Authors pretty much universally want more book reviews. Visit any author forum or Facebook author group and you’ll hear them lamenting their lack of reviews, or brainstorming how to get more reviews. Heck it’s one of the reasons we started our Netgalley-like book review program for romance authors.
Well, I’m here to tell you, there are lots of reasons why readers might not be reviewing these days. People are busy, their TBR lists are unmanageable, they’d rather read than review, they feel like they’re poor writers and don’t want to embarrass themselves with a crappily written review, Amazon just removes all their reviews anyway...the list goes on and on.
But what you probably aren’t aware of is that readers might not be reviewing your books because of something you (or your fellow authors) are doing. Don’t believe me? Well, here are some scenarios I’ve run into recently that have made me question whether or not I should discontinue posting book reviews once and for all ...
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all
I’ve heard this one from authors more than a few times. And while I think it’s GREAT advice for when your significant other gets a haircut you think is awful, it just doesn’t apply to book reviews. Reviewers should be allowed to say anything they want in their review. They don’t have to keep their negative opinions to themselves. If they hated your little book baby, they are well within their rights to leave a scathing review.
You didn’t offer actionable feedback in your review!
You know what? I’m not your editor. As a reviewer, I don’t owe an author any actionable feedback. You know why? Because REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS, NOT AUTHORS. Yes, I used the shout-y caps so that all the people in the back could hear me. If you want actionable feedback, go talk to your editor or your critique group or your beta readers. I’m going to leave whatever review I want for your book, even if it’s only a list of reasons why I hated it. It’s not a personal attack on you as the author and it shouldn’t be seen as one. All I owe you is the money I paid for your book. That’s all.
You’re just a troll
Just because someone doesn’t adore you and fails to lavish praise on your book baby doesn’t automatically make them a troll. Leaving a bad review just means that I didn’t like your book. There’s really nothing more to it than that. Calling all negative reviewers trolls is just a pathetic attempt at protecting your ego.
Social media shaming
Not too long ago, I saw an author (who shall remain nameless) post a screenshot of a 1-star review she’d seen for her book on Amazon and tweet it to her followers. She chastised the reviewer for leaving the review on release day because it was supposed to be a “happy day for her.” In the words of the great Bobby Singer from Supernatural, “Well, boo-hoo, Princess. I’m so sorry your feelings got hurt.” Posting your negative reviews on social media is nothing more than a cheap maneuver to coax your fans into stroking your ego and telling you how awesome you are. Everyone can see through that bullshit. When I see an author shame reviewers on social media, they automatically go on my “never to be read again” list. No exceptions.
Rallying fans to attack
I’ve also seen authors (who shall remain nameless) post negative reviews on their social media pages and ask their fans to “vote down” the review (i.e. mark on Amazon that the review wasn’t helpful) or comment on it. I don’t tolerate bullies. Not ever. So again, all crap like this manages to do is convince me never to read the offending author’s work.
Can you change that review?
It hasn’t happened to me personally, but I have heard from other reviewers that authors have contacted them and asked them to change their reviews, giving them a higher rating. If a reviewer thinks your book is only worth 3 stars, just be thankful they bought the book at all. At least you got their money. Trying to talk them into a different rating is just...desperate. And sad. Desperate and sad isn’t a good look on anyone.
Why are you so mean?
Look, I don’t write book reviews with the intent of hurting the author’s feelings. I do realize that writing a book is hard and that authors work very, very hard. Like I said, my negative book reviews aren’t a personal attack on the author. I’m just letting other readers know what I thought of the book. It’s really nothing more than that. But if you want me to be the bad guy...OK. I’ll be the bad guy.
You’re just jealous!
Sure. Yeah. I’m jealous of an author who wrote a book I hated. Makes perfect sense. *intense eye roll* But just for the record, not all book reviewers are failed writers. Just sayin’.
Once again, I’ll say that reviews are for readers, not authors. If you’re an author who gets easily hurt by criticism of your book, I suggest you skip reading your reviews. No one owes you a good review. Readers don’t owe you anything other than the courtesy of obtaining your books legally. (Because fuck book pirates). You WILL get bad reviews sometimes, because you can’t please everyone. I would ask you—no, beg you, really—to spend your time figuring out how to not let the negative reviews hurt your feelings instead of telling me how I should write book reviews. Please and thanks.
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