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My Thoughts on Bad Reviews

I believe that any review is a good review regardless of content. More reviews, positive or negative, lead to more sales.

How is that possible if you’ve gotten a lot of “bad” reviews? Because most prospective customers look at the overall number of reviews; few actually read through them all. For example, a buyer might pass on a book that has only a few reviews to purchase one that has hundreds. It’s a herd mentality phenomenon.

Aside from increasing numbers, the so-called bad reviews may have additional value. A very negative review can generate controversy and controversy can lead to more sales. If someone reads a review claiming “worst book I ever read,” then they might read the book out of curiosity. Or, the negative view of one person might highlight the interests of another. For instance, if someone reads a review that claims the book is “too sappy and romantic,” that might be exactly what they are looking for in a good read.

Bad reviews may also include valuable constructive criticism. It’s our job as writers to learn what our readers like and what they don’t like. A review claiming that “the characters were boring and unrealistic” might influence you to take a closer look at your character development.

We all have opinions and oftentimes they are very different. There is nothing wrong with sharing them, provided we offer them in an intelligent and respectful way. There are only two types of reviewers who I find offensive: slanderous reviewers and ignorant reviewers. I’ll elaborate.

Slanderous reviewers tend to attack the author instead of the actual book. Here are a couple of examples: “…is f****** idiot” or “…stick to your day job you asshole!” There is no cause for reviews of that nature and most can be removed by petitioning the website.

Ignorant reviewers write their reviews without having adequate information to make an educated judgment. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a reviewer who actually read your book and someone who skimmed the first few pages. Examples: “…stopped reading after the first chapter” or “…realized it was sci-fi and moved on.” My advice to ignorant reviewers is this: If you didn’t read the book, then don’t write a review and if you didn’t read the synopsis, then don’t complain about the genre.

Many sites allow the author to respond to reviews; I don’t recommend doing this. In my opinion, that only adds fuel to the fire and makes you look insecure about your writing. Take it with a grain of salt or, if it’s slanderous, have it removed.

My favorite reviews, good or bad, are those that are well thought out and written with descriptive detail. Those reviews, however, are rare. Rather than actually thinking about it and writing something useful, most reviewers are minimalists: “Good book” or “Not for me.” Reviews like that won’t sway my purchase interests one way or the other.

My advice to reviewers is this:

1. Make sure you’ve actually read the book!

2. Present your opinions in an intelligent manner.

3. Consider the impact, good or bad, your words might have.

4. Judge the content, not the author.

5. Rate the book accurately according to your review.

I will end this post with a few personal examples of reviews that my books have received. Have a look and decide for yourself which categories you think they fall into.

… I can’t stand romantic novels… I simply didn’t read further….” – 1 Star

This was an interesting read… Highly recommend.” – 5 Stars

Unexpected ending.” – 5 Stars

None at this time.” – 4 Stars

What do you get if you take the AI from “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison, and put in on the ship from the movie Pandoricum. I think you would get something very similar to this novel.

From the beginning this novel certainly had me guessing. From the “reality” of Eden, and what it actually is, to the purpose of the “staff” there’s enough in here to keep you wondering. And the ending certainly shocked me in it’s way.” – 5 Stars

Now, here is what a review should really look like, whether positive or negative (not surprising that the reviewer is from a fellow author):

Okay, wow. I read David Maxwell’s first novel, Rebirth, and enjoyed it. With The Drift, the author has really won me over. The plot was fantastic, well thought out and surprising. There were plenty of times during the course of the story that I had reservations (“How can this be?”) and I was afraid that the answers would either be unsatisfactory or completely missing. I was so happy to discover that all the questions that occurred to me throughout the book (and believe me, plenty of questions get raised!) ended up not only being answered, but answered in a way that was not just satisfying but perfect. And all that without being at all predictable.

Having said all that about the plot (and I refuse to say more because in this book it would be way too easy to give a spoiler – I think it will be far better for the reader to come to the various plot revelations just as I did!), I don’t think I can say enough about the characterization. There are a lot of characters in this book, major and minor – a whole town’s worth. The author brings each of them their own personality and makes you feel you know them. Not only are the characters themselves vivid and believable, but the town of Crystal Falls is itself a character, fully and richly realized. In fact, the storm that descends on Crystal Falls at the beginning of the book is a well-wrought character in itself.

Oh yeah, and I cried at the end (happy tears). You know you’ve got me when I get that involved in a story.

The Drift was a journey well worth taking and I strongly recommend it to lovers of science fiction, intricate plotting and great characters. Well done!” – 5 Stars

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