I like negative reviews of other people’s books:
When it comes to looking at reviews, I tend to pay the most attention to the 2 and 4 star ratings. But I also really like looking at the 1 stars. I like it because a) it reminds me that there are always going to be people who don’t like your book. (I know three people who HATE Harry Potter).
But the thing about reading other people’s negative reviews is that it allows me to remember that most negative reviews fall into one of three categories.
a) Spiteful. You read these reviews and you just know, either the person writing the review has something against the author personally, or they want to be the outlier.
b) Not enough information to matter. These are the one to seven word reviews that really tell you nothing about why they didn’t like the book. These can be discounted out of hand and for the most part, seem to simply be someone trying to drag the book’s ratings down. Idk.
c) The helpful. I’ve read a lot of 1 star reviews that made me walk away from books, but I’ve also read a lot that made me pick up the book. Either way, that was a helpful review.
I like types a and c (I could do without b, so stop that) because the former reminds me that reviews are often written without much thought beyond gut reaction and spite, and the latter is what reviews are for! Opinions made through understanding that everyone has a different reason to read a thing.
I like negative reviews of MY books:
I get why people don’t like negative reviews. It sucks to have someone tell you they didn’t like the book you spent months slaving over. I’m not disputing that. I just… don’t think it’s a bad thing when people don’t like a book.
Maybe I dissociate, I’m not sure.
The last negative review I got was one where in the reason for the review was simply that the reader in question wasn’t my audience. And you know what? I’m glad her review is there. If you’re not going to enjoy my book, I don’t want you to waste time buying it only to find out you hate it.
I think one of the main reasons I find it easy to not get worked up over negative reviews is that… I don’t know these people. Sure, I put my books out there with the hope that people will like them, but ultimately, those who review them negatively are just names on amazon/goodreads. I’m not saying reviewer’s opinions don’t matter—why would we have spaces to review if they didn’t? What I am saying is that I find it difficult to have my feelings hurt by a complete stranger when my notes to myself in edits are usually ten times worse.
The other thing about negative reviews that I enjoy is that the give me an opportunity to grow. Sometimes, you get nothing but category a and b up top, but when you get one that falls into c it can be really helpful to consider what that reader found wrong (not for that book, obviously. It’s done and out there) and weigh it against your own process/thoughts and potentially use it to grow as a writer. It might not be something you care to change, or it might be something you never thought of until that random stranger pointed it out.
Don’t comment/respond to bad reviews:
The thing about bad reviews is that they’re someone’s opinion. If they think your books sucks… they’re right. They think it sucks.
That doesn’t mean it sucks for everybody.
But as soon as you decide to comment—no matter how level headed you think you are—you’re going to come off snippy.
No one who’s written a review is going to be impressed by you telling them how they should have understood your book. No one is going to care that you did x thing on purpose because y (if they do, it won’t be because you decided to tell them).
Who cares if that one person hated something? Tossing your book out into the wild lays it open for criticism just as much as it does for praise. You can’t control that.
If you want to be able to respond to negative reviews, get good editors who will give you straight answers and point out the things that aren’t working and save your dialogue for them.