And speaking of reviews…the bad makes good

In my Bite Your Tongue post, I talked about the need to remain professional in the face of adversity. In this post, I’m going to suggest that you lean into those bad reviews as a way of maturing and improving your writing.

I’m not talking about the ones that are personal attacks. Those folks have mental problems. Though even the scathing, angry reviews could have some grain of truth.

What, Pricey? You want to depress me even more?

No, not at all. I want you to take your writing seriously and be willing to listen to opinions that are vastly different from yours. If you only read the great reviews, you aren’t learning – you’re basking. Preening. And why not? You’ve earned your praise and lovely reviews. But when you’ve downed a few of the beagle’s margaritas and consumed a box of Twinkies, read the bad ones, too. They’re eye openers.

I know lots of authors detest the Amazon review feature, but I love it. Just last night I happened to check the reviews of one of our backlist titles. I went down to the three-star reviews (he didn’t get anything worse than that) and read what they had to say. They were generally happy with the book and felt it a great tool, but they commented on what they felt was lacking.

Their comments impressed me because I noticed there weren’t any other books that deal with those issues. This means a book that had that information would be in a league of its own. I know this has big audience potential so I’m in the process of writing up a book proposal for the author to see if he’d like to do another book that deals with those specific issues. Had I never read those three star reviews, I wouldn’t have come up with the idea for another book. Since his first book still sells very well after all these years, I’m sure this next one would have a long shelf life as well.

Now this is nonfiction. But bad reviews are an equal opportunity employer. I see many, many solid reviews on Amazon that cut to the chase in a professional manner and explain why the book didn’t work for them. But even the angry ones sometimes have something valid to say regarding plot development, the characters, pacing, flow.

My advice? Don’t shoot the messenger. These are people who paid for your book. They’re your readership. If you’re serious about your craft, then listen to what they’re telling you. Cut through the vitriol and look for the advice. Some of it may not be worth the cyber ink they’re written on, but I promise you, them thar’s tomes o’ gold in there.

How ’bout it? Is there a time when a stinging review opened your eyes?

Pay attention. Lean into the bad. Learn. Get over yourself.


2 Responses to And speaking of reviews…the bad makes good

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    I think there are four kinds of reviews:
    Good and useless
    Good and useful
    Bad but useful
    Bad AND useless

    For example ‘I loved it’ is good…and useless.

  2. Frank Mazur says:

    Like you, Lynn, I love the customer reviews, and I find just about any one of them of interest and benefit if there are at least four others.

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