Success Part 2: Why Critical Reviews Are A Good Thing

Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Author, Author Advice, Publishing, Writing | 8 comments

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll see I said “Critical” as opposed to “Bad.” Why you ask? Because there is a difference.

Getting a 1 or 2 star review on something you’ve worked hard on sucks, but it’s inevitable. Since you’ve done your research (right?) you know we all get bad reviews and there is no way around it. The key is deciphering that which is bad from that which is critical.

A bad review tears apart your book, you as the author, and maybe even the editor (or lack there of). It can be one or any combination of those things. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, the fact of the matter is any person is allowed their point of view. They’re expressing their opinion and that’s to be respected. A bad review however, does nobody justice and therefore, it does not matter. What matters is the customer. Writing a bad review for the “next potential victim customer” who might be interested in a book or product doesn’t help them. Writing a critical review on the other hand…that has value.

The critical review is usually a 3 star or lower rating. Of course there can be critical points in any review, whether it is 4 stars or even 5, but in general, you’ll see them more regularly in the 3 and lower categories. There’s two things that are great about these. First, they help the consumer. I don’t care if your book is glowing with 5 star or covered in the shadows of 1 star reviews. The critical review is the most helpful. Second, they help you as the author.

Don’t think this makes sense? I’ll give you a personal example.

I’ve been lucky. If you haven’t checked out Amazon or Goodreads to see the reviews on Exiled, you may not realize this, but both Exiled and Shift have received incredible reviews. Shift’s rating is a little higher, but that’s because a) It hasn’t been out for as long as Exiled and therefore has less reviews and b) because most of the people reading it are people who liked Exiled enough to give the sequel a chance. For argument sake I’m using Exiled as an example.

In the past, I have personally been told by MANY readers, that they wouldn’t read my books. Not because they’re mine, or because my dashing good looks intimidate them, but because Exiled had so many 5 star reviews. A lot of readers aren’t interested in any book with nothing but rave reviews, and in my opinion, that’s a perfectly reasonable approach. Since then, I’ve also put a few scathing reviews under my belt. Some telling me I’m an idiot, I slept through basic English class, and I’m exactly the type of writer that gives all self-published authors a bad name. Those are not exact quotes, but they’re accurate. The point is, they don’t matter. At least not in my opinion. I don’t think those reviews  help anybody who is trying to decide if they should read my book or not. Sure, if someone is on the fence and sees all these 5 star reviews and only a few 1 stars with nothing in between, they very well might decide to follow the 1 star review, but is it really helpful? What if they missed out? What if they would’ve loved this series but the review just wasn’t there to help them decide? The opposite is true if they decide to go solely on all the 5 star reviews. What if they just wasted their money due to a lack of information?

Enter the critical review to save the day.

Once upon a time I’d say all 5 star reviews is what you want, but now I see variety is where it’s at. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a 3 star review instead of a 5 star, but for a while, there was an audience of readers I was missing because of a lack of critical reviews. When I get one now, I see that it’s a GOOD thing. Some people like the book but have issues with *insert their personal reasoning here* while others dislike the book for *insert their personal reasoning here.* These are good for me because I’m getting variety. These are the reviews that are going to help someone who might let my book slide on by because they couldn’t find the useful feedback they wanted. 5 stars doesn’t sell everybody on a product just as 1 stars do not necessarily deter people from your product. I know you think that if you have some bad reviews your book will stop selling but it won’t. You need bad reviews, you need amazing reviews, and you need critical reviews. They’re all going to help your book in different ways.

You wrote your book for readers to enjoy and as much as you want that next sale, it’s not as important as having your book in the right reader’s hands. No matter what happens, you cannot, and will not, appeal to everyone. That’s a fact. You need people from all sides of the fence talking about your book; why they loved it, why they hated it, what they were “just okay” with. This isn’t just for sales, this is for you too.

I always recommend you have a “Do Not Read” policy when it comes to reviews. The good will never be good enough, and if it is, it won’t lasts long enough. The bad will hurt and tear at your insides for longer than it should, and you’ll doubt everything you’ve worked for so far. However, if you are going to read your reviews, keep an open mind. Be able to discern the bad from the critical, because inside those critical reviews is an endless fountain of knowledge. It’s a personal account of your story from someone telling you why they liked or didn’t like it. As long as you remember that you don’t have to take every piece of advice given, this WILL make you a better writer. You take what you can away from it and you move on. You can’t just add romance into a book because a handful of readers expected it but didn’t get it. You can however, add romance in because you realize you want it to be a part of your book. Maybe you thought you had it but you just missed the mark. These reviews will help you figure that out.

To be fair, and hopefully cover all my bases, don’t forget there are also a huge amount of customers who don’t ever read the reviews. They check out the product, read the description, and they go from there. What anybody else thought about the product doesn’t matter, they’ll decide for themselves without any assistance.

As a writer, or creator of any product you plan to deliver to the masses, you need to be aware that reviews, whether good or bad, are only contributing factors on your journey. They do not define you, brand you, or destroy you in one single swoop. They are a small piece of the puzzle that is your future success. Don’t believe me? Go and check out some of your favorite books. You’ll see they have ratings across the board from people who love them, hate them, or couldn’t care less. You know, or at least you should, that when you get into this business, you’re up for critique. If you put yourself in the public eye, you will be judged. What you do with that judgement however, is up to you.