Q: If I ask for reviews for my novel, but some of them are negative, should I still post them?
This question is actually a much larger question – the whole arena of negative reviews.
Let’s start with Amazon:
As you may know, people are often suspicious when they see only 5-star reviews for a book. Even if all the 5-star reviews are authentic, there’s a feeling that not everyone likes the same book.
In other words, a partially negative review could be a benefit because it could help all the 5-star reviews look more authentic.
Tip about Amazon Author Pages: You can now get a customized URL for your page. I just got mine – www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller )
And while we are on the subject of Amazon, make sure for 2012 that you have updated both your Amazon public profile (the one that connects with book reviews you do on the site) as well as your Author Page. This includes adding to your Author Page any new blog feeds, which I just did for my new site www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com (an attempt to combine my books and my volunteer activities into one coherent site).
Now let’s move on specifically to negative reviews:
Sometimes you ask someone to review your book and the person writes back that he/she could not give you a positive review so do you still want the review written? In this case I think it is perfectly fine to thank the person but say you do not want the review.
(Remember, a negative review is not necessarily about your book; it can often be about something in the reader’s life that triggers a negative reaction to the subject matter. I actually saw an example of this early on with my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant,” which takes place during the Vietnam War.)
Then there is the case when someone has posted a review of your book that is so off the mark that you feel compelled to answer. Now you cannot answer a review directly, but you can write a blog post elsewhere to address the subject. I did this for my ebook technothriller “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” in this blog post “A Fictional Character Is Fiction” at http://budurl.com/fictionisfiction
Later this book got a negative review on Smashwords that I’m still shaking my head over. Here is part of that review (with its punctuation and grammar errors):
… I suspect more attention to what naval ranks can do (Lt Commander is a low rank) more consistency in what characters are called (too often characters are giving different names)…
First, a lieutenant commander is NOT a low rank in the Navy. It is the equivalent of a major in the U.S. Army, and LCDRs can indeed (and do) command ships. In the ebook, Mollie Sanders being the third highest-ranking officer on a sub is NOT incorrect.
Second, the switch in names has to do with point of view. If the POV is of Mollie Sanders, then she refers to people the way she thinks of them. When the POV (in a different section of the book) is of a different character, he/she refers to people the way he/she thinks of them.
But again, there is nothing I can do about this review (which currently is the ONLY review for “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” on the ebook’s Smashwords page).
In other words, I have to grin and bear it.
Now a little more about the situation when you are directly sent a negative review and given the choice whether to use it.
One suggestion is to look carefully at the review. It is really incorrectly negative or are there worthwhile suggestions in it?
My co-author (and husband) Mitch and I got one rather even-handed review for “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” in which we both felt the “negative” comments had some merit. Thus we felt the review was okay because it expressed a different perspective on the book.
(The negative reactions have tended to be from MEN in the military who want to believe that WOMEN in the military are treated really well. As the co-host of a year-long BlogTalkRadio interview show about the military, I heard plenty of first-hand testimony that this is not necessarily true. But I understand that people like to believe the world exists as they see it.)
I have used several personal examples in the answer to this question because I believe that we authors have to clearly understand that the reason for negative reviews often has nothing to do with our books. And we must keep this in mind when evaluating the negative reviews.
It is important to distinguish that a review may not be negative overall. It may only have one negative section that clearly reveals more about the reviewer than it does about the book.
And then there is the question of Amazon unilaterally eliminating reviews of our books, whether those reviews were overall positive or negative. We discussed this in the November “Ask PZM” – “Is Amazon a friend or foe of authors?”
Let me pose a question in return for this month’s column:
How influential do you believe reviews are to people’s interest in reading a book? (I’m not talking about reading reviews to know about a book without actually reading the book. I’m talking about reviews that motivate a reader to buy/read the book.)
In other words, how powerful a motivator is a positive review and how damaging is a negative review? Are there times when a negative review might actually encourage people to read the book?
"More Changes on Amazon for Authors -- and More Confusion" http://www.millermosaicllc.com/amazon/more-changes/
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company Miller Mosaic LLC, which works with clients including book authors to effectively use social media, blogging and WordPress websites.
She is also the author of fiction and nonfiction books and has a new website at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com about her books and her volunteer activities.