Why Getting Some Negative Reviews Can Be Positive

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

My latest book, Rebellious Heart released on September 15th. Like most authors, I can't resist taking a peek at my reviews from time to time to see how the book is being received by readers. I snapped a picture of a recent total (above). Yes, I have a couple of two star reviews.

Obviously most writers would prefer to wow the socks off our readers with each book we put out there. I don't know a single author who likes negative reviews. In fact, most authors I know would prefer to get five stars all the time. Some authors even get mildly irritated at four star reviews and have been known to question a friend or family member for leaving anything less than five stars.

However, over the past few years of having five books published, I've realized it's completely unrealistic to expect to always get five star reviews. I've realized authors only set themselves up for disappointment if they expect mostly positives. I can't tell you how many authors I've heard lament (mostly privately) about a the hurt a low-rated review has caused them.

And as tough as those reviews can be, I'm learning to let them roll off my back.

In fact, I've even come to the conclusion that getting some negative reviews can be a positive thing. Here are three reasons why authors can benefit from having a mixture of reviews:


1. A mixture of positives & negatives makes the reviews more reliable.

Readers will be more trusting of reviews that contain both positives and negatives versus a whole slew of five-star. When readers see mostly five-stars, they may begin to wonder if the author somehow "stacked the deck."

The negatives keep the reviews real and more reliable in the readers' eyes. They rationalize, "If readers can be honest about the negative, then they're honest with the positive too." Thus, the negative adds credibility to all the reviews.

2. A mixture of reviews can stir curiosity in the reader. 

For example, one of my recent reviews for Rebellious Heart gave the book two stars and said: "RATED R: Violent/Disturbing Images." A couple other reviews marked down the book because it had too much romance. One reviewer said: "This was the worst type of historical romance fiction as it had way more romance than I like in any other historical fiction I have read."

Another reviewer who gave me three stars on Goodreads said: "I will say, that for a romance, I liked it. It was quite well-written, and fast-paced, with danger and smuggling and the turmoil of a country on the edge of a revolution. It’s not my favorite genre ever, so that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy Rebellious Heart so much, but I am sure that if you like romances, you’ll love this one."

It's precisely those kinds of statements that can spark curiosity. Someone else reading the review might say, "Hmmm, I like romance. So if that reader thinks it has too much, then it might just be the kind of book I like."

What one person dislikes might be exactly what another person loves in a story.

3. A mixture of reviews pushes the author to keep improving. 

As much as I'd like to write a perfect book, I haven't accomplished that yet! Negative reviews keep us from becoming complacent. They remind us that we still have room for improvement, that we still need to keep learning and honing my skills. And sometimes those reviews even contain morsels of feedback that we can take away and apply to our next novel.

Negative reviews also keep us from taking ourselves so seriously. If we can chuckle to ourselves about our book being rated R rather than getting angry, then we ease the stress and keep from becoming overly discouraged.

So dear writers, next time you get a negative review, keep it in perspective. Accept it. Don't wish it away. And realize even the negatives have a place in the writer's life too.

If you were to get a scathing review (or have already gotten one) how do you think it would make you feel? How would you handle it? 

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