10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

Look at my face. Seriously. Take a good long look at this face. It’s blue. And why is that? Why is my face the colour of childish summer skies, frozen computer screens, and musical moons?

It’s because I’m BLUE IN THE FACE telling you that 5-star reviews do not sell books. Stand-alone 5* reviews (rather than bunched together in aggregate, which I admit wield pens of power and therefore refuse to deal with here) are as much of an incentive to readers to buy a book as broccoli yoghurt is to naughty children to behave. They are meaningless: often vapid: frequently regarded as fake, and I have blogged about them so many times that my fingers are weary and my face is blue.

You know what can sell your books, though? A bad review, that’s what. And why is that? Because bad reviews contain 97.5% more useful information than good reviews, that’s why.

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

This woman has been angry about several of my posts. Her jaw’s got to hurt by now.

A bad review – for the sake of argument, let’s just concentrate on 2* and 3* reviews, here, because 1* reviews have so many of their own problems that they’re on a waiting list for counselling – will generally go out of its way to tell you why it’s bad. It wants to justify itself. It will list at least two things that the reviewer really did not like about the book. And unless your book is truly bad (and if it was, you wouldn’t be here, reading this), it shouldn’t hurt you. Because other readers will not agree with their preferences.

How I Buy Books *

My review sources depend on whether I’m actively or passively seeking something to read.

When I’m passive, I’m reading reviews for the sake of entertainment: as content in its own right. These reviews will either be in newspapers, for big commercial and literary titles, or published by book bloggers online.

But when I’m actively seeking something to read I go to Amazon and GoodReads – which incidentally will also carry the book blogger reviews – browsing with intent, following trails of bright and shiny things.

And after I land on a book, I head straight for the reviews. My eyes will glaze over at the first 5* review. But a 2* or 3* review will grab my attention straight away.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many books I’ve bought because of 2* and 3* reviews, because it’s too many. With one or two exceptions (generally because a huge proportion of hundreds of reviews were 4* or 5*), I don’t ever buy books on the back of a 5* review.

Here are 10 so-called bad reviews which will actually sell me your book. With some cheap shots at reviewers while I’m at it, because, you know, Me.

  1. ‘I Hated The Ending, Can’t Understand Why The Author Did That’

Well, now you’ve just gone and forced me to read the damn thing so I can form my own opinion regarding the ending so that I can come back to re-read your review and either agree or disagree with you. Presuming you haven’t also included spoilers in your review, in which case I am already very, very angry with you.

  1. ‘I’m No Prude, But There Was Too Much Sex/Violence/Blaspheming In This Book For Me’

This reviewer has just told me in one short sentence that we will never meet in a place of public recreation and laugh at something together until we are holding our sides, as we beg each other with many swear words to stop making each other laugh because we are seriously worried that one of us is going to throw up. I hold nothing against them. But we are not destined for a long and fulfilling understanding. And we are not destined to enjoy the same books.

  1. ‘I Didn’t Like The Main Character, He Didn’t Have To Be So Mean’

I dislike Mary Sues and I detest fictional characters who are nice all the time. Well-meaning and hapless is fine, but actually nice? Ugh. Mine’s an anti-hero, thanks. I’ll take several.

  1. Fifty Shades Of Grey Was Better For My Money’

Well, your money is no good here, let’s make that quite clear. And this isn’t a genre-specific comment about erotica: this is you saying that any book I hated on every level is better than the book you’ve written this review of. We come from vastly different countries, you and I, and I’m going to buy this book to confirm my suspicions that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I like feeling smug.

  1. ‘Not My Cup Of Tea’

If that’s the full and complete extent of your review, you’re not my cup of tea either, so I’ll have what absolutely anyone else is drinking. Ta.

  1. I Thought It Would Be Like The Author’s Other Books. She Should Stick To Those’

Yes, nobody should ever try to do anything different. That is a most excellent point. Switching genres is a capital crime, everyone knows that, particularly if we like someone’s writing style. I’ll have three generic crime thrillers and a bland romance, please, with a side order of literary inaction. Or not.

  1. I Didn’t Know This Was A Series. I Hate Series

I don’t.

  1. ‘A Corner Of The Cover Was Torn. Very Disappointing’

Stop writing reviews. Seriously. Literally nobody has to hear what you have to say about anything. I admit I am a little concerned that something about this book attracted you enough for you to decide to buy it, but as you’re so fixated on the cover, I’m going to bet that your technologically-challenged loved one asked you to get it for them so it was never destined for you anyway.

