By Anita Lovett
Oops! It’s cute when a toddler says it, but “oops” really is one of the most terrifying words in the English language. If it pops out after you’ve published your first e-book, then Houston, we have a problem! Chances are, your “oops” was more along the lines of, “Oh, s—” or “F— me!” It’s okay to go sailor, but as disheartening as a self-publishing mistake can be, it does not signify the end.
Successful self-publication involves overseeing an array of details. Overlook just one, and you can find yourself attracting less than favorable reviews, which will affect the overall success of your manuscript.
The Mad Hatters of Today’s Publishing
According to GoodEReader.com, self-published authors must tackle “a great deal more than simply writing and distributing their titles to online bookstores.” They wear multiple hats from smart business marketing to celebrity-like fan interaction. It all starts with an idea, a spark of inspiration that rapidly evolves into so much more. Before you know it, you’ll be the Mad Hatter of independent publishing.
Your trip down the rabbit hole can be bittersweet. After bleeding out your story and slaying the beast that is your literary masterpiece, you will arrive at the day when your work of genius is complete. You’ll gleefully type the final sentence, but before you throw the slain beast to the awaiting public, there’s a labyrinth to navigate.
The Aftermath of Self-Publication
It’s time for some truth. How long after clicking your way to publication did your version of “oops” leave your lips? And just why did you utter it?
- Oops! The cover art didn’t convert well.
- Oh, crap. The formatting is off.
- Son of a…I missed those typos!
It’s okay! Take a deep breath. We all make mistakes when it comes to nailing those all-important e-book details. But the trump card of all things negative in self-publishing is the bad review.
It stings. It stabs. It’s as if the beast you slew has suddenly been reincarnated with a vengeance!
Some reviews are written by overly critical readers, but the majorities are written by honest readers who either liked or disliked your book. How you handle an e-book review is just as crucial as the creative process itself. A dominating number of negative reviews can spell disaster, effectively slaughtering potential sales. More importantly, they can overshadow the reputation you are attempting to build.
How to Handle Bad eBook Reviews
So, how does one handle a bad e-book review? Should you respond to it? Ignore it? Avoid it? Run away from it?
Let’s first get a critical element crisply in focus. There are three kinds of reviews:
1. The Raving Review: Ideally, rave reviews are the best. They’re written by readers who thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of your story, from the plot and characters to the art of your writing style.
2. The Mediocre Review: The mediocre review is the halfway point. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good either. These reviews are written by astute readers who are unafraid to say, “This is a good book, but here’s what didn’t work for me.”
3. The Bad Review: The bane of every writer’s existence. Let’s be honest; no matter how amazing anything is, there are bound to be bad reviews because…well…nothing is ever truly perfect, at least not for everyone.
Each review presents an opportunity. The trick to handling all three—particularly the bad one—lies in your perspective. How do you choose to see a bad review?
Let’s get the worst reaction on the table:
“I suck! My career is over. My dreams are dead. I have failed.”
A bad e-book review can hurt. It can slay confidence, create apprehension, and derail enthusiasm. But it doesn’t have to.
A bad review is an opportunity to improve. It’s a chance to turn a negative into a huge positive. It is true that bad reviews can taint the stature of your manuscript on the e-market, but it really isn’t the end of the world. Handle bad reviews by turning them into constructive tools. You can then use those tools to improve upon your next work and your currently published work.
Perhaps the most important advice we can give is what you shouldn’t do. Regardless of whether a review is rave, mediocre or bad, here are three actions to beware of:
1. Do not immediately respond. If there’s one thing readers hate, it’s a stalker. Don’t be the stalking author who immediately responds to a review, and this applies to all types. A super speedy response can intimidate your readers, making them and future readers less comfortable with offering feedback. After all, no one likes a vulture. No matter how epic or evil the review, wait a day or two before responding.
2. Some things are best left unsaid. Know that not every review demands your personal attention. Yes, you read them. Yes, you learn from them. No, you don’t need to respond to every one. Instead, make your responses strategic and varied. Thank readers for their compliments and their criticisms. If and when you apply their critiques, respond with a blurb about the update.
3. Do not start an argument. Choose your words wisely, especially when responding to a negative review. The last thing you want is to start a public argument. It will do nothing for your PR.
The Number One Oops You Can Fix
One of the most prevalent issues behind bad e-book reviews comes down to polishing your final manuscript. You must publish your best book, preferably the first time. But this doesn’t always happen. Typos, spelling errors, and formatting glitches can slip into any project.
Did you know most readers wouldn’t buy a second book by an author whose first work was riddled with errors? In fact, they’re more likely to write a bad review, warning potential readers of what to expect.
If your less than favorable e-book review is a product of technical and mechanical issues, what’s the solution? Is it too late to fix the problems? No!
Updating your eBook
It’s never too late to improve and update your e-book. No matter what went wrong, you have the opportunity to fix it.
Chris McMullen wrote an excellent piece about un-publishing, republishing and updating your book in which he covers the basics of manuscript updates. We would definitely suggest reviewing his article if you’re considering an update.
In most cases, e-publishing platforms will allow users who already purchased the book to download the revised version. You can wield this tool to your advantage when recovering from bad book reviews. If readers are complaining about spelling, grammatical, and formatting problems, issue a statement regarding your update. Authors who own their mistakes and improve their product will attract more readers while simultaneously reviving their dead readership.
Should I Hire a Professional Editor?
Authors harbor their own unique modes of operation. Some pause after a few chapters to proofread and edit. Others—the brave souls—edit as they write. Still more will tackle the entire manuscript in a marathon session of proofreading and editing after the first draft is complete. There is no right or wrong to it, as long as the final draft is as polished as possible. The question inevitably arising is one we need to take a serious moment to consider:
Do I need to hire a professional editor? Before we debate our way to an answer, let’s consider one of the most intuitive titles we’ve seen from Forbes: Publishing is Broken, We’re Drowning in Indie Books – And that’s a Good Thing.
David Vinjamuri, the contributor of the article, dives into every important aspect of self-publishing success and the e-book boom. He is immediately relatable as he discusses his initial shunning of the e-reader in favor of the good old-fashioned in-your-hand book.
I’ll be honest; I’m not 110 percent sold on electronic books. I buy them. I read them. I edit them. I help indie authors publish the best possible version of them. I’m passionate about them, but I still buy the good fashioned thing. In fact, I’m known for purchasing an e-book and loving it so much that I hunt down a hardcover copy for my bookshelves. But here’s the thing, the self-publishing boom has done what the Internet business boom did; it’s left us scrambling to escape a monster monsoon of mediocre material.
According to Forbes, somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million books are published each year in the United States alone. That means anywhere from roughly 1,643 to 2,739 books are published every day. If your book flops due to technical and mechanical errors, poor word choice, or terrible flow, no one cares. There are 1,642 to 2,738 more selections to choose from on that day alone.
A professional editor can be a god sent. They can weed out extra words weighing down your manuscript. They can point out potential trouble areas for the reader. The really good ones can work one-on-one with you to elevate your book above the 1,600 to 2,700 other voices of each day’s e-market.
How do you choose a great editor? Google will give you a metric ton of search results, but the top ten are only there because they’ve mastered search engine optimization. Google rank doesn’t necessarily mean an agency, company, or freelancer is worth a penny. How can you make a wise investment in an editor capable of increasing your return? We’ll discuss this very topic in our next post.
Feature Image by rido via 123RF Stock Photo