If you spend any time in an author forum, you’ll eventually see somebody advise everyone else to never reply to a bad review.
All present will knowingly nod their heads. Horror stories abound. Timid writers agree that they heard about/saw/experienced Satan himself undo the seventh seal and the bats of Hell descended upon their book. Or something.
And because nobody wants a reviewer getting angry and unleashing their friends to bash your book, no writer ever should reply to a bad review! Never. NEVER EVER EVER!!
This is going to be unpopular, but I disagree with the “never comment on a bad review” nonsense.
Here is what my experience has been.
Most of the time I don’t get a lot of bad reviews, but on occasion when I do,
I take a screenshot of the bad review and I post it on my author page and I say something like, “This is proof that not every one of my reviews comes from a family member.”
Everybody has a good laugh and we move on.
I get the last word but I’m not directly replying to the bad reviewer. But I still get to vent in my own way.
But sometime I actually reply directly to the person posting the bad review.
I got a “bad review” once on a cookbook that’s done really well. Hold on, novel writers. Don’t go just yet! Because I am multifaceted, I have written novels, cookbooks, and illustrated children’s stories. Because why not.
Anyway, she commented on one of my best selling cookbooks. One that has been number one in its category on and off over the years for several years. She said it should have pictures. The review before hers said that and then she said it. These were both when I was running it on sale or free or something. The two bad reviews that both said it should’ve had pictures were also posted within a day or so of each other.
I was miffed.
Until I realized – she’s right.
How hard would it be to go get a bunch of images and update the book with pictures of what you’re trying to make?
Answer? Not hard at all.
Stay with me, novel writers. You’re thinking this doesn’t apply to what you write. Stay with me.
So I contacted the person who gave me the “bad” review. I wrote a comment on her review and the other lady who gave me a bad review, and sometimes the reviewer will have an email address or something so I was able to contact her and email her and tell her the following:
Thank you very much for the constructive criticism. You are 100% right, I should have put pictures in this. It’s always been a good seller but times change and it was time for an update. Great suggestion.
Would you accept with my complements a free copy of the updated version as it appears in the new box set (this would be with two other cookbooks of mine).
She wrote back and said she would be happy to look at it again and look at the box set.
Turns out she has a website where she does book reviews of all kinds of books.
I have 18 published titles. To date she has reviewed every single one of my books except for my most current one and given them all either a four or five star review.
I have also asked her to review a few books by some author friends of mine, and she has agreed.
So if you handle it properly, you can turn the lemon of a bad review into some pretty sweet lemonade.
Now, how does this apply to a novel?
Well, on occasion where somebody pointed out something they didn’t like about one of my books, I said this:
“Thank you for the constructive criticism. I realize not every book is for every reader and your expectations were very high for me.
I fell short this time but I will work hard to not disappoint you in the future.”
Out of all my books and all my reviews, I’ve only done that once or twice. I have no way of knowing if the person who gave me the bad review ever read it (I’ve gotten some crappy reviews from trolls but that’s not what I’m talking about here) and it didn’t go any further than that, but if I get a bad review that I think is honest, I have no problem telling them thank you as I noted.
I’m not afraid of my customers.
Don’t you be, either.
And when know-it-alls and would-be experts in author forums give you advice, don’t be afraid to push back on it. Sometimes I think everybody there is telling the same story they all heard from somewhere else until it’s taken as gospel – and nobody’s actually done any of it.
Sometimes they’re right.
Treat your readers with respect and they’ll usually treat you with respect, too. Shocker. Treat a reviewer like a real person? That’s crazy talk. You might even be able to build rapport with them. Who ever heard of such a thing???
Indie authors are governed by nobody’s rules but their own, so don’t blindly follow anybody’s advice. Not even mine.