Those dreadful Amazon reviews…

Writers have expressed fear of Amazon reviews. Let me rephrase that: writers have expressed fear of BAD Amazon reviews. They ask themselves: How would I cope? Would the reviewers be mean? Could I email these reviewers and tell them off? They probably don’t get it. They don’t get it, bunch of [insert insult here].

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Please hold me… Don’t think I can do this alone.

I’ll try to answer those questions as best as I can.

How would I cope?

That depends on whether or not you have thick skin. The truth is you have no choice but to deal with it, especially if you hope to succeed as a writer. You’re afraid that the bad reviews might keep people from buying your book. Yes, it’s possible, but if they’re intrigued with the premise, then the bad reviews won’t matter. I can tell you for a fact that bad reviews have never kept me from purchasing a book (unless it’s a subject matter I would have shied away from anyway). Keep this in mind and you’ll be fine.

Would the reviewers be mean?

Yes. No other way to put it. There are lots of mean people out there. Have you visited Facebook comments sections lately? Nastiness reigns in those pages. My advice? Dust it off and move on.

Could I email these reviewers and tell them off?

I suppose you could, but why would you? Do you really want to pick fights with strangers just because they dislike your novel? Don’t do it. Maybe they’ll like your next one! Never burn bridges. Besides, you don’t want to be known as Psycho Author, do you?

They probably don’t get it. They don’t get it, bunch of [insert insult here].

This is a natural reaction. We’re all human. But don’t dwell on it. They might not get it–or they might simply not like it, period. Instead of getting upset, double-check the reviews. If the criticism is consistent, then perhaps it’s best to work on improving that area, and then apply it to your next project.

Oh, and I know what you’re thinking…

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How would you know? Your book’s not out yet.

Actually, buttercup, I do know.

Once upon a time, a girl fresh out of college wrote a contemporary romance novel, found an agent and released it under a pseudonym. It did well for a couple of years, but then said girl realized that she needed to continue to experiment with her writing in order to find her (true) voice. So she put her career on hold and did exactly that. Now she’s ready to take on the universe (yay!).

On Amazon, I received 235 user reviews, 11 of which were one-star reviews, and another 11 were two-star reviews. I’m not going to reveal the title or my pen name, for this was written a decade ago (2006, to be exact) and I’ve moved on from it, but in order to show you my personal experience with this topic, I will post some of the reviews here. (Details like my pseudonym, book titles and character names were concealed. Typos belong to the reviewer.)

Three one-star reviews:

  1. This book is truly awful. Absolutely everyone in this book manipulates our heroine.All for “her own good” of course.She starts out being lied to by friends and her “hero”, when she finds out she is crushed and reacts like anyone would and backs away. Eventually she attempts to move away at which time her “friends” of course jump in to manipulate her some more all while she’s feeling so very grateful for their help and understanding.When she finds out they have lied to her AGAIN she just kind shrugs and says “oh, you guys!!!” There is not a single person in this book that she can trust. Not one. They ALL have in some way conspired with this “hero” to deceive and manipulate her, apparently to teach her to open up, trust and allow herself to love.WHAT!?!?! Somewhere there is a woman that will read this book and think that maybe her abusive husband is really a romantic hero and she just just be more accepting of his rule. YUCK.
  2. I really hate books where the author has characters constantly yelling at each other instead of speaking in civilized tones, especially in public. They’re in a coffee shop and Hero propositions Heroine. She gets up to leave and as she reaches for the door he thunders, “Sit down!” It’s as if the author thinks using words like screamed, bellowed, and shouted sets an intense scene, when all it does is make the characters come across like immature teenagers who don’t know how to control themselves. (Note: this wasn’t the only review that pointed out that my characters sounded like teenagers.)
  3. This was crap. Poorly written drivel. I felt next to nothing for the characters and when I felt something it was disdain or anger.