  1. ‘This Book Is So Depressing. Don’t Read It Unless You Want To End Up Miserable’

Well, what if I want to feel depressed? For fictional reasons? As opposed to real ones?

  1. ‘So Much Swearing. Why Did He Have To Use The F Word So Much?’

Because it’s fucking hilarious when done properly, that’s why. It’s also representative of most of the people I hear on the street on a daily basis, so, you know, reality, etc. On the other hand, the main reason this book upset you wouldn’t upset me in a million years, so, here’s my wallet.

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

This is why I frequently beg authors to stop freaking out about low-starred reviews. They do not mean what you think they mean. Please believe me… and breathe.

*Before anyone gets upset here about my book buying methods, I do not buy all my books online. I do, however, read the majority of reviews online, after which point I may well enter an independent bookshop and purchase from a list I carry around handily in my notebook. Please don’t beat me.

  138 comments for “10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

  1. March 7, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Agreed. I always skip the 5 star reviews, especially when the book is new or by an indie author and the handful of reviews all give 5 stars.

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Also agreed. A handful of all 5-star reviews is the biggest red flag indeed, June.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm

        I never thought of them as warning signs that the author has got their friends, family, dogs etc to do reviews saying how wonderful the book is. Just shows what an innocent I am ….

        Liked by 3 people

        • March 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

          I always feel like I can see the strain in some 5* reviews. It’s where you can read between the lines “Oh Christ, I have to say something nice about this”. It’s the MUST FIND SOMETHING TO LIKE OTHERWISE FRIEND NEVER TALKING TO ME AGAIN” syndrome. A dead giveaway for me is when the plot summary forms 90% of the actual review with a vague 1-liner opinion at the end. If I loved a book enough to actually give it 5 stars, I’d have more to say about it.

          Liked by 2 people

          • March 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

            now I know what to look out for I shall never view 5* ratings in the same way again

            Liked by 1 person

          • March 25, 2017 at 9:05 pm

            That’s the exact reason why I don’t trust a book which only have 5* reviews all sounding very vague 😉


    • March 25, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Is there really anyone who still trust those kind of reviews?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ali Isaac
    March 7, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Haha! I love to hate those brainless reviews, and the people who hate them. I once read a review on Amazon where the writer had given one star cos they hadn’t read it yet, but it looked good… huh? I actually have a one star review on one of my books because ‘it wouldn’t download’…I asked the God Amazon twice to remove it but his Godly decision is to ignore my pathetic request. I’m sorry to have to inform you that all the rest of my reviews so far, not that I have many, mind you, are all 4 and 5 stars. I pray for some lower ones so they don’t all look fake. 😁

    Liked by 4 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I suppose we just hope that people judge those 1-star reviews for what they are, Ali. I read them at least!


    • March 25, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Well, at least I have a couple 3* and one 1* rating. I’m safe 😉


  3. March 7, 2017 at 7:40 am

    I love this post and I couldn’t agree more. I’m fortunate enough to have some lovely reviews on Amazon.co.uk but I face the problem of it looking as though I’ve rounded up everyone I know to leave a review – if only it was this easy!
    My favourite low star review for one of my books is on Amazon.com. It says “Confusing and boring, tried to get into the story, but just could not figure out the jumping around from one character to another, I got the book on the advice of a friend.”
    I really wanted to give that friend a hug for the recommendation as the reviewer seemed really annoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Ha! The beauty of it is that they actually managed to get the friend’s recommendation into a bad review! Back-handed compliment in the end. That’s a perfect example of a review which might prompt me to buy your book too. Multiple POVs aren’t a problem for most people.


  4. March 7, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I’ve bought many books because of ‘bad’ reviews. I skim through the 5* ones to get an idea of the plot (sometimes the blurbs don’t fully explain what the story is about) and then I read the bad ones. #2 is usually the clincher!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:12 am

      That’s another great point there though, Louise. So many 5* reviews have no other information than a plot summary. They look to me like they’re written by people who haven’t considered their actual opinion and give 5 stars to everything.


  5. Jack Tyler
    March 7, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Just when I thought I was getting unconfused…

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:08 am

      That’s what I’m here for, Jack 😬


    • March 7, 2017 at 9:43 am

      it is impossible to be ‘unconfused’…believe me, I have tried. This theory might well be the answer!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. March 7, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Agreed. My favourite “bad” review is a 2* where the reader starts with, “I knew I wouldn’t like this book within three paragraphs, but I read it anyway.” WHY do that to yourself? They then proceed with the faint praise that at least it’s better than Catcher in the Rye. Cracks me up every time – and I know I’ve got at least one sale and a 5* review because of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Yes Katy, the good-for-bad review backlash is another plus! It’s always a chance that someone will try and trounce a silly bad review with a half-decent good one.


