When you get reviews, and Cthulhu willing, you will, some of them will be bad. And not just bad, either. Mean-spirited. Dumb. Incoherent. And the worst one of all, correct.
It happens. Don’t worry about it, and for the love of all that you hold dear in this world, do not reply to them.
If it’s a blog post, don’t comment. If it’s an Amazon review, don’t comment. If it’s on Goodreads, don’t comment. Seriously.
Consider reviews to be in ReaderSpace. You can see into ReaderSpace and learn from what goes on in there, and you should, but if you interact with it, you’ll catch on fire and explode. On the internet. In front of everyone.
But bad reviews hurt my sales!
If most of them are bad, then yes. However, if I might tactfully suggest something, if most of your reviews are bad, your main problem might not be mean people on the the internet. A few bad reviews won’t hurt you, and in fact, if you only have a handful of reviews and all of them are awesome, then people are going to assume those are all from your friends and family.
Go to Amazon, and check out the reviews for books you consider to be above reproach. The Name of the Wind has over a hundred 1 and 2 star reviews. Does that mean it sucks? Of course not, don’t make me punch you.
But the reviewer is complaining about stuff that doesn’t even happen in my book!
I feel your pain. This is actually really hard for me, because completely independent of wanting to refute a bad review, the urge to factually correct someone that your epic fantasy did not, in fact, contain any space aliens, can be overwhelming. People will read all kinds of stuff into your work, and there’s nothing you can do to change that fact. Disagreeing with them will have zero effect on their convictions. Your elf space troopers will still annoy them, whether they are actually there or not.
But I agree that the reviewer found a problem and I want to thank them!
This is wonderful and a lovely sentiment. If you can thank them outside of the review area, feel free! If not, then stifle the urge. Showing up in a review area, whether as an Amazon comment to their review or in a thread on a blog, is a bad idea. It contaminates the area, for lack of a better term, and makes everything weird for your readers. As a result, you might get fewer reviews of all kinds. Or your good reviews might suddenly become suspect. If nothing else, you’ll seem unprofessional.
So if I can’t have my say, what can I do?
Learn from them.
Check for common complaints. For example, the number one complaint about Bad Radio is that nobody knows what the title means. It makes no difference what I have to say about it, if I keep hearing that, it’s a problem. I learned, and hopefully, fixed the issue with a two sentence revision.
Look for words that indicate pacing issues, even in good reviews. Stuff like, “At first it was boring, but then wham!” are warning flags. Just because they stuck with you long enough to be entertained doesn’t mean that everyone will. Make a note of it for next time.
Also, don’t dismiss people complaining that it wasn’t the kind of book they normally like. This isn’t a case of a crackpot randomly selecting your sci-fi book and then whining that it wasn’t a murder mystery, but instead a sign that your cover or blurb may be misleading.
As painful as they are, bad reviews are valuable. Don’t waste them.
Just remember: “Praise is like candy. Delicious, but bad for you.” – Paraphrased from every article on criticism, ever.
Fact 1: They Might Be Giants is the greatest band ever. Let us all agree on this and move on. Thank you.
Fact 2: They released Here Comes Science in 2009.
Fact 3: I am dumb, because I *just* realized fact number two. Like, in the year 2012.
But, as my loan shark is always saying, better late than never. Just in case you’re not sure where this rates on the awesome scale, I present you with these:
I know, right?
Have I mentioned lately that my wife is awesome? Sure, she’s hot and she puts up with me, which is in itself some kind of miracle, but more incredibly she understands my complex needs. Like, my need to cram delicious food into my face all the time.
Growing up in a Cajun/Korean household, there are a lot of dishes that I would consider comfort food. But this is one of the more difficult to pull off. Let me explain.
The crispy, golden, and delicious triangles up there are mandu, a traditional Korean dumpling. The filling is a mix of beef or pork, veggies, and spices, and is fairly time consuming to make on its own. Add to that the effort of individually wrapping each one (nearly 40 were made), and you can see how much of a labor of love that platter really is. The glass with the spoon in it contains a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, white vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and flaked red pepper. This is only substance known to man that can actually improve the taste of mandu, which is the kind of thing that used to get you burned as a witch.
In the beige bowl in the back is about a pound and a half of bulgogi, which is shaved rib-eye steak, steeped in a delightful marinade, and seared quickly in a wicked-hot pan. It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and tender as new love.
One of the best ways to eat it is to take a lettuce leaf, add some rice and gochujang (spicy fermented pepper paste), and then layer on the bulgogi. The combo of cool, crisp lettuce and hot rice and meat is incredible. It starts light and fresh, and ends with a savory, spicy, meaty bite. There’s nothing like it.
Taken all together, the production of the meal you see above was a lengthy, complicated affair, which my wife decided to tackle by herself as a present for me, just because she thought it would make my day.
And it totally did. Of course, I’d count myself lucky just to be able to eat ham sandwiches with her in front of the tv, but this? This was amazing.
But not even close to as amazing as she is.