Trying to see the meaning behind the review

Publishing your book means getting reader reviews, and that’s a good thing. You want all the reviews you can get because they’re a great marketing tool. However, reading reviews about your book can sometimes be like trying to watch a movie through a rain-washed window.  It’s difficult to tell what the reviewer is implying, what it all means–especially for those one and two-star reviews.

Don’t look for explanations

Reviewers don’t always elaborate on their comments, and if they give a low rating without going into depth as to why, you could easily spend too much time trying to read between the lines.  You might lose valuable writing time wondering what is meant by comments such as ‘The characters didn’t resonate with me’ or ‘Not my kind of book’.  Or, worse: ‘There was so much I didn’t like about this book.’ And then, you might get nothing more than ‘If I could give zero stars I would.’ –which can totally send you to drown your sorrows in that bottle of wine you had tucked away for when you write “The End” on your current work in progress.

What did these reviewers mean? What’s wrong with the characters? What kind of book did the reviewer want? What didn’t she like? And why did she want to give it zero stars? Why, why? Oh, where is the wine?
Okay, stop. It’s all good, really. Unless there is a specific comment that points out an obvious flaw such as a misspelling of a character’s name several times throughout the book, you can stop trying to read into the reviewer’s comments.

Remember, anguishing over reviews keeps you from working on your next book. Overall, you can just keep an eye on the star average, if you decide to pay attention to reviews at all. No one says you have to.

Helicopter authors come across as losers

Another reason not to read too much into a review is that you might find yourself disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments. You might be tempted to respond.

I once read a one-star review stating my book was just another fluffy romance. Obviously, the reviewer hadn’t read it because the story is dark and Gothic: the heroine can’t speak for part of it and is buried alive toward the end. The review was a classic drive-by turd-bullet shot by an Internet troll. I left it alone. It wasn’t worth my time, and interested readers would see the higher ratings and story description. I honestly doubt this review cost me sales.

Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Even if your reviews are genuine, I don’t encourage responding. Don’t thank a reviewer if she gave your book five stars. Don’t tell a reviewer who gave the book one or two stars that his review was incorrect and then give him reasons why. Never get into a back-and-forth argument with a reviewer. If you do, guess what happens to that review? Instead of sinking into the depths of reviewdom along with all the others, this review and its one star will stick out to readers, who will read your combative comments and conclude that you’re an overly sensitive helicopter author.

Commenting on reviews of your book may cause you to come across as having no life as you hover, waiting to read what she has to say about your “baby”. Honest reviewers want to feel like they can state their opinion–whether detailed or vague–without your comments. If you keep stepping in, your book may begin receiving fewer reviews, which is detrimental to its long-term review average. Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Focus on your next book

Lastly, understand that the review isn’t about you; it’s about your book. Take reviews as a marketing tool and not as anything directed at you personally. Let it go, focus on what’s important in your life and the people who love you, and keep working on your next book. This is your business, and your product is going to get judged. Reviewers who take the time to rate your book and leave a review aren’t obligated to explain what they loved or hated about it. And I’m sure you know you can’t please everyone.

Say that out loud: “I can’t please everyone. All I can do is write the best book I can. And I am here to stay.”