Oh, No! A Bad Review!
So, your new novel is out. For the past few weeks you and your publisher have been sending out review copies and the marketing machine has been in full swing. You’ve released your back cover quotes. You’ve started preparing for the blog tour that will accompany the book. You’ve arranged appearances and signings.
But most of all, you’ve been waiting for the reviews to show up.
And then those first couple come in, and they’re great! Readers on Goodreads and Amazon, reviewers in social media. The early buzz is strong, and your spirits are high.
A mediocre review.
Nothing pours ice water on your soul like seeing a lukewarm review come in. In your mind, it’s derailing the success train. You start to wonder how many people will read it and decide not to buy the book. After all, there’s a ton of stuff out there for people to read and most reviewers have TBR piles as high as the roof. They could easily decide to skip your book in favor of one that is generating more buzz. A bad review hits especially hard if it’s a professional reviewer, one with a lot of followers. One you had really hoped would give you a glowing write up you could promote all over social media.
Now your head is filled with the image of your book sinking into the depths of obscurity before it even has a chance to succeed.
What could make this worse? I’ll tell you. It’s when you read the review and realize the person didn’t understand it. They got the hero and the villain mixed up, they didn’t catch the underlying theme that ties the story together, they completely missed the allegories you used.
Well, I’m here to tell you, all is not lost.
One bad review doesn’t ruin a book’s chances of success. Heck, odds are even several wouldn’t do that, as long as you had good reviews to balance the not-so-great ones. As a writer, you have to remember something:
Most people will never even read your book. And out of the ones who do, many will not like it.
That sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Think about these numbers. Approximately 52,000 fiction books are sold every week in the U.S. In order to be Number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, you need to sell about 5000 books in a week.
That’s 10% of all people buying fiction.
If this was baseball, you’d be batting .100 and get sent to the minors because you suck. In the world of writing, you’re a superstar.
Now, consider this fact: if you look at any book on Amazon or Goodreads, no matter how popular, it will have bad reviews. A quick glance shows that IT, Pet Sematary, and Dr. Sleep by Stephen King all show the same general breakdown for reviews: 70% 5 Star, 20% 4 Star, 6% 3 Star, 2% 2 Star, and 2% 1 Star.
Dean Koontz? Pick any of his books, you get about the same spread.
And these guys are at the pinnacle of success in our genre. Think about it. 30% of readers consider any Stephen King book either meh or bad.
You expect your numbers to be better than that?
The thing is, despite getting bad reviews, those books sell. Yours probably will, too, as long as there are more good reviews than bad. You just have to keep remembering that. Don’t let a bad review get you down.
Most of all, you can’t allow a bad review to make you do something stupid. Like respond to the review. Or contact the reviewer. Or write a rebuttal on your social media pages. That’s a sure-fire way to send your book—and your reputation!—down into the abyss, never to be heard from again.
Sure, you might be tempted. Like when a reviewer obviously missed the point of the story, or obviously didn’t read/finish the book. Or complains about a mistake you made in your writing when it’s apparent they’re the ones who didn’t understand the tense changed because you’re moving back and forth in time. Or when they compare your book to another, and it’s one that has nothing to do with your plot/story.
Not everyone is going to like your book. Some people won’t even understand it, won’t get what you were going for with the story.
When you get that bad review, just chalk it up as part of the business of being a writer and move on. If it’s a stupid review, one that shows the reviewer simply wasn’t on the same page (or in the same building!) as you, laugh about it with your writer friends in private and move on. If you get that dreaded one-star review that says “I didn’t like this book because it didn’t have a dog in it,” just shake your head at the dumbing down of America and move on.
Just move on.
You don’t have to promote it. You don’t even have to acknowledge it. Instead, take that opportunity to post something positive about the book. A cover quote, a different review. An upcoming blog appearance.
Hell, just post about puppies or food.
In the long run, you’ll be happier.
And when the bad reviews get you down (and they will), remember this:
Stephen King is probably getting a bad review today, too!
My new novel, Hellrider, from Flame Tree Press, is available now in print editions (hardcover, trade paperback) and in e-book format at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hellrider-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Faherty/dp/1787582620.
When Eddie Ryder is burned alive by fellow members of the Hell Riders motorcycle gang for ratting on them, he vows revenge with his dying breath. He returns as a ghost, with his custom motorcycle Diablo by his side. After he finds out he can possess people, he launches a campaign of vengeance that leaves plenty of bodies in its wake and the police in a state of confusion. Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death. Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.
Hellrider is a grindhouse supernatural revenge tale of redemption gone bad. It’s also a love story filled with darkly funny, over the top violence. In short, it’s a thrill-filled fun ride.
“Hellrider is a thunder and muscle hell ride through dangerous territory. Fun, wicked, and unrelenting. A horror thriller that breaks the rules and the speed limit at the same time.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author
Also out now is my new collection of short stories from Cemetery Dance Press, Houses of the Unholy, which includes a brand-spanking-new novella, December Soul, which is a sequel to my popular short story, “The Lazarus Effect.” December Soul is a darkly poignant romance set during an unusual apocalypse.
Available in e-book and print formats: https://www.amazon.com/Houses-Unholy-JG-Faherty-ebook/dp/B07QR7R7KZ. And also at B&N and other retailers.
And, as always, check out all my other titles: http://tinyurl.com/jgfaherty.