Bad Reviews

On social media, especially on Facebook writing or author groups, I frequently come across authors asking for this kind of help.

2015-12-13

An author received a one-star review and asked for fellow authors in the group to report the review as abuse.

In order to report abuse, one must prove that the reviewer acted in a malicious manner against the author or retailer in an effort to affect their sales, or that the reviewer did not actually use/read the product in question. Asking for any poor review to be reported as abuse is, in itself, an abuse of the system, stripping reviewers of their right to put forth their honest opinion.

As authors, we want and even need reviews for our publications. In the digital world, reviews potentially improve sales of a book over time. Reviews are the digital version of word-of-mouth advertising.

A review is simply another person’s OPINION.

Asking other authors to gang up on a reviewer sounds like gearing up for battle, a war on our readers.

As a reader, I understand how it feels to suddenly be attacked by an author for posting a negative review. After posting a two-star review of a particular book, the author badgered me for days to change my rating, giving reasons why I must be wrong or why I should give the book special consideration. (The author found me through one of these social media groups.) That author also asked for help from others in compelling Amazon to remove my review, along with asking me to remove it myself.

I am not a troll. I don’t have time to be a troll. I purchased and read the book in its entirety and could not muster more than a two-star rating from my conscience. My review went against over a dozen others that praised the book with four and five-star ratings. I read those reviews and looked for the highly-praised traits noted, but I did not see them.

Had the author remained silent, I may have chosen to purchase another book. I didn’t hate the first book; it fell flat against what I was promised in the blurb, and too much of the book was spent on irrelevant subject matter. I may have given the author another chance by picking up a more recent output to see if improvements were made in style and storytelling. Instead, after being hounded, I refuse to even consider reading a blurb by this author.

One problem is that reviews are completely subjective. The only guideline given by retailers are two- or three-word solutions “I hate it. I like it. It’s okay. I love it.” There is no objective rubric for rating a product. A one-star review may mean the reviewer just doesn’t like the subject matter and/or it wasn’t what they expected at the time of purchase. We all feel put out when we waste time and money on something we end up not liking.

Another problem is the annoying presence of what we call “trolls” and “haters,” people who apparently have nothing better to do with themselves than throw insults at the virtual livelihood of authors and retailers. Perhaps they struggle to gain an once of control in this power-hungry world, or they desire a moment of attention from a mass audience. Whatever the reason, they muddy the playing field with worthless claims. But, just because a person speaks out negatively in a review does not mean they are a troll, not even if they appear to speak out negatively on a frequent basis. More likely, they really don’t know what they are looking for or they may hold high standards for certain products.

As writers, we are taught the importance of constructive criticism and relaying our opinions with a certain amount of dignity for ourselves and the authors we review. Not every reader cares about being careful with their words. They have no vested interest in sounding supportive or even nice. We have to accept that.

Unfortunately, with a small number of reviews, a negative review can have a large impact, even if it shows up as a complete outlier of the popular rating. The higher number of positive reviews on a book’s profile, the less threatening such negative reviews become, and the more obvious that the reviewer doesn’t conform to the popular opinion. This is a waiting game, hoping that enough reviews will essentially shove the negative review into precipice of oblivion.

It is best to remain quiet about these reviews. If you feel you must comment, do so at your own risk. The author who posted this Facebook thread won’t be getting a look from me. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a smack-down if I decide I don’t like the book.

 

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2 thoughts on “Bad Reviews

  1. Your post is something valuable for authors to read! As you say, a review is one person’s opinion. As authors, we need to respect the opinion of every person who bothers to purchase, read and review our work. It is not our place to judge another’s opinion. I’ve read a lot of reviews and the ones that are simply trolls out to diss an author are pretty obvious to spot. On the other hand, not every 1 or 2 star review is a reader with an axe to grind. These reviews often represent a reader’s true opinion on the work in question. They can contain valid criticism and authors ignore at their own peril. Great post!

  2. In addition to all of your points, I’ll add another one. I believe that if other people comment on the review, it will move that review to the top of the review pile, something I’m sure the author doesn’t want to see. If an author feels they must do something, it would be best to ask people who have already read the book, liked it, and told them they liked it, to please post a review. That way perhaps the negative review won’t stand out as the last posted review. It’s also entirely on the up and up to remind a fan to post a review.

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