Thumbs Up to Bad Reviews & Why You Should Let Them Go

thumbs up

Sorry for the delayed released of today’s post but I wanted to help support some fellow authors with reblogs and such this morning.

Back in the good old days of writing, authors had several things going for them. The writing platform was established by the existing publication, distribution and review channels. Sure an author had to show up to book-signings and do interviews but the platform they needed existed largely because of the paradigm of the publishing business.

For a self-publishing author, none of this platform exists. If you are handling publishing on your own, you must build the platform as the publisher and use available distribution to your best advantage according to your budget.

But when it comes to reviews that’s a different story. Back in the day, reviews were done by writers at various publications whose sole job was to read and review books. Those people still exist but they are hard to access mostly because they stick to top authors or established publishers. Otherwise, there are those who run their own reviews based on their tastes or readers express their opinion about the books they’ve read.

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So the review system for a self-published author is one largely based on promotion and the willingness of readers to share their opinions. The main issues with this are reader-discovery and the accuracy of reviews. While reader discovery is a tricky business, it does depend in part on reviews. However, reviews are not so easy to gain and the quality of opinion varies widely. The ability of a reviewing reader also falls into a wide range from someone who may not be a good literary judge to any great degree to those who are quite experienced in literary criticism and how it should be delivered.

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To that end, a number of questions could be raised. Should you trust reviews at all? Why should you bother with reviews unless they are from known reviewers? What should you do with bad reviews? Here are a few of my thoughts on these questions for what they are worth (my thoughts, not the reviews).

You should trust and welcome all reviews as a whole – good, bad or otherwise. No, there won’t be accurate ones at either end of the spectrum, however those should balance out. Also, those reviews provide other readers with a balanced view as they decide whether to read your book. Additionally, reviews are what can fuel your sales since most books are sold by word of mouth.

However, what should you do with a bad review? First examine the review itself rather than being offended. Some bad reviews are based on legitimate concerns from the reader about quality – editing, structure, characterization and otherwise. Some people may not get what you’ve written and dismiss it out of hand with a negative opinion. This is fine too since it helps weed out readers based on interest – after all, you don’t want people who don’t like your genre continually giving bad reviews based on their lack of experience or taste with said genre.

In the end, bad reviews are delivered for any number of reasons but you should trust them – even those from people who are just being difficult for no reason. Why? Because the review system is organic and this day of self-publishing there are all kinds of people on the internet offering up their opinion. Since this is the case, you should expect most authors to have their share of unfounded, negative reviews and this is why you should trust the process AND negative reviews no matter if they are helpful or not.

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Book Club Badge Suggestion copy (1)How do you get reviews? Well, there are a number of ways. First approach people who have given a favorable review of similar works to yours. You can offer the a free copy for an honest review. You can approach known reviewers, especially those within your genre, however you may wait a while for that to come back. You can also join a book club such as Rave Reviews Book Club where members review books. I’ve found my membership in this club to be very helpful in this regard since the members make every effort to provide each other with honest reviews. By the way, we are featuring authors all month on the Back to School Book & Blog Block Party!

So welcome all the reviews you can get. Work to gain more but also consider what’s being shared for ways to improve your writing. But don’t dwell on them too much or you’ll just be distracted from your writing. And don’t criticize the reviewer – you can’t win that battle so don’t even try.

How do you handle criticism? How do you find your reviewers? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. Sign up for my Archer’s Aim Digest mailing list to receive the forthcoming edition of my newsletter with announcements about upcoming releases and events. You’ll receive my a FREE coupon for my short story e-book, The Black Bag which contains a sample chapter of The Bow of Destiny. You’ll also be the first to have news about my books, especially some free offers this summer related to the upcoming release of The Bow of Destiny, the first novel of The Bow of Hart Saga. Speaking of which, it is now available for pre-release orders on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks (via the iTunes app) & NOW Amazon – Kindle. Additionally, August’s free e-book: Trading Knives is now available on Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble & Amazon.

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  1. Thanks for an interesting post. I have always found criticism to be a good source of instruction, even from those who have a personal dislike for my work. Such a person will search very carefully for any fault they can find. So, I listen carefully to extract what value I can, even from a negative criticism.
    However, having listened to that opinion, I believe we should move on quickly; dwelling on a negative review can cause discouragement, something we really don’t need.
    You are quite correct, in my opinion, that the whole review thing has turned around. People who review our work on Amazon are unlikely to be actual reviewers, or even working in the publishing industry.
    If they are a fellow writer, their opinion can be of great technical worth. On the other hand, a review from a reader that says your book is a good read, flows well, was easy to read, or they loved the content is a valid opinion. After all, these are the people we are looking for to buy our books, are they not?
    Always enjoy your posts, thanks for the hard work you obviously put into them.

    1. Thanks for taking the time on your comment. I’m glad you found the post interesting. I agree that the average reader is who we are targeting with our books and their opinion matters very much.

  2. You make some good points on reviews and reviewer. I happen to be a professional reviewer in that I was trained by The New York Journal of Books to follow their formula. That’s for big publishers who direct mail me best sellers to review. For Amazon, I keep to that formula because it can be used by the author for promo, press releases and such. I prefer reviewing new writers as I often take them aside and tell them they must fix grammar, etc. If self-publishing or there review will reflect that and other errors. I try to give honest but constructive reviews.

    1. Hey that really sounds like a labor of love for books. Keep up the good work. Let me know if you can review my own and I’ll work out getting you a free copy soon. Thanks for the comments.

  3. If you are sending to my kindle or android, my email is If sending autographed print, I’ll send you my address.
    you just gave me incentive to move faster, but one book is so badly written that it’s giving me trouble, since I did this young Writer’s 1st book of this series and warned him about the errors but this one is just as bad.It always puts me in a bad light, give a good review for a good story line or be truthful about the errors and hurt his feelings. That’s the downside of reviewing.

    1. I’m releasing just as an e-book right now. I’ll send it to your email. Just so you know, I’ve worked with a pro editor, one of my beta readers is an English major (who liked it a lot) and I’ve had some feedback on the opening from a fairly well-known fantasy author. I’m getting the final ms together over the weekend so I’ll get it to you sometime next week if that’s OK. Thanks for the response!

      1. That’s perfect—I’ll watch for it. Oh and I wasn’t referring to you or your book where I mentioned editing. My own book was edited by six writer/editors and the mistakes were so bad I had to have the publisher do a second edition, which I had to edit myself; never a good thing. Some of the new writers just get so excited and caught up in their stories they don’t see their mistakes. We all do that to some degree or at least I do. No need to reply as I know you are busy promoting today. 🙂

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