  7. weebluebirdie
    March 7, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I think this post is worthy of a 3* ;’) I have fickle ways of book buying. Mainly it rests on the first sentence, because frankly if a writer can’t make that captivating then I won’t care for the rest of their sentences. Then I dip into the middle to see if I can thole a few pages. If the cover is interesting, and the title doesn’t contain the word “girl” I’ll be getting my purse out. The clincher for me is if the blurb describes the story as “bleak”. I like a bit of misery; it’s good for the soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

      Does this mean I should scratch out my “It was a dark and stormy night” first sentence then? Dammit, Birdie. Perhaps it qualifies under the bleak card? No?

      Liked by 1 person

      • weebluebirdie
        March 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        What you have there is half of a rhyming couplet. Next line goes “and everything was s****”. Now that would make it bleak and worthy of a tenner

        Liked by 1 person

  8. March 7, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Have to say I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but it makes total sense. I know I’ve bought books just because I wanted to see if there really was a problem with the plot/too much sex/weird ending etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Excuse me for one second, Colin. I’m just finishing off an online order for “Tara makes total sense” T-shirts for everyone in my family. Back soon.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. March 7, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Good points, Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. March 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Hi Tara. Thanks for an entertaining post. I’ve had my fair share of one and two star reviews, especially on my series starters which are usually free, and I fully agree that those reviews serve a vital purpose.
    My favorite review of all time though is a four star review from a reader who said, and I quote “Damn this author is cruel. Messed everybody up, including me… Lol. This is not what I expected at all. And I like it very much.” I still grin when I see that review, especially because it was for the last book in one of my trilogies, so it told me I could still surprise my readers with something unexpected. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. March 7, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Nice! I so needed this…I got a series (gasp) picked up by an international publisher who stood by it even though my heroine was someone many hard core romance readers simply could not relate to–because she didn’t simply fall into bed and then immediately into love/trust with my so-called “Mr. Perfect” (who had plenty of baggage, mind you). It was a twist to be sure and a romance publisher took a shot with it and have since contracted books 2 and 3 BUT (but but but) I have had to suffer the “what’s wrong with her? He’s so wonderful & perfect & she’s a self-centered hard headed b*tch” type reviews a fair bit (because, basically, she took her time to trust the damn guy).
    To be honest, I don’t read my reviews if I can avoid it. But I’m aware of them…sort of like I’m aware of the IRS…and I have gotten pretty much every single one of these at one time or another so from me: I thank you mightily.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

      You’re most welcome, Liz. For my part, I’m always amazed when someone listens to me. It’s possibly why I keep repeating myself until I’m blue in the face.

      And none of the stuff you list there from those reviews would put me off reading a book. It would rather attract me, because what those reviewers seem to want is exactly what gives me rage.


  12. therailbaron
    March 7, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Don’t beat you? That’s why I hot up today. Doggone it…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. March 7, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Well knock me over with a tepid critique. I never in my life thought of this point- and my own experience backs it up. The only 2* I have, I must be honest, puts up a serious argument as to why the plot turned the reader off. Totally legit, heck no, she put a very negative characterization on my MC, but absolutely he’s not a warm fuzzy hero and the tale was SUPPOSED to leave you warned against him (though not in the way the reviewer figured).

    This is genius, Tara, really congratulations. Now, what can I do to pull in a few more of these reviews…

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks, Will. And I’m sure somebody somewhere will see this as an opportunity. Instead of the 5-star fake review mills, we’ll have to shell out for 2- and 3-star fake reviews. Of course, that would mean that the fake reviewer would have to have read the book. So maybe I’m not the commercial genius I thought I was. Dammit.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. March 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    It’s my guilty secret, but I love reading one and two star reviews of books, even ones that I’ve no intention of buying (though … you know … accidentally buying books is a thing and it happens) – they are so often vastly entertaining. I’ve found some of the best one-liners in reading them 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Some reviews are a joy to read, and not always because they’re erudite and reasonable, that’s true, Ness!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. March 7, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Any review is better than no reviews at all 😛 – and I agree with your perspective about ‘bad’ reviews. They’re much more informative because they say as much about the reviewers as they do about what’s wrong (or not, in sensible eyes) with your work.
    Also, what the hell’s wrong with a 3-star review in a 5-star system – that’s 60%, so they must have liked over half of what they read, and enough to bother to leave a review as well come to that… 😉

