Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Bad Reviews Are Good ?

“Any press is good press”, is an old promotional maxim that can generate some weird stunts in the media.

Some authors have capitalized on bad press, even manufacturing it; most cringe at the thought.

I found two authors who like bad reviews. Not just tolerate but like them :-)

My book‘s not been around long enough to draw negative reviews though I’m sure they’ll come.

I have had beta readers who couldn’t “get into” the book and a number of nitpicky grammarians but many authors I respect have praised the book.


How does an author learn to like bad reviews?

Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall, gives a good account of his first one-star review in, Why Bad Reviews Rock. My take-away was, “Even a bad review means someone cared about the book enough to talk about it in public.”

Mike then goes on to describe some cogent reasons for sharing and linking to those reviews.

There’s also a great comment stream after the post :-)

Mike also points his readers to Jay Lake’s post, [publishing] Reviews.

After Jay links to a bad review and shows his basic optimistic attitude, he says: “…even when a reviewer just says, “Nope, not for me, didn’t like it at all”, that’s ok with me. Because I believe right down to the bedrock of my writer’s soul that the story belongs to the reader. It doesn’t matter what I intended, or thought I executed on the page, or what any other readers thought. If a reviewer (or any reader) doesn’t like the book (or story), that’s their experience of it, and they cannot be wrong. It’s their experience.”

“It’s their experience.”, reminded me about a post I wrote back in January, Rewriting While You Read ~ We All Do It….

Have you or a writer friend gotten “bad” reviews?

Do you think sharing them is helpful?

Have you learned a few writing “lessons” from bad reviews??
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8 responses to “Bad Reviews Are Good ?

  1. :Dandi August 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Like Oscar Wilde says, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” and how true it is. I’ve gotten two 3 star reviews, and I strongly feel the lower review was because both reviewers objected to my main character’s view on what pays more, fiction or nonfiction. I personally don’t feel that you can judge a story because you don’t like a character’s opinion, but I very much appreciated the review anyways and thanked them. Both reviewers are now very good friends of mine and have supported me beyond the original 3 star reviews.

    We authors are asking a favor of our reviewers and we need to remember that those who support us are the stars, not us. We need them, not the other way around. Any review is a valued one… and a really bad review incites curiosity. When a recent friend got a 1 star rating my first impulse was “really? I want to read it now…”


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Both are friends now? Wow, awesome :-)

      And, I agree, we do owe our reviewers consideration.

      Low review because of a characters opinion? My, my, how “contrary”

      Love this: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”


  2. Shaina Richmond August 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    This is a great post. I have thought about writing something similar at my blog. Bad reviews often breed controversy, and controversy helps sell books. I can tell you from experience that just because you have great reviews and books with at least 4 star averages, it doesn’t mean you’re making sales.

    I have one friend who has a free book at Amazon with less than a three star average and some positively scathing comments, and she makes more sales than most other writers I know.

    Sometimes the low star averages just show that people have a reaction – either very hot, or very cold. And these are the writers that sell, because the “very hot” review people like your work enough to be a part of your readership for life.


    • Alexander M Zoltai August 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      Shaina, thanks for pointing out that good reviews don’t necessarily mean sales.

      I wonder how many people, in today’s instant, mega-speed world, read all the reviews?

      Many may look at only how many reviews and base their decision on that


  3. tsonoda148 August 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “Even a bad review means someone cared about the book enough to talk about it in public.” <—I must remember this sentence the next time I get a less-than-desirable comment on my blog or column. I have indeed had them, especially in my business writing ventures. People have less tolerance on such a column than they would on a blog. I'm working on my first book now (early…very early in the writing) and I already care so much about my characters, it's a bit disconcerting. I'm afraid I will get so involved that by the time I'm finished, I won't be able to take bad review. Time will tell. And, I'm going to try and remember this post when those bad review happen. And they will happen. Hopefully, some good ones will come my way, too.
    And as for your book, my partner and I both enjoyed it and have recommended it to others!


  4. Pingback: TOP 10: People (who are not fans) | Chazz Writes

  5. Pingback: Some Reviews Feel Better Than Others « Notes from An Alien

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