NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS:
How to Avoid Them, and How to Use Them to Your Advantage
All authors dream of writing a bestseller the critics will praise, causing sales to skyrocket and royalty checks to fill the mailbox. While such fame is possible, negative book reviews are just as likely. Consequently, authors must prepare for negative reviews, and more importantly, do everything possible before the book is published to make sure the book is the best it can be.
Why Books Get Negative Reviews:
We’ve all seen movies and TV sitcoms, where a restaurant owner dreads the restaurant critic who can make or break the business. Book reviewers may not be as high profile, but they have equal power to hurt a book’s sales. Contrary to popular depictions of critics, book reviewers are rarely pompous or fickle. Book reviewers love books. They want to enjoy and recommend your book. When a negative review is given, it is usually because the author failed to do the work necessary to receive a positive review. Here are primary reasons why books receive negative reviews:
1. Poor story line, poor character development, and choppy writing. Self-published books generally fall into this category because the authors are not professional writers or did not seek outside help, advice or reader responses. A story may be fully alive in the writer’s mind, but good writing requires attention to detail, purpose, character motivation and the ability to make the reader suspend belief. Authors need a second opinion to ensure they have accomplished these goals.
2. Poor editing and proofreading. Nothing says “self-published” more than a book full of typos. Because self-published authors use their own funds to publish their books, many unwisely cut costs by not paying to have the book edited or proofread. Consequently, disgruntled readers give the book bad reviews. Authors must budget for editing and proofreading as well as book promotion. Until you can afford to have the book professionally edited, do not publish it. A history book with typos that include such errors as President Roosevelt’s name spelled wrong or the year 1976 where 1776 is meant destroys the author’s credibility. Even in fiction, typos distract the reader from following the plot.
3. Poor research. If a reviewer is an expert in the subject matter, he is going to notice mistakes you made or facts you left out. Do your research.
4. Failure to get reader responses from your potential audience. Do not publish a children’s book until you let some children read it to see whether they enjoy it. If you are a senior citizen, the younger generations probably won’t be interested in your book on finding romance since their views of dating are different than yours.
How Do I Make Sure I Won’t Get A Negative Review?
Several services exist to help you craft a professional well-written book. The most important action is to work on your book, research all the details, write and revise several drafts, and proofread it carefully. When you are absolutely certain your book is as perfect as possible, ask others to read it. Start with a friend or family member you can trust to give you an honest opinion. If they like it, then submit it to a publisher, literary agent, or publicist for an evaluation.
Many of the print-on-demand and book review companies offer evaluations. iUniverse will provide you an editorial evaluation with many of their publishing packages, which allows you to get someone’s comments on your book before it is published. Reader Views, a book review company, will provide an editorial evaluation of your manuscript for a reasonable fee. Such evaluations allow you to go back and rewrite the book with a better idea of your potential audience’s reaction. Writer’s Relief will help you layout your book in a manner publishers will be more willing to view.
Once you have finished all your revisions, have the book professionally edited and proofread. Hire an editor to tighten your language. Then hire a proofreader to catch the typos. No matter how perfect you think your book is, it is best to have someone else look it over because your eyes will fail to see on paper anything but the words they believe you wrote.
What If I Still Get A Negative Review?
If you have followed all this advice and you still get a negative book review, all is not lost.
- First of all, don’t lose your temper. A negative review may point out weak aspects of your writing that will help you become a more effective writer of your next book or even the second edition of your current work.
- Don’t hide from the world. The review is just one person’s opinion. It’s highly possible good reviews will still come.
- Learn from your mistakes. If you get several negative reviews, you have work to do. You can republish the book with revisions.
- Find something good in the review you can still quote to promote your book. The reviewer might not like your characters, but he might remark that the book is well researched. He may complain about the proofreading, but he may still like the story concept.
- Build a relationship with the reviewer. Send a thank you note and tell the reviewer you appreciate his honesty. The reviewer will be impressed by your professionalism, and this will leave open a line of communication and a possible good review for your next book.
Remember, even a negative review is better than no book review. In the long run, you will become a better writer and hopefully sell more books.
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is author of the regional bestselling Marquette Trilogy and the newly published novel, Narrow Lives. As the Associate Editor at Reader Views, he has interviewed over 130 authors, written more than 50 book reviews, and edited and evaluated manuscripts for publication. Reader Views is one of the most respected and fastest growing online author publicity services today. For more information visit www.readerviews.com.