    Anyway – let’s get personal! Tara, here’s my ‘worst’ review – amzn.to/2mS7okX – what would you make of it? 😉
    For the record I have roughly 30 reviews on Amazon (between UK and US versions), the vast majority of which are 4/5-stars, 3 are 3-stars and that 2-star. The 3-stars are balanced and fair and, I’d say, written by people who couldn’t engage fully with it in some way, including the ‘not my cup of tea’ side of things.
    It’s a marmite book, but it has a kaleidoscope of themes revolving around various perceptions of Africa, including war crimes, conservation, colonial, romance, folklore, disease (including AIDs) and yes, swearing. It’s also pretty funny in places. It should have something that appeals to most people, and the reviews so bear that out, the critical ones as well. There’s a lot of me in there – which is why I don’t expect (or need) everyone to like it! ::-D

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      I suppose the question is, Jan, whether you think the review you refer to has any merit? In the examples I use it’s fairly general opinion that I find it easy to disagree with. I think when reviews are very specific in relation to plot and character it’s difficult to judge unless you have your own strong opinion about the book.

      The most important thing is to have a healthy attitude to reviews. I know even for my own part that if I adore a book and someone then says they think it’s complete shite, I feel a bit weird, like they’re saying I’m wrong, even though I know it’s not personal at all. So I can imagine that for authors it’s 10 times worse. I just hope with this post I can make them feel a tiny bit better.


      • March 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm

        I did have trouble ‘detaching’ with my ‘bad’ reviews at first – but I got over it! 😛 Actually I do put a lot of store by Amazon’s ‘top positive’ and ‘top critical’ review criteria. For that book it’s the 2-star, which was pretty thoughtful and thorough as to why he didn’t like it.
        Basically, 2-star boy couldn’t get to grips with the number of point of view characters (5 of them – god alone know what he’d make of Game of Thrones!) and the flashbacks that I’d carefully labelled with dates and ’10 days later’ or journal entries for ‘in the present’ bits. I like to think in this day and age that people watch movies and don’t need to be spoonfed everything… 😛

        Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      I agree. I find it weird how many systems have a full spectrum of 5, 10, or even 100 points, but often group the lower 60-70% of the scale into a simple “bad”. On a scale of 1-5 I prefer to say that 2 and above are at least okay, but may have room for improvement, while 1.5 and below really need work.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. March 7, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Does this mean you consider a 3* to be a negative reaction? I tend to give lots of 3s where I thought the book was reasonable but not a knock out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      No, I don’t, and that’s the thing. I don’t think a 3-star review is bad, but most authors do. I’ve seen them in tears over a bloody 3* review. It drives me mad. I would award 3* on the same basis as you. But this is why so many 5* reviews are thrown around as to be meaningless. Weepy authors who freak out over anything less are the driving force behind nervous reviewers scared to award anything less for fear of a hysterical backlash.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm

        Ah, light dawns. I don’t do star ratings on my blog because I find it so hard to differentiate in the middle category – some are a solid 3 for example, others more a 3 minus. I have a grain of sympathy for authors though – having sweated long and hard on their offspring they want it to do well….

        Liked by 2 people

        • March 7, 2017 at 7:37 pm

          Absolutely. But to ‘do well’ does not mean ‘everyone on the planet has to like it’

          Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      That’s how I see it BT. – ‘it’s OK’ is Amazon’s criteria and I use it where the book’s held my attention to the end and the fact that it might be down to me usually preferring another genre that’s to blame for me not liking it enough for anything higher. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. March 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Great post. I took a 2* hit once, because someone threatened me with a bad review if I didn’t hire her to edit the book. She had no track record of editing experience either. I don’t play that game, and have a 2* review as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. March 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    actually, I am hoping that my book gets banned by certain schools/church/ultra conservative political organizations. I can see the sales numbers piling up now.

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      It’s a one-way ticket to Successville, Andrew, that is true. I live to be banned myself. I mean me. Not even what I write.

      Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      I think I once heard a story about a book published in Asia, where the author intentionally included plot points aimed at annoying the government, in the hope that the book would be banned, and thus become controversial, which of course helped the international sales. My college professor thought it was pretty funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. March 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I usually look at some five star reviews for a book, then need to see the 2-3 star reviews to know if there’s legitimate complaints that would make it unlikeable. Reviews with reasonable-but-subjective reasons or unreasonably-ridiculous reasons for disliking make me snag it up, because if that’s all they could find to dislike it, uhmm, it’s probably awesome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      Exactly, Amy! 5* reviews might nudge, but 2* and 3* reviews will push people right over the line…

      Liked by 2 people

  20. March 7, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve heard that Amazon’s algorithm now gives more weight to reviews with 4 stars than 5 as a way to minimize the impact of potential friend and family type reviews. Of course, it’s all rumor and speculation, but it does help me feel better about a lower rating. Not that I obsess over them or anything 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      That’s really interesting to hear, Allie. I hope it’s true, which kind of makes me think it mightn’t be true, if you know what I mean :/

      Liked by 2 people

      • March 7, 2017 at 6:05 pm

        Yeah, probably isn’t.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Jack Tyler
          March 8, 2017 at 1:17 am

          Actually, about a year ago (ancient brain forgets), I heard that Amazon was going to “take measures” to deal with friends of the author leaving 5-star reviews. A week later, I lost over half of my reviews, and they were all from people I had as friends on Goodreads and my personal blog, a Weebly site at the time. I then joined around 20,000 authors to sign a petition to reverse the policy; after all, people who don’t like you can leave one-stars from now until doomsday without penalty, but your friends lose their voices. Needless to say, we didn’t receive the courtesy of a reply.

          Also, my 1-star review came from Goodreads member Shayla Williams (she must be proud of it, it’s still there), who won the book in a giveaway. Unfortunately, I was in hospital in a three-week coma on the day I was supposed to be mailing the book. After she figured enough time had gone by, she gave it one star, and wrote a review saying that I had “backed out, and just made up the hospital story.” I guess there are reviewers out there who can top that for pure filth, but I hope I never meet one! But as I’ve been told by bigger authors than myself, “You ain’t a writer til you get your first one-star review!

          Box checked…

          Liked by 1 person

          • March 8, 2017 at 1:37 am

            I’ve had mixed results with those giveaways too. I hope you’ve fully recovered now.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jack Tyler
              March 8, 2017 at 1:43 am

              Oh yes, thank you, that was three years ago.

              Liked by 2 people

          • March 8, 2017 at 10:56 am

            That really did affect so many authors badly, Jack, and I’m sorry it happened to you, too. It seemed specifically designed to penalise people who had built up excellent social media networks. On the other hand, I’m appalled that you would fake an entire coma just to get out of giving someone a book. Glad you’re better now, though.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Jack Tyler
              March 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm

              Oh, the things we do for art! It was horrible, having to lie motionless for three weeks. The worst part was not eating, though!

              Liked by 1 person

          • March 25, 2017 at 9:18 pm

            Well, that was mean. Even if I had every reason to be dissatisfied with an author, I’d never make such affirmations online. But then, there seems to be no limit to human cruelty online.


  21. March 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Stop writing better blogs than me. The end. Actually no, I’ve got a tuppence burning a hole in me pocket – I read a review for one of my fav books (The Portable Veblen) that gave it a one star because of the talking squirrel sub-plot. Talking squirrels you say?? I bought that book quicker than you can say.. what do squirrels say? I know what the fox says, but I digress. One man’s poison and all that. So you’re right, negative reviews can be great big sign posts for potential readers and not always in the way we think. Brilliant reminder for all of us neurotic authors 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      And I’ll keep saying it in however many different ways until it sinks in, Evie! Today’s post seems to be hitting home more so than the one I did in 2013… or the 2 in 2014…. or the other ones in 2015… or…. you get the picture 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  22. March 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Oh good! So, it’s a good thing that I got a bad review complaining about “F-bombs.” Yay! You made my day. Great post, Tara. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Delighted to serve, Ma’am. And don’t be afraid to deal the F-bombs. They find their targets 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Rob Lloyd
    March 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Really enjoyed this post – and completely agree with it. y favourite review I received was ‘Fit for time passing when no other option is available.’ Which begs a couple of questions…

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Haaaa! Begs, borrows and steals questions, Rob. Obviously not into drunk skateboarding, then.


  24. March 7, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Reblogged this on North of Andover.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. March 7, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I was surprised to get a two star review on my latest book. It’s one of my favorites. The comments were confusing, and I wasn’t sure that the person had read my book. So I checked out his other reviews. I was lucky to get two stars! It appears that the reader didn’t like most of what he read. If your theory is correct, I should be selling a ton of books very soon.

