KWE Publishing Newsletter - 09/21/23
If you listen to or watch content related to books or literature on TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, you might've recently heard of an author who's getting some backlash for speaking out against what they perceived to be a negative review. The author later said that their comment, which was reacting negatively to a four-star review, was meant to be a joke.
Regardless of the intent, however, the first-time author's publisher ended up dropping the book.
This has caused authors, readers, editors, and pretty much everyone who loves books to discuss the topic of reviews. Who are reviews really for? Should authors respond to reviews?
Before we hop into this topic, we want to say that, while we have our own set of beliefs around this subject, we don't think it's right for anyone to send hateful comments to an author, such as the one mentioned above, who has strong reactions towards reviews, just as the person who made the review doesn't deserve any rude or unkind remarks.
With that said, let's take a look at some of the most common perspectives people are sharing and discuss our own thoughts!
Perspective # 1: Authors' books are works of art, and authors (along with editors, publishers, illustrators, etc.) put a lot of work into creating books; therefore, leaving negative reviews can hurt the authors.
Writing, editing, revising, finding an illustrator, pitching to agents, marketing...a lot goes into putting a book into the world! Many people are involved, and, let's be honest, we all appreciate when our hard work is acknowledged!
So it makes sense that many authors don't like negative reviews. They might want to explain if someone misinterpreted their story or disliked a character. They may also feel that a bad review brings negative attention to their book overall.
Unfortunately, thanks to algorithms on some sites and apps, anything other than a five-star review can make a book less likely to show up as a bestseller. This can also cause some authors to dissuade reviewers from leaving even four-star or three-star reviews.
Of course, not every author feels this way; still, this is a perspective that some authors (and artists in other communities) have shared.
Perspective # 2: Since books are created for public consumption, people have the right to leave reviews, even if those reviews are negative.
Once you put something out into the world, people will respond to it. And though you hope for positive responses, people have the right to share their thoughts, whether those thoughts are positive, negative, or indifferent.
If you've ever been in a creative writing class or workshop and had your work critiqued, you know that it can be uncomfortable—but it's also one of the best ways to learn as. a writer I know I wanted to melt into my seat the first time I shared a piece of writing with my class and had my peers critique it. But I also learned way more about the craft of writing this way than I would have had I not been open to constructive criticism.
Many creators and readers shared this point of view, saying that their feedback isn't intended to be viewed as an attack on the author; they're merely sharing what they think of a book because it's something they want to do for one reason or another.
Perspective # 3: Our thoughts
Since we work with so many amazing authors, we totally understand why a negative review can make an author feel prickly. We know how much work goes into making a book, after all, and it's natural to feel defensive when you've put in so much hard work and someone doesn't resonate with what you've created.
However, as readers, we also know that reviews are important, allowing readers to share their thoughts, which helps other readers find books they enjoy! Reviews can be both fun to create and helpful to both authors who want to improve their craft and readers looking for their next book.
When authors receive a negative review, it's helpful to view that negative review as a sign that their book is reaching beyond their base audience, meaning readers who may not otherwise be interested in similar books are reading it. This can actually be a good thing; the more people who read your book, the more reviews you're likely to get overall. While not every review will be positive, you do want your book to reach as many people as possible!
While authors may be tempted to explain themselves or their story in response to a negative review, this doesn't usually end well; instead, reviewers may feel attacked for their opinions, which, as in the story we shared above, can bring negative attention to you as an author, which can be harmful.
Overall, while reviews, particularly negative ones, can sometimes be hard for authors to read, it's important to take them as constructive criticism (or, if you struggle to read negative reviews, give yourself permission not to read reviews at all!) and allow readers to share their thoughts. Remember, reviews aren't a reflection of you as a person, and they're there to help readers—but they do have the potential to help you as a writer improve, too.
Have you heard about this recent issue? What are your thoughts about reader reviews, particularly reviews that are negative? Share your thoughts with us; we appreciate hearing from you!