Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What to do about a Bad Review

Here's an admission - I have started tuning to Radio 4 occasionally. I am officially middle-aged. I listened to Radio 1 until I was in my early 20's, and have been devoted to Radio 2 ever since. Growing up, my mother had Radio 4 on constantly (the theme tune to "The Archers" is the soundtrack to my childhood) so I associate it with, erm, slightly older people. But Radio 2 gets very boring in the evenings when it focusses on music genres I don't like, so I tune to Radio 4. Which is where I found this gem from American author Adam Gopnik about how to respond to a bad review. It's well worth a listen.


I'd like to say I've never had a bad review. Unfortunately that wouldn't be entirely true. Maybe I'll just say that I've never had a bad review in print, but on Goodreads a couple of people were unimpressed by my books. One gave Honeymoon Heist one star and said that she had failed to finish it because she didn't like the characters. Another just said that the book didn't grab her but she wasn't sure why.

I send all reviewers of my books a bar of chocolate. British chocolate is the best in the world and I consider it a good investment to spend £1 on a 100g bar of Galaxy or Dairy Milk (plus £5 on postage, if it's going to America) to thank someone for spending their hard-earned money on my book, and taking the time to write a review about it.

OK, so it's probably actually a very poor investment given that I will spend far more on chocolate and postage than I will earn in royalties. But I send the chocolate to all reviewers, whether their review is good or bad, so I feel I'm thanking those who left a good review, encouraging others to leave reviews, and heaping burning coals on the heads of those who give a bad review:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22, New International Version)

That's my version of the four-months-later friendly letter. Anyone got any other suggestions about how to handle bad reviews?


Cheri J. Crane said...

Chocolate works for me. ;) Actually, I've learned that sometimes you just have to shrug off those "bad" reviews. I adopted a motto years ago: "You're not a success unless someone is mad at you." =D Periodically, though, bad reviews make you take a hard look at your writing. If they make a good point, I strive to make the next book better.

Jennie said...

I've never gotten chocolate for any of my reviews whether I loved the book or found it a bit lacking, however it sounds like a good idea. Sometimes I get a polite thank you note and sometimes I get a poison pen letter. A few times the disapointed author has childishly turned around and posted a scathing review of one of my books. Generally I just don't review a book if it's poorly written, so you know it has some positive qualities if I take the time to review it; even in good books there are always things that could be improved, but I don't find it helpful to dwell on minor flaws.

Anna Buttimore said...

Jennie, I owe you chocolate! I forgot you reviewed my books in Meridian!