    Also, I am in a twenty-five person book club and am constantly amazed at the different reactions everyone has to the same book. Even Hugo Award winners got readers who didn’t like the book.

    Everyone has different opinions on what makes a good book and what they like.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      That’s it, Sheron. It’s impossible not to take criticism personally, but it helps to ground ourselves with examples of other people’s books which we loved and others… most certainly did not!


  26. annerallen
    March 7, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    This is spot-on, Tara! I probably would never have been a bestseller if it weren’t for bad reviews. They gave me a big boost early in my career. I stood up for a newbie author who was the victim of cyberbullies on Goodreads, so the bullies targeted my books with a swarm of one-stars. They focussed especially on my boxed set, which they gave about 20 inane one-stars. Within a week, my sales went from 2-3 a day to 1000s a day.

    I can’t prove it was cause-and-effect, but it sure seemed that the one-stars got people buying so they could see for themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      That’s unbelievable, Anne. That out of such childish malevolence comes a great career! I’m glad for you, but even gladder that they didn’t get what they wanted. Perhaps someone should set up a Troll-On-Demand service for author marketing services?!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. March 7, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Anne and Tara, I am laughing. Yes, I am the one who got the one-star on my first Rowena that said: “SMUT! This book is smut from the beginning to the very end.” (Which had everyone in the minor universe asking why she continued reading the book to the end…) At first, I was mortified. It’s hot, but not erotica. And then, I started to see my sales go up as gleeful people bought to see what was so naughty…

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 7, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Well, all I can say, Melodie, is give me the smut. Give me all the shagging smut. And then give me the person who thinks smut is a word that’s still actually used, and a closed door, and I’ll see what I can do with them. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  28. March 7, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Reblogged this on J.R. Handley Blog and commented:
    An interesting look at the uses for bad book reviews. Definitely worth the read!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Stuart McEwan
    March 7, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    All excellent points, reading between the lines as it were. Books tend to lack the medium of visual analysis so you are correct, interpretation is a big part of a review and so the review itself should be deemed open to interpretation.

    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Well, I do my best, Stuart. It’s hard sometimes when people go around having their own opinions, but I try.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Quintessential Editor
    March 8, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Reblogged this on Quintessential Editor and commented:
    This is a fun and brilliant post about what I’ve been saying (not on the blog, but in “real” life) about book reviews. Tara crushes this post, and it’s just the kind of thing I wanted to read at 1 a.m.

    Number 2 and 10 on this list is spot on. It also takes a number 2 on some of the “high society” views on swearing, smut, and general tomfoolery. Seriously folks, write the book you want to read and people will give you a shot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 8, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Thanks for the kind words and the re-blog, Quint… can I call ya Quint?! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Quintessential Editor
        March 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        I’ve been called worse 😉


  31. March 8, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    The ‘I’m no prude…’ will do it every time for me. What does that say about me. Feel free to be liberal in your comments as I have already stated, the I’m no prude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      I’m very disappointed that you’re not a prude, Conor. All this time I’ve been trying to shock you and it’s been for naught. I’m no slacker, but it’s time to give up, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. March 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    One of my books received a two star review on Goodreads. I was chuffed. Then a well-meaning soul gave me a five. “Argh,” I thought, “no one’s gonna believe that!” They didn’t. You’re absolutely right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      I’m imagining loads of authors starting to tweet “Another 2-star review! So delighted!” every 15 minutes, Tooty. Can’t wait. It’ll make a change from the deluge of fake 5-ers.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. March 8, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I actually warn prudes against reading my books. I’d hate to disappoint them.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. March 8, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    For me, getting any reviews at all is rare. I’ve certainly given enough books away. Maybe it’s one of those “if you haven’t got anything positive to say don’t say anything” things that proves that people are basically good natured?

    Anyway, thanks for this article, now I finally have a reason to post this “review” PMed to me from someone on Goodreads to whom I sent a free copy of my novel (hope it’s okay to use her last name).

    “OMG Opalescence was an amazing book. The characters are charming and evil in a very realistic way. I caught myself screaming at them to do this or that. I’m blown away by the knowledge that you have put together to create the most beautifully crafted world. I sat with my phone so I could look up the animals and trees and plants, to help put the picture in my mind. Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m going to post reviews on amazon and Goodreads. Any other places? Also do I need to say that I received it for free?
    Thank you,
    Jessica Jones”

    For some reason, though, said reviews never transpired. I checked her GR page to see if she fell off the world but she’s still active, so don’t know what happened there.

