posts all saying the same thing: when you get a review you’re not happy with, DO NOT ENGAGE. It’s hard, I know. You’ve worked so hard, often for years, put everything you have into your product, then at last you tremblingly put it out there (either yourself, or through the hands of a publisher) and you try not to think about reviews. Then they start to come in, and if you’re lucky they’re good. To begin with, they will be, because your friends and family will respond to your pleas to leave a line or two in support, and why wouldn’t they say nice things?
Then the others come in, and hopefully they’ll be good too. You start to relax, to believe in yourself as a writer again (because we all doubt, don’t we? No matter what we’re told, doubt is part of our make-up, and I don’t just mean writers.) You’ll get your first wonderful review from someone who doesn’t even know you, has no axe to grind or nest to feather, and your smile will last all day. You won’t be able to stop yourself doing a faintly embarrassing fist-pump either, but don’t even try. Enjoy it, you’ve earned it.
Then one day you’ll get the review that makes your throat close up, and your breath catch, and you’ll cry: “No! You don’t get it at all!”
I recently found an absolutely blistering one for A Rose in Flanders Fields (not on Amazon, thank goodness – not yet, anyway) and as I read it I could feel my fingers twitching over the keyboard. The reviewer didn’t like that my heroine was perfect. But she’s not! I protested in my head, she’s quite pretty, and she’s wealthy, but she makes the wrong choices all the bloody time! The fact that she believes them to be the right choices just shows how imperfect she is! The reviewer stated my MC was in France. No! She’s in Belgium, have you even READ it? The reviewer then said that although she didn’t like the book, none of it was actually done badly – phew! One good thing to take away from this – but hated that the book was so LONG! Yes! It’s not a novella, it’s a SAGA! It’s MEANT to be long …
Time to step away from the keyboard, Terri.
When I think of the potential consequences of responding the way every nerve screamed at me to, I feel only passionate relief that I clicked away from the page and took my despair out on something else instead. And that’s good advice, people, take from it what you will.
Yesterday, on Twitter, I was contacted by someone with a link to his book. I hate that, for starters. We all have to tweet our wares, it’s why most of us use Twitter after all, but I prefer it to stay in the timeline, and would never DM or tweet someone directly unless they’ve previously expressed an interest. Anyway, that aside, I thought I’d give this bloke’s book the benefit of five minutes attention over a breakfast cuppa; it looked good. The reviews were good. I was particularly interested when I saw a 3* review, as it was clearly honest, and very balanced, and, on the whole, positive. The reviewer’s reasons for the medium starrage were also evident, but he made it clear it was personal preference, and that the book was worth a read. My cursor hovered over the ‘buy now with one-click’ button, then I noticed there were 2 comments under the review.
The author had responded:
You’re in the United States, you posted a review on the US Amazon, yet it’s not a Verified Purchase, so you didn’t spend a single penny on this book. While I appreciate the constructive review Mr. M, I’m not sure why it compelled you to take time out of your life to post a 3 star rating that doesn’t persuade anyone to give the book a chance, but rather has a greater chance of driving business away.
I’m not sure why you feel the need to negatively impact my life’s work on a personal preference of not liking multiple story lines and cinematically cut sequences that are better suited to people who like fast paced action that they are accustomed to seeing in motion pictures. It was designed to be that way for a reason. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. But if you appreciated the work within, it would’ve helped someone like me who works 100+ hours/week marketing his book to kindly refrain from driving away business and to have not posted a review at all.
Someone who produces tangible wealth for a living.
After I picked my chin up off the floor, I decided that, while the 3* review had brought me *this* close to buying the book, there was no way in hell I would ever put “tangible wealth” (what even IS that?!) into the author’s pocket. No way I’d even read his books for free, in fact. (Note: the reviewer had politely replied that the author had sent him the book. How he kept his cool I do not know, but my respect goes out to him.)
So, I went back onto Twitter, where this conversation with the author happened:
I was interested, but saw your comment on a perfectly sound and reasonable review. Why would you do that?
Because three stars does not match a sound & reasonable review, and it’s from someone who didn’t even buy the book.
But you gave it to him to review. And people rate differently. 3* is initially disappointing but it looks more honest.
This is my business. If you’re gonna go out of your way to tamper with it, it’d better be a constructive review from a CUSTOMER
I had a 3* from someone who didn’t even READ the book! lol! I didn’t comment, but other reviewers did. Best to stay out IMO
So. Good luck or riddance. Don’t want business from people use Amazon like it’s Yelp. Olive Garden is down the street.
As annoying as people who use Twitter like a door-to-door sales opportunity. Rarely check these out but made an exception.
I had been hoping to point out that the 3* had convinced me to buy the book, but that his response had changed my mind, but he’s now decided I’m a troll, and has blocked me. (oh, woe!)
It’s since turned out that he’s responded to a 2* review in much the same way: “A contradicting review that doesn’t justify 2 stars, but rather displays the incredibly low frequency at which the critic operates at. Clearly someone who has never produced anything of tangible value to benefit his/her fellow man. I’m just astounded that someone like this would even purchase the book, or any book for that matter. If anything, this is probably a troll that I blocked on Twitter. Keep it coming Avis, you only expose the truth of what your kind really is.”
What’s he basing this “never produced anything to benefit fellow man” nonsense on? For all this guy knows the reviewer could have been a pioneering surgeon, or a volunteer in a palliative care unit, or someone working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. It’s almost as hard not to respond to that comment as it is not to respond to a negative review.
For more evidence of how not to respond to reviews, have a look at Empress Theresa on Amazon.com.
And Do Not Engage.