Why Bad Reviews are as Good as Great Reviews

I’m writing this half way through my blog tour week for Dead Memories and honestly speaking, it’s hell! It’s not the fear of a bad review that makes it so terrible, even good reviews, really good ones, seem to rattle my cage. It’s kind of funny. We spend half our (non-writing) time thinking about getting more blog posts, Amazon and Goodreads reviews and then when they drop in, it’s like going to the doctor for a shot. Arrgh! I can’t look. Owwaw! Just do it already.

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This first time around with No More Birthdays, I noticed a trend with the reviews: About 40% of them where very positive, 40% so-so and 20% not loving it, if that’s a way to describe it. And I expected that kind of spread… As they say in the hair commercial, “Here comes the science part!”

Average star rating for a bestseller?

A typical bestseller on Amazon has a review average of 3.75 stars. This is because, we as the review leaver, tend to compensate for other people’s reviews. If we love a book and the review before ours is a 1 star, you better believe, we’re giving that book a 5 (even though we did consider it a 4/4.5 before that). And if other readers are raving about it and it was just not our thing, that 3 star book review suddenly becomes a disgruntled 2 star review. Also it’s easier to slam a book by an author who (possibly did, or you imagine) was paid a gazillion dollars!

Get reviews for a self-published book

However, a lot of independent books have much higher review averages, around 4.25 stars. Wow. Does that make any sense? Well, yes it does. The independent, self-publishing market is a strong, social and loyal friend (if you play it right) and seriously dissing an author you may be friends with online, is a little awkward (footnote, if you do write a scathing review and post it on a FB group page, you must tag the author if they are a member too. I once saw an amazing feud between a blogger and an author’s fans over this – popcorn please ­– all over a bad review and missing tag, and I haven’t seen that blogger since).

Double Trouble

As it is a series, I put both books up on offer for review and got reviews back for No More Birthdays too. No More Birthdays if certainly darker than Dead Memories as it sets the scene for the series, but it’s pretty clear from the blurb (gritty crime noir) that there are going to be some unsavoury elements in the story. Still, if the wrong person picks up this book, they’re going to hate it. Even my sister hated this book but then she told me she was going to give it to her 13 year old daughter (I told her not to, absolutely not to, but she did). I can just imagine the conversations they had over dinner that evening. So I really expected a mixed bag for this blog week.

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Anyway back to the half time scores

So I did get a couple of bad ones… a 1 star (she would have given me ZERO stars if this was possible), who obviously stumbled across this book on her way to the shelf marked ‘Fairies’ and ‘Dashing, London Vampire Detectives’ (Yeah, I looked at her other books). And her review was a good read (No pun intended). For me, words matter! I want to see why someone HATED my book (caps used intentionally – for some reason haters love caps!’) She hated it because the only crime in the book was murder (okay) and it was ‘smutty and pornographic’ (a teenager fights of a potential rapist). So that for me, it totally fine, just the wrong book in the wrong hands. If she had said it was boring, and if it was boring, I would be upset.

The other bad review was a bit of a mystery, 2 stars and the reviewer complained that there was no detective in the story… but I’m pretty sure there was… I distinctly remembe writing her in. Anyway, as said, bad reviews also rock! Those people read the book and hated or maybe mixed it up with another book but, it is still all-good. After my 1 star review, the very next one was a 5 star. I like to think she wasn’t over compensating for the 1 star, but hey – I’ll take it!

But I’d be lying if I said I liked bad reviews as much as good ones. I love good reviews. I especially love it when reviewers ‘get it’ and really get it. When I have the feeling that they read the book I thought I wrote, my skin tingles! I’m looking at you Avid Reader. And of course, the reviews from bloggers who read a lot and are prepared to think between the lines and recognise that the hero is an unreliable witness, like at shawnashauntia. I don’t write stories that spell it out because I don’t want readers who needed it spelled out to them.

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So these lovely people also tend to put their reviews (good and bad) up on Amazon and Goodreads too, which is great (essential) for any book. And there is nothing I love more than seeing a good healthy spread of very positive, good, and very negative reviews. Why? Well, when was the last time you bought a book based on its 20 reviews which all gave it 5 stars or even worse, the first 20 are 5 star reviews and the last 3 are 1’s? Finding a good book online is hard work. A lot of writers and publishers are buying reviews and they only want 5 stars. When a real reader gets it, they are so disappointed they give it a 1. And we all, instinctively know this.

So bring on the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews. I can handle it! Scratch that – I want them!

This blog piece was written at 3am – any spelling a grammatical errors are probably just your eyes. Go get a coffee 😉 

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