    I did get a 2* review on Smashwords from an interesting character, but now that I’ve read your post I don’t feel so bad about it 😉.


  35. March 8, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I agree completely.
    I think one of the biggest problems I have with reviews is how many are so full of praise, but don’t also recognize the flaws. Both have equal merit, and it’s very rare for a story to lack either strengths or weaknesses.

    There have been many times where a book either suffers from flat characters, or a terribly slow pace, but given the virtues of the story, and my mood at the time, I don’t mind that.

    I remember once reading about a book that seemed really interesting, but then I found one review that said the violence was very graphic, very sadistic, and had recurring elements of rape, and I realized, despite all the virtues, that was not for me, not today.

    I also like to read reviews of stories I’ve already read. It’s like discussing the book with someone I’ve never met, but someone who clearly had some strong opinions about the book if they bothered to write a review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      It’s funny how we form opinions about reviews and reviewers as much as books, Adam. I think back in the day, people just read the newspapers and assumed that the terribly intelligent reviewers had the final say and that was that. It’s a good change, from where I’m sitting. Although we are drowning in more gushing reviews from people who seem to love EVERYTHING…

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 8, 2017 at 10:37 pm

        That is true. I often read stories because someone likes them in spite of something. For example, I was once talking about a science fiction story, and someone who normally hates scifi recommended a similar title, Dark City. I was surprised and very curious to see what made this story so special for them, and I was not disappointed.

        Liked by 1 person

  36. March 8, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Spot on, as ever, Tara. My only disappointment is that I don’t have single 3 star review. Just one would be nice to make the full set.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      I can leave you a 3* review on this comment if you like, Graeme. It would have been 4, but you were missing at least one compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 9, 2017 at 7:41 am

        Well, it would complete the set, even if it wasn’t for my book. And, I hate to disappoint you, Tara, but I don’t do compliments. Insults will come thick and fast, but I’m much too emotionally stunted to offer praise to others.

        Liked by 1 person

  37. March 8, 2017 at 10:07 pm


    Just wasn’t long enough and reminded me of that time someone called me ‘nice’. I was never so insulted in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 8, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      I know, I was so chuffed that time, Tenderlation. ‘Tisn’t often my insults hit home.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. March 9, 2017 at 12:21 am

    For me almost any reviews would be welcome. I’ve a few listed on my site but still scratch my head at how some authors have so many. I’ve deliberately told family not to review it.

    Got a glowing review once in a PM from someone on Goodreads that I’d sent a free copy to, who then said that she was going to leave reviews all over, but then strangely never followed through. I checked her GR page later to see if she was still active and she is, so don’t know what happened. Anyway, I’m not the kind to pursue the issue.

    Did get a 2* on Smashwords from a Pastafarian, a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (seriously). Reading your post, though, I don’t feel so bad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I can understand your frustration. It’s so hard to ask someone to put up a review, and for someone who doesn’t do it all the time, it’s kind of torture for them to have to do it, so I would hate to ask. It’s made more difficult when you see books earning huge numbers of dubious-looking reviews. I remember one author whose book, despite being published by a relatively small publisher, had almost 100 5* reviews within 3 days of coming out. For all Amazon’s safeguards, it seems to me that abuse is still rampant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 9, 2017 at 6:01 pm

        I remember one author whose book, despite being published by a relatively small publisher, had almost 100 5* reviews within 3 days of coming out.

        Those were either some fast readers or it was a kid’s book! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 9, 2017 at 10:43 pm

          Afraid not. And they were all between 2 and 5 words too. The whole thing reeked.

          Liked by 1 person

  39. March 10, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Sounds like.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. March 10, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Great post. I would just love more reviews but not like my latest which stated “I just bought the book and haven’t read it, so no idea really”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Oh, for the love of Blog. Some people should be forced to wear mittens when in the proximity of a keyboard. I’m sorry for your trouble, Rosemary.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. March 12, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    I remember a much older blog of your pointing out the the usefulness of a range of stars, and personally I always look at bad reviews to get a feel of the book. But I’m a puzzled author. I just went to Amazon because I knew that my first novel (early 2003) had some mixed reviews… all that is left are 7 with 5 stars… uh? Someone made some very justifiable criticisms, but they and several others have vanished.

