How Should Authors Deal with Negative Reviews on Amazon?
Any author who expects the reviews of his book to be 100% sunshine and puppies is nothing short of delusional — especially when you’re writing a book with the word “unpopular” right in the title. This week, however, I got a bit of a shake-up. A reviewer on Amazon wrote a review that grabbed me by my sassy little red ponytail and wrote a review that:
- Made plain he didn’t like my tattoos (which frankly, had nothing to do with the book)
- Made plain he didn’t like my vernacular (which he dubbed “potty mouth”)
And here’s the kicker — As I started this post this morning, I bopped over to Amazon to link to the review…and it had been deleted. I can only assume that the author of the review opted to delete it, but here’s all that remains from a post I made over on Facebook about it:
And after a lot of digging, I found what is left of the cached review on his Amazon profile page:
The review generated over 20 comments from various sources, but here’s the gist:
- The reviewer admitted he didn’t finish the book.
- The reviewer was a part of Amazon’s Vine Program. This is where prolific reviewers are sent complimentary copies of a book in exchange for a review by the book’s publisher in conjunction with Amazon. So my publisher got to pay for him to receive a book for which he wrote a critical review and then got to delete the review when the heat in the kitchen got turned up.
- The reviewer mentioned that my tattoos made it difficult for him to take my book seriously (as we all know how tattoos, body piercings, scars, hair dye, and other cosmetic accoutrements are valid tools for discrediting sources).
And you know what? I LOVED the review. Simply loved it. I even left a comment for the reviewer thanking him, saying I would take a 3-star review any day from someone who named my tattoos and “potty” vernacular as the leading reasons. You know why?
Because Mr. Loren Woirhaye proved the concept for my book in one easy review.
No matter who you are or what you do, there will be people in this world who don’t — and never will — dig it. And that’s beautiful. And as an author, I’m grateful for every single review like Mr. Woirhaye’s that comes in. I’m grateful for every awesome piece of hate email that filters through my contact form on my various websites. Because here’s my litmus test:
When the volume of emails and communications I receive is overwhelmingly positive — I’m doing something right.
Negative reviews, emails, shitty tweets, and the run-of-the-mill I don’t like yous are your reality checks. Because life ain’t a field of unicorns and supermodels that crap $100 bills. There will always be someone who doesn’t like what you do.
So here’s my tip to authors — and anyone — who gets a negative review about anything:
- Say thank you — and mean it. Every time I get a less-than glowing review (and y’know, 3 stars is more than half of 5 — think of it that way!), I thank the person who took the time to write the review. They didn’t have to. And in this case, the guy did something that was damn amazing — inarguably proved the concept of my book.
- Consider the source. There’s a ninny in every office or community that has to be heard about everything. Then there are people who operate in the space you want to dominate and might be the audience you’re trying to reach. Take the time to figure out who’s talking and if they’re just talking for talking’s sake.
- Share. Honestly, sometimes the negative reviews are funny (as was the case here). Not only was I grateful for for this 3-star review (where he, in earnest, wished me the best in my pursuit of unpopularity), I was simply ecstatic that it had come in! Critics have been around since the dawn of time (ever see History of the World, Part I?) and they’re not going anywhere. Embracing criticism and sharing that you not only receive it, but appreciate it, is a great way to get a pulse from your audience. In this case, sharing generated over 20 comments on Amazon (now deleted, including one that said, “Well, now I HAVE to buy the book!”), 60+ comments on Facebook (you can see the respective posts here and here) and a few book purchases.
If you have the book and haven’t left a review on Amazon — PLEASE stop by! Here’s the direct link. And remember — opinions are like assholes — everybody has one. Embrace the assholes. They get rid of stuff we don’t need, in every sense of the phrase. I truly wish that the reviewed hadn’t deleted his review (and honestly, I think it’s crap that he got a free book, left a review, and has the option to NOT stand by it), but so be it. If you’re going to be critical, people will find you — for better or worse. I guess Amazon’s one of the places where you can do so and be able to delete opinions that are equally critical of your critique.