Now on to my four- and five-star reviews:

  1. Hard to put into words how this book made me feel. It was for me a very very emotional ride. The hero was gorgeous and successful, but was one selfish, arrogant, nasty, controlling, mean, JERK (or so it would appear). The heroine is gorgeous and smart, but a bit of a mess, weak, and has little, to no self esteem. Their relationship starts out on shaky ground when [Hero] wants [Heroine] to “court” him to get him to sign up with the company she works for. He makes a proposition she cannot refuse. Since she has fantasized about him, she decides to take him up on his offer. That’s where the roller coaster ride in this story begins. All I can say is I was an emotional mess by the time it ended. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am finding that is one of those books you can’t help thinking about when it’s done. You can feel [the heroine’s] struggle and pain and I just felt so sad for her. I hated [the hero] through about 80% of the book, but he was one of those characters that you loved to hate. Although it was intense, and sad and somewhat depressing through alot of it, in the end, it was one of the most satisifying books I’ve read in awhile. If it makes you feel all those things, it’s a good book, right?
  2. This book was so emotional. I’m not the best book reviewer, usually i can’t put into words exactly what a good book in my opinion actually is…I’m guessing very emotional, sexy, fast-paced and easy to follow because I absolutely loved this book and it was all of those in one. The characters are so hot, the heroine is a kick ass woman with some deep rooted trust issues who falls for one in the same as herself…I cried through much of the book because she was almost a martyr like so many women tend to be, so her heart was in turmoil as was mine….this book is def. NOT FOR THE FAINT AT HEART, it’s an emotional rollercoaster that will have you burning some serious midnight oil, completely transfixed and unable to stop turning pages. My only complaint is that it had an ending…
  3. WOW! I definitely want to read more from this author. Totally enjoyed the relationshiip between [Heroine] and [Hero].
    Well developed storyline, blended with romance and a believable plot. This was an all nighter for me. If you’re a fan of [comp authors], you have to read this book!
  4. I purchased this book on a chance that the reviews were accurate about this book. The book turned out to be true to most of the raving reviews! It was a great read with lots of twists and turns. The characters in this book are complex and challenge your mind as well as draw you into wanting more about their present as well as their past. I couldn’t put the book down after the first three chapters! The romance is hot of course but it is the story of the main two characters that keep you turning the pages! Unfortunately I can not find any other books by this Author at this time but she is one that I will be following for her next work! I would highly recommend this book for the [comp titles] fans.
  5. (Note: this is my favorite review.) I don’t know if I can adequately describe how much I loved this book. I. Loved. This. Book. I couldn’t put my Kindle down all day because I HAD to finish it. Nothing got done around my house until I found out what would happen with [H/H]. A lot of women will relate to [Heroine]. I knew immediately she was afraid of being hurt, but most of all committing. I loved how she struggled to stand up to [Hero], while dealing with her feelings for him. I did not dislike [Hero] as it was clear he had an agenda also. I wanted to yell at him for playing his game with [Heroine] and my heart ached for her when she struggled with her newfound feelings. There is plenty of angst throughout the book, and the resolution is not easily reached. I rode the emotional roller coaster with the characters- I laughed, ached, cheered, and was turned on by their intense attraction for one another. Yes, this book is hot. The author has provided [the hero] with an english accent……nice! There are many emotional awakenings, and they aren’t always easy in this novel. But they are superbly written. [Pen Name] takes the reader along for one hell of a ride and I was all too happy to get sucked in.I recommend this one particularly if you like a big plot with your hot, hot romance. If you want a strong, but somewhat screwed-up heroine, and one sexy, dominating hero then this book is for you.

There were 158 four- and five-star reviews total, with 7 three-star reviews. The reviews were consistent throughout. Was I upset with the bad reviews? Did I think they were mean? I’d be lying if I said that they hadn’t struck a nerve, but I wasn’t upset. It comes with the territory. Not everyone is going to love your book, and that’s something you’ll have to accept. Pay attention to the reviews — good and bad — and focus on the things they like about it as well as the things they dislike. The bad reviews (as well as the good ones) made me realize what I knew all along: I’d make a better YA author. I’d also be better at writing thriller/suspense with gothic elements, since I focused so much on setting and plot twists and conflicting emotions.

Like it or not, reviews make us better writers. It also helps us decide what readers want. I was told that this romance novel would not be so well-received, which is why it was placed as “midlist,” but it ended up surprising everyone. It exceeded expectations, which made me happy. Never underestimate readers. They’re awesome. 💕

And that, in a nutshell, is how you should handle user reviews — whether it’s on Amazon or a popular blog. Open up your mind, heart and ears. You might just surprise yourself. 🙂

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