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 13, 2017 at 8:44 am

      That’s unfortunate, Hilary. Every review means so much. Who knows what’s been going on with Amazon? Or perhaps it’s because reviewers’ accounts have been disabled?

      Liked by 3 people

  42. March 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

    You made my day, Tara. I’ve had the ‘The author could not get past the first few pages without dropping the F bomb (how I HATE that stupid expression) so I will not read any further’ review which was negative but made me laugh, and I’ve also had the best kind of all (had one yesterday) where the reviewer said that she couldn’t ‘like’ the book, ‘like’ was the wrong verb. It was nasty and dark and the only ray of light was when something horrible happened to one or other of her favourite hate characters, so she felt it was bringing out the worst in her, left her feeling she needed to drink something sweet and soothing to take the taste away and go watch a Disney film. But that was how dystopia should be written. Great review. I wanted to hug her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 13, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Trust me, Jane. You sold more books off the back of those reviews than you did the good ones. They’re exactly what I would rail against. I like everything they don’t. I hope you never hugged that person though. Doesn’t sound like they’d like that either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • August 10, 2019 at 7:29 am

      Do you write dystopian novels?


      • August 11, 2019 at 9:57 am

        I wrote a trilogy. The first one didn’t go down very well. My idea of what is suitable for YA isn’t everybody’s.

        Liked by 1 person

  43. March 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I always read reviews AFTER I read a book! I find them more interesting then, and I never risk reading a spoiler beforehand.

    Sometimes, I’m surprised at the wonderful reviews (how can people like this rubbish?), or at the lukewarm ones (how can they not love this?). I choose my books on the blurb, and on the blurb only. I don’t care about reviews, because we all have our own tastes, and what is the most perfect book in the universe for one is worth as much as a stick of chewing gum stuck under a shoe for another. I give any book a chance, if it sounds like something I would enjoy. Whether it ends up as a DNF or not, is up to the author lol.

    What annoys me though, is how the 5 star rating is the only source that book websites, both for sales or reviews, use to promote/push at the top of your search/recommendations etc…I have to search really hard to avoid being offered the same books over and over.

    And as a writer myself, you can imagine how this irritates me, especially when I have to face the double whammy of if-you-have-less-than-1000000 reviews-AND-less-than-a 4.999 rating-we-will-never-recommend-your-book-to-our-users-mwhahaha-sucker.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 16, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Absolutely Caroline, just goes to show that algorithm-based bookselling is not perfect science. Unless the experiment is to find lots and lots of unsatisfied customers…

      Liked by 1 person

  44. March 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I loved this blog post! My books still have very scant reviews but I will try to keep a strong face when the bad ones start to come in. I write honest reviews of books and habe given a few lackluster reviews for justifiable reasons. Ive noticed sales spike gor some of the three star reviews Ive written so there must be a lot of truth to this post. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 19, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks Nancy, glad you liked it. Definitely keep the chin up regarding the bad reviews. Quite apart from anything else they make things look more interesting and every review is hard-earned!

      Liked by 1 person

  45. Carl Rackman
    March 20, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Reblogged this on Carl Rackman and commented:
    This is glorious. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. April 26, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I just got a 2 star review where the reviewer really really didn’t like my main character so reading this post made me feel better ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 26, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      I would hope it does, Angelina. One poor review should never make you feel bad. At least the reviewer was clear about their reasons, and a review which says their problem was with one character would never put me off. In fact, one of my favourite books ever has loads of reviews from people who hated one of the main characters. So there!

      Liked by 2 people

      • April 26, 2017 at 8:14 pm

        Oh, I got poor reviews before, just not ones that were focused so much on the main character so I was sad for a little bit. ^_^

        What book is that?

        Liked by 2 people

        • April 26, 2017 at 8:45 pm

          I know I’m awful, but I never name my favourites here on the blog (to protect the innocent!!)

          Liked by 2 people

          • April 26, 2017 at 8:48 pm

            Okay. Let the innocents stay innocent.

            My favorite series of all time are by James Clemens- Witch fire- being the first book. ^_^

            Liked by 1 person

  47. August 10, 2019 at 7:26 am

    ROFL! (Sorry if my reaction offended you). This makes me feel a lot better – and I definitely got a good laugh.
    Yes, as I have found, bad reviews (or bad comments on my story blog in my case) can actually be good – can spur someone else to buy the product OR can spur the author to write even better (the latter is me – negative comment, I’m going to prove you wrong 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 10, 2019 at 10:19 pm

      Not sure where offence could have been taken, rue202! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: