Once again, I did not have something to post, and I don't wish to remain postless until the next review or meme comes along. This post was inspired by the drama that sprung up yesterday with several authors and several very unhappy reviewers. To sum it up: several authors e-mailed reviewers, complaining of three-star reviews. One publicly complained of these on Twitter, and was joined by several other authors, as well as agents. Goodreaders were understandably upset.
These authors seemed to be under the impression that a three-stars review is a "negative review." This puzzled me a bit, because if one scrolls their mouse over the three star rating on Goodreads, it says "I liked it."
But not all reviewers go along with Goodreads's definition. For some, it's simply a "this was okay." For some, it's more complicated than simply "I liked it." It's an "I enjoyed this, but it wasn't anything special." Or maybe it's an "I really enjoyed this, but not as much as books I've rated four stars." Or many, many more. All reviewers operate under their own definitions, and these can vary hugely from person to person.
However, in the end, a three star is still an okay review at its worst. It's not a glowing review, but it's certainly not a bad one.
But what if it was a bad rating, a bad review that these authors complained of? That raises two questions: one, do authors have the right to make public commentary on their bad reviews? And two, is it necessarily a negative thing?
I won't go into detail on the first, because that question has already been covered by various authors and reviewers through the Goodreads madness of January. The basic consensus seemed to be, if you want to avoid conflict, simply do not make any sort of public commentary. Most also agreed, however, that if the author is classy in their reply, it's acceptable behavior.
The second question, though, is one that's quite interesting to consider. I understand that a negative review hurts. I have received negative reviews of my own work--though, granted, none like those one will find on Goodreads--and I know that harsh reviews are never a pleasant experience (particularly when one is already published and cannot apply said harsh reviews to their manuscript). But the fact is? In the end, a negative review may help you just as much as, if not more than, a gushing review could.
It's been statistically proven that negative reviews increase book sales for new authors considerably more than the positive. That's right. Those negative reviews--even those ones that tear your soul into tiny pieces, stomp on them, and then scatter them to the wind--generate more publicity than a glowing review explaining every piece of awesomeness this book contains.
For the more well-known authors, positive reviews do trump negative reviews as far as book sales are concerned. But the fact is, in the end? A negative review will still get your book more attention than no review at all. If a person has hundreds, thousands of followers or subscribers or whatnot, that is hundreds or thousands of people being exposed to your book. Some of them will read the review, see some of the aspects that this reviewer disliked, and think, Hey. I like seeing that in a book. Maybe that means I'll like this book, too? Some of them will read the review and think, Whether I like this book or not, it's guaranteed to be entertaining in one way or another.
The bottom line is? Negative reviews get that book attention.
And to be honest? Negative reviews are the reason that book reviews can still be considered the basis for purchasing a book. If every review were four or five stars, who would value them? What would someone's endless gushing mean if every other review on every other book was exactly the same? Negative reviews make the good reviews stand out. They make us realize that, hey, if this person who's usually quite picky really, really loved that book, maybe I should pick it up.
Maybe if they really, really hated that book, I should pick it up, too.
This is an extraordinarily complicated topic, and I won't even try to pretend that I've covered anywhere near everything there is to say. I simply wanted to share my thoughts, and to hear yours. How do you define your rating system, and how do you judge the value of another's rating based on theirs? What do you think of negative reviews?
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.