Tuesday, September 13, 2016

4 Ways to Win Over Bad Reviews

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

It’s a given that reviews on our books are vitally important. Future readers scan through to look for the gem that might be their next read. When our book hits Amazon for the first few weeks we relentlessly look over reviews finding ourselves grinning with joy or sobbing relentlessly. The important thing to remember is reviews are not personal – they’re a necessary evil with awesome advantages both pro and con. So how do we win out over the review snobs?

When writers birth their book baby, they become doting parents and rightfully so. Months of work have gone into the process of creating, editing and publishing this book. When review time comes authors become a bit . . .uh . . . sensitive.

Reviews come in a number of ways but each has its reasoning. Taking time to understand the uses of reviews will save you hours of sobbing and light the fire you need to seek out more.

4 Ways to Win Over Bad Reviews
1) “1 Star – If I could give it zero stars, I would. Not worth the ink on the page.” – Ahhhh! Your heart sinks and you dart for the bathroom to throw up. Someone said your book wasn’t worth the ink on the page. Yea, well, that’s a pretty nasty review, but how do you respond? Fast answer: You don’t. As much as you want to defend your baby . . .don’t.

Keep in mind there are always Debbie Downers. Some even attack you personally. This is your opportunity to rise above and remember you never know what is going on in that person’s life. The most you can do is simple.  “Thank you for your review. I appreciate your time.” This lets the reviewer know you read the review and that you aren’t going to fall in the argument trap. Being gracious is never a mistake.

Why can't I defend my work?
2. “WHY CAN’T I DEFEND MY WORK?” It’s simple. Besides being a grown up, bigger, better person? You need bad reviews. WHAT? Yes. You need bad reviews. Here’s why.
On Amazon, two things happen with reviews:
  • Future readers gain validity from reviews When they see all 5 star reviews they assume your family and friends love your book. Mix in some 1 and 2 star reviews and now we have validity. Others who may not know you are reading and responding. The future reviewer now sees a scale that looks balanced. When they purchase a book with mixed reviews they know there is room for their personal opinion, likes and dislikes.
  • Reviews (any reviews) draw the Amazon eye to your book Your publisher is squawking, “Get reviews”, and there’s a reason. The more reviews, good or bad, again, draw the all-powerful Amazon eye to your book, causing them to feature your book in suggestion notes when a reader purchases. Those who purchased Book X have also purchased Book Q.  You want your book in these suggestion notes. The more suggestions future readers see, the more they take interest and purchase. It’s like an Amazon stamp of approval on your book. Books sometimes scroll at the bottom of the Amazon page too. Excellent exposure.

The more reviews you gain the better opportunity for your book. But here’s the problem. Getting readers to post the reviews. Reviews must be original and new, so readers are left to take this final step after the book is done. Since you can’t post reviews for your readers, how do we get those posts on the sites? Here are a few suggestions:
  • During the editorial process, add a line at the end of the book that offers your reader an incentive to post a review.  Thank you for reading Book X. Please consider posting a review on major sites like ChristianBooks.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Send us a screenshot of your review and we’ll send you a free digital download preview of Book B. You’ll have to work with your publisher, but together you can find a great wording and a an incentive that costs nothing to them and means tons to your readers.
  • Set goals on Facebook. Post to your tribe your starting goal is 50.  Help me jumpstart my book on Amazon by posting a review. 50 is the magic number. Post a review and I’ll add your name to a drawing for ___________________.
  • Tweet your url and contest.

Does this guarantee reviews? No. But its effort that helps. Remember social media grows weary of over promotion, so don’t beat your readers over the head with massive amounts of posts. Post once or twice, a week or so apart. Then wait. 

The fact of the matter is, marketing is what it is – ultimately left in the hands of the consumer to pay attention and purchase. The more effort you put into the marketing, the more books you will sell.

Consider every review a blessing & a gift.
3. But what about the bad reviews? Stop asking. Consider every review a blessing and a gift. If you must think of it, then think a little on the greedy side this once. A bad review means your book was more than likely purchased. That puts a small financial drop in your bucket. A bad review means your reader has at least read a good chunk of your work. Folks are reading and every review draws the Amazon eye to your book. These are good things.

When you get a bad review, encourage new reviews to push the bad one down into the mix. It’s a bit less visible but still vitally important. If you can push it down a notch then readers see a positive review first.

We can’t force readers to review but we can continue to encourage them to take this step. You get a bad review . . . lick your wounds and remember to rejoice. The book was purchased and read. Brush it off and move ahead.

4. Words of wisdom if reviews are primarily rough, perhaps there is a problem to address. It might be time to take a second look, especially if this is a self-published read.

Now, wipe your tears and remember bad reviews are important to the success of your book. Rejoice the book is being read. Let the scales balance and the reviews roll. You’ll win over the review snobs with ease.


Cindy Sproles is an award-winning author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Great Post, Cindy. I expect some bad reviews and my book is not published. I know that there will be doctrinal differences. I am ready for it. Congrats on Mercy Rain. I loved reading your interview at A3.

  2. Replies
    1. It saves a lot of heartache when you understand reviews are not personal.

  3. Forewarned is forearmed. Thanks for the timely advice.

    1. I agree. Well said. You must be a writer! 😁 I love that. Forewarned is forearmed.

    2. I agree. Well said. You must be a writer! 😁 I love that. Forewarned is forearmed.

  4. I expect bad reviews because before my first book was published I entered it in contests. Scores were always like--98, 95, 59, so I knew not everyone would like it. Great post!

    1. Honestly, that sounds like good scores. Contests have just diversity in tastes. I'd say good job.

    2. Honestly, that sounds like good scores. Contests have just diversity in tastes. I'd say good job.

  5. The stinging reviews hurt and, well, sting for a while. But when a mom hugs my neck with tears in her eyes and tells me how much my devotional helped her, the sting goes away.

    Good reminders. Thanks.

  6. Absolutely. There is always good. You can't dwell on the bad.

  7. Absolutely. There is always good. You can't dwell on the bad.

  8. Giving someone Book B in return for reviewing Book A is against Amazon's reviewing guidelines, as is running any form of contest for people who've reviewed your book.

    These clearly state that the ONLY thing which can be given is a copy of the book being reviewed, in advance. Here's what Amazon says:

    "Paid Reviews – We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including ... bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, ... extra product, or other gifts."


    "The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback."


    I don't recommend that authors respond to critical reviews - most reviewers I know find it creepy at best, and stalkerish at worst. It also sets a precedent: are you going to respond to every review you ever get? Even if there are thousands?