Reviews are lifeblood to us small-time authors. The good ones are amazing to get: They’re gratifying, flattering, humbling and most importantly, helpful. They drive those vital sales. But the bad reviews have a use, too. No author is infallible, and we all have weak points we can work on. Sure, it would be great if even the negative responses were phrased politely — as though they were written by a reasonable person expressing a logical concern to another human being – but this is the internet. We’ll all ride wish-granting unicorns to work before respect and restraint become commonplace. I try to not to comment on negative reviews. People have the right to their opinion, and nothing good ever comes of yelling at them about it. Further, I try to divorce myself from emotion when reading bad reviews from snotty, shitty people. If you can figure out a way not to be offended by their words, they might just have a point in there somewhere. If somebody tells you your book is a fucking mess and you should kill yourself – maybe what they really mean is that it has some pacing problems. That’s fair, and even if it’s not true, it’s a point worth considering. There’s no real way to do a review completely, objectively wrong, save for like this:
That’s pretty low, trying to call into question every other thing your fellow readers have said about a book, just because you didn’t like it. It’s disrespectful, not just of the author, but of all the other reviewers and, indeed, the entire review system in general. It’s self-righteous, to imply that anybody disagreeing with you is cheating somehow. And more troublesome: It’s very, very common. You’ll see this all over the place, wherever consumer reviews are allowed. The second somebody comes across a product that they didn’t like, but has overall positive reviews, they will immediately jump to “well, these are all fake.” They’ll then treat is as their solemn duty to try to “warn” their fellow readers about the scam being perpetrated, because it honestly never occurs to them that some people may enjoy a thing they did not.
“How could anybody like something that I deemed unacceptable? I am the alpha and the omega, the sun and the moon, the swirling vortex at the heart of the cosmos – my opinion is law. If I don’t like something that a lot of other people do, the only logical conclusion is that there is a vast conspiracy at work to dupe these, my people. I must save them – to the conceit-mobile!”
This is a particularly dangerous attitude, because fake reviews and gaming of the system does actually happen. And it should absolutely be stopped – paid reviews are ruining the integrity of the industry and making all of the earnest, honest, positive reviews worth a little bit less. But just because it happens sometimes, that doesn’t mean you get to assume it’s responsible for anything you don’t like. If you absolutely have to be rude in your negative review – fine. Somebody might still get something helpful out of it, despite your best efforts. But if you try to invalidate everything about a book because you didn’t enjoy it, that is plainly and objectively wrong of you. It is a false accusation based on nothing more than your “gut feeling.” So do me a favor, if you’re ever considering calling a book’s reviews into question, do some extremely detailed, expansive research first, and then make sure you present valid proof to the proper authorities (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Goodreads all take this stuff very seriously) before ever opening your textual mouth. And then do me another favor: If you ever see somebody saying shit like this in a review, don’t lend it any credence. Then do me a third favor: Flag it. This behavior is not okay, and it should be stomped out whenever you see it.
Then do me a fourth favor, and help me move my fridge. I don’t know, you seem to be in the mood to do a lot of favors lately; figured I’d press the advantage.