How honest reviews, even bad ones, can be more valuable than a 5 star!

We’ve all been there.

Sitting on pins and needles, waiting for bloggers to read our next release.

We’re pacing, checking our e-mail and messages constantly, hoping for anything that tells us we got it right.

But then it happens.

Someone didn’t like the book.

How dare they?

We didn’t shower, ignored our loves ones and poured our hearts and soul onto each page.

How can this be possible?

Get the fuck over yourself.

Seriously. No one writes a winner 100% of the time.

Shit happens. You are not perfect.

Every person digests a book differently.

It’s how you react to a review that will determine your future. You have two paths.

You can wallow in self-pity, make posts on Facebook about people being haters, and kick anything that you can find – I mean, that will help you as a writer in the future, right? Wrong.

Authors should use them to improve their writing.

Are there reviews that are dead wrong? Fuck yeah.

One will state, “There’s too much sex” while another will say, “There’s not enough sex”.

It’s inevitable.

Put on your big girl panties and move forward. If one bad review pisses you off – find a new career. Writing is the most stressful thing I’ve ever had. It’s the only job that allows for criticism 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you can’t take the heat, throw your laptop out the window.

Here’s how I handled an unfavorable review by a blogger a few tours back.

A blogger, Christina, e-mailed my assistant a few days after release –

As for the review….please do not take any offense to this as it is not meant that way. This book fell very short for me.  I rated it 2.5 stars after reading it twice. Even giving her 2.5 stars isn’t fair to her future work and I refuse to post any review that is hurtful or rude or negative.  I always promise to be honest with the authors and tell them if their work falls flat privately as politely as I can.  So please, convey my deepest apologies as I do not want feelings hurt.

My first reaction was “Well, crap. That sucks.”

Then I wanted to know more. What fell short for her? What mark did I miss?

I did the only thing I could… I emailed her –

Thank you for your email. Do not feel bad. Not everyone can like every book. I value an honest opinion and hope you're willing to share with me what fell short for you. There are no hurt feelings. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your kindness and honesty.

Then I waited, checking my email like a madwoman. It took a week for her to get back to me. I don’t blame her. In today’s book climate being honest with an author can be scary.

I held my breath and read her reply –

How I felt about this book:  It felt very rushed.  I didn’t feel like I connected with either character or get a chance to know them really well.    While the sex scenes were good, they lacked the passion and fire I’m used to reading in your other books, particularly in this series.

Overall, it just wasn’t a strong read for me and I was expecting something a lot more stronger in this book as well as more time watching their relationship grow into something beautiful.

I can’t wait to read the next one.  Just because I don’t like one, doesn’t mean I won’t like the next and I’m anxious to see what you have in store for us.

I stared at the screen, soaking in her feedback. She was right. I’d rushed through the book. I became sick ten days before my appointment with my editor and barely made my deadline. It wasn’t the best book I’d ever written, but it was done and there was no turning back. The only thing I could do was to move forward and strive not to make the same mistake twice.

When I started writing the next book I kept her feedback and kept telling myself ‘slow down’ as I wrote each page.

When I finished writing and sent out the blog tour sign-up, I looked for her on the list but she wasn’t there.

GASP!

Here’s where normal people may have thought ‘Thank God’ but not me.

I’m a little off my rocker, but then again, you have to be to be a writer.

There was only one thing on my mind…What would Christina think of my next book.

I opened my email and sent her a message –

So I know you didn't like the last book very much. I wondered if you'd like an early peek at my next WIP. I'd love to get your feedback. Let me know if you're interested. I know you're probably slammed with ARCs.

I stalked my email, praying she’d say yes. Her reply made my night –

Hi Chelle!  I would absolutely love a sneak peek. I was pretty sure that I would not be welcome doing the blog tour so I didn't sign up because I didn't like the last book as much as I love the other books in the series. I am extremely honored and humbled that you thought of me for an ARC. I'm not even reading a book right now so I'm all yours. You absolutely made my evening. I can give you my Kindle address or you can send it via email whatever is easiest for you.

I sent her the ARC and waited. The waiting just about killed me. If she hated this one, I’d hurl myself off the nearest bridge. Not really, but to miss two books in a row would be a major blow.

Three days later she messaged me on Facebook –

I'm done. WOW! I’m not being mean but that was like a 100% improvement over the last book! I have to say, it may have been my favorite book in the entire series. You took the biggest asshat Gallo and made him human and beautiful and so much more than I was expecting. This book was very real and I felt like you reached places in my soul I rarely expect to feel when reading. Seriously, I will write you a review tomorrow but I had to tell you tonight how much I LOVED this book. Even though the last wasn't my favorite, this book solidified my feelings about the entire series and I will be buying them in print for my keeper shelves (really, my highest honor when I buy in print). Outstanding! Simply some of your best work I have ever read!!!!

I danced around the room, held my arms up in victory, and cried happy tears. Maybe that’s a lie, but I was so damn happy I felt like I floated on air.

I nailed it.

My next book was everything I wanted and I didn’t rush it.

Now when I finish a book, Christina is one of the first person I send it to after my betas get their hands on it. I know she’ll tell me if it’s shit and I want to hear her opinion.

I value it.

I know unfavorable reviews can feel like the end of the world, but they aren’t. Find a way to use their feelings about a book to make the others better. As a writer my goal is to make the next book better than the last and without honest reviews such as hers it wouldn’t be possible.

I’m not saying there aren’t shitty reviews by trolls that want to do nothing but make you look bad. Those aren’t the people or reviews I’m talking about. No. Those people suck and need to find something more useful to do with their time.

Look at your work as an outsider. Realize you aren’t the bee’s knees. Not everything you write is going to be amazing. It’s impossible. Even the best selling book has unfavorable reviews.

Also, when did a 5 star review become the only good review? I remember a day when 3 stars meant the book was good. It still does. Remember that when you scroll through your reviews on Amazon. Ignore Goodreads. It has its purpose, but useful feedback for authors isn’t one of them.

Learn to embrace the bad.

It makes the good that much sweeter.