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How much weight should a bad book review hold? 5 things to help you decide

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

So your book has been selling like hotcakes and receiving nothing but rave reviews. Book promotions have been going well and you’re walking around smiling like you won the Mega Millions. You go to check your latest book reviews and are crushed! “What kind of bum would only give your book  2 out of 5 stars? What literary challenged imbecile wrote that they didn’t enjoy your marvelous book?”

Okay, calm down. A bad book review isn’t the end of the world, so before you have a major melt down and drown your sorrows at the nearest pub, remember that every book published to the masses, even best sellers, has critics.

Here are 5 things to consider when deciding how to handle a bad book review.

1. What kind of reader wrote the review? Of course, everybody with eyes and the capacity to read is a possible new fan for your book, but what if they simply aren’t a fan/familiar with your genre? Maybe they just got the book because it was free that day, because a friend loved it, or they were just looking for a new read, but didn’t actually bother to read what the book was about or the genre. If you’ve written a book about sex, murder and mayhem, and Mary Poppins read it based on a recommendation, she might not review it as favorably as Sharon Stone might. Keep in mind that nobody’s book pleases everybody.

2. Is this a professional book reviewers review? If the New York Times gave your book a poor review, you might understandably be upset. Professional book reviewers opinions definitely hold more weight to an audience, simply because they have a longer reach. If your book was poorly reviewed by a popular blogger or someone with a large following, their review might give reason for concern; however, if there are equally as popular reviewers who gave your book a high or better review, focus on promoting those. If the good outweigh the bad, give them more weight.

3. Consider whether the review had valid points? As much as it might hurt to think about it, they might have hit the nail on the head with some of their criticisms. Maybe the story was too predictable, or maybe you do need to have it re-edited. Whatever was said, if they bothered to actually give specific reasons for their poor review, it can’t hurt to pause for a moment and think about whether they might have a point.  Even a bad review could serve a good purpose. 

4. Where is the review posted? Did they post their review on Amazon or whichever website garners the most sales for your book? Well, that might honestly have an effect on your book sales and popularity, but, the silver lining is in the numbers. If you have 15 very good (4 star) or great (5 star) reviews, and only 1 or 2 reviews below that, most readers will side with the majority. Did they post it on Goodreads? Well that might hurt your feelings and diminish some of those avid readers interest, but a lot of general readers are not familiar with Goodreads and don’t check there for recommendations. Is the review posted on the facebook page of a general reader with 100 friends? You might not have a lot to worry about. Location, location, location.

5. How many reviews do you have? Lastly, how many book reviews do you have in total? The best way to counteract a bad book review, is with a good book review. Promote your book to readers in your target audience. If people say they enjoy your book, encourage them to write a book review for you. If you’re having a hard time finding people to post good book reviews for you, you might want to consider that there may well be an issue with the content of your material. If you’re only interested in getting reviews by people that love, love, love your book…you might have to circulate it within your friend and family circle because you have an unrealistic expectation. Fifty Shades of Grey is a top-selling book, but there are 100’s, if not 1000’s of people who disliked it for one reason or another. Obviously, there were more that enjoyed it than did not though, because you’ve heard about it and so has most of the U.S. It’s now being made into a movie to boot. Keep your book review numbers up, and keep your content worthy.

Good luck!

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