Reviews are for Readers (Not the Author)
That doesn't mean they're right
The combination of social media, indie publishing, and full-time book reviewers has created a hotbed of animosity and drama in the last few years. In every instance, the conflict goes something like this:
Reviewer leaves bad or luke-warm review for a novel
Author responds to reviewer, telling them why their opinion is wrong
Other reviewers respond to author, criticizing the clapback
Author posts negative commentary about mean or bullying reviewers on social media
Reviewer vs. author pile-on commences, ending with one or all parties taking their accounts private for a while
All authors will get a negative review at some point and they can be hard to take, even if it’s a subjective opinion such as “This just wasn’t for me.”
I put my most recent release, The Prince’s Pawn, out for ARC reviews on BookSirens and the first review I got was a tepid three-star that read as follows:
My first thought: Ma’am do you know what Islam is?
But I didn’t say that to her. I didn’t say anything. This person took time to give me a review that I expressly asked for, and I am grateful for her efforts.
Additionally, it seems that multicultural romance isn’t for her. Awesome. Her review will also help guide future readers who are likewise inclined. And it’s better for readers to assess upfront whether your book is for them.
They can weigh her review against the others and make the decision of whether to buy my book. And that’s how it should be.
The Delicate Dance between Authors and Reviewers
Authors wanting to protect their brand would be well-advised to observe the etiquette of not responding (at all) to negative book reviews. But reviewers have their own set of rules, which I think are captured nicely in this thread:
A good reviewer understands that:
Reviewers are not editors. Your feedback is for other readers and what you did or did not like about the book. It’s not a wishlist of things the author should change in their manuscript.
It is unkind and unprofessional to tag authors in unflattering reviews. That means every person who searches for that author on social media will see your negative review in the search results. It also can feel combative. “Hey, author. I didn’t like your book. You got something to say about that?”
Book reviewers can make a huge difference in the success of a release, and the most in-demand ones comport themselves as professionals. That is why authors seek them out and why readers follow their accounts by the thousands.
Being gracious to reviewers will ensure that your reputation in the book community stays positive and you can work your way up to having a stable street team of early reviewers, meaning your social media followings grow in tandem.
The whole point of going the indie route as an author is to put your books directly in the hands of readers. That means creating relationships rather than just a brand.
The reviewers are your first readers. And hopefully, if it all works out, they’ll become your first fans!
How do you get your first reviews? Do you use your personal network or do you use review sites like Netgalley and BookSirens?