One of the hardest things for authors to refrain from doing is defending their work. I know because I've been trying to refrain from it for over a month. And let me tell you, it is not an easy thing to do.
Unfortunately, not all the reviews you get for your book are going to be glowing. There is going to come a time when you hit a nerve and people are going to respond - badly. There are different kinds of bad reviews though. There are the ones that pick apart everything you said and demand that you justify and explain yourself (they are just plain mean). Others will be legitimate complaints about your editing job. I have read books that made me sit back in stunned silence wondering why the author did not invest in an editor. When I get a book to review like that, I contact the author privately to let her know why she won't be getting 3 stars. Not every reviewer however, will do that. A wise author will make the investment in an editor or suffer the backlash of bad reviews. And let's not forget the cover. If it screams self-published you will hear about it.
So, how do you respond to a bad review? What if the reviewer misunderstood what you said, or simply didn't "get it"? Should you go on Amazon and explain yourself? The answer is no. I reviewed a book on Mormonism once (I can't recall the title) but the author, an ex-Mormon, was getting thoroughly chewed out for calling Mormonism a cult. Many admitted to not reading the book, but only went on to encourage people not to buy it and they left a few choice words for the author. Yes, some people are vindictive and if they are prepared to hate your book, you will never be able to convince them otherwise.
Mark Twain once said, "Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference." Keep that in mind if you are thinking of responding to a bad review. However, if that doesn't convince you, take a lesson from author Katherine Howett, who responded to a bad review on the reviewer's website this way:
"You obviously didn't read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don't get. Sorry it wasn't your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks."
Katherine then went on to post three good reviews she had received for her book, to which others began to respond.
Anonymous said: "Wow...you blame the reviewer for not going and getting a different copy, dismiss his review, then post three more reviews from various places? Uh, can we say petty? The professionalism here is just astounding."
Anonymous said: "The author's response is a real turn-off. I'll pass, thanks."
While the comments by the author have been deleted on the original site, I remember them quite well. She then proceeded to tell all those responding to ... well... she dropped the F* bomb and elicited so many responses that at last count there were 308 comments, all negative and aimed at the author and her childish, unprofessional behaviour. The author later wrote an apology, unfortunately the damage was already done and her book started to get "trolls" on Amazon. She has since removed the book and it is no longer for sale.
What are trolls? Some are people that love to give bad reviews, like this guy who has written 276 negative reviews for Amazon. Others just like to make fun of the product/book they are reviewing. Amazon has enjoyed these types of trolls so much they have a link to them at www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001250201
Of course, this then begs the question - where do I find reviewers who can be counted on to give an honest review? I'll talk about that in my next post.
In the end, bad reviews for authors should be a learning experience in which they can improve themselves. If it is just a hateful review, it isn't worth the author's time of day so don't respond to it. Negative reviews are not fun, but if the reviewer gives a legitimate reason they can help you grow as an author.