Can bad book reviews really be helpful for an author?  After all, as writers we put our heart and soul into our work.  We give birth to the story and watch it take off and flourish.  To then have someone come along and criticize our “baby” can be quite hard to take.  Nevertheless, in life there is always a positive side to everything if you look hard enough.  Below are some top reasons why bad book reviews can actually work in your favor!

1.  Welcome to the Club:  

Yes it is true, if you have received a bad book review it means you are an author.  We all get them!  J.K. Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Atwood… and the list goes on.  The great American author Willa Cather was even once panned in a review which stated:  “Miss Will Cather is neither a skilled storyteller nor the least bit of an author.”  Ouch!  The point which is being made here is that you will get bad reviews.  That comes with the territory and putting your work out there.  Do not let that demoralize or define you.  Get what you can from them and move on!

2.  Unfair Reviews Increase Positive Reactions:

While the majority of book reviews are genuine and authentic- some are clearly not!  The writing community is not immune to Internet trolls I am afraid.  Some individuals (I do not refer to them as reviewers), will deliberately slam books in reviews in order to see the ratings fall.  It is hard to determine what the motivation actually is for doing that, but it happens and is clear as day.  While that may be infuriating… there is a positive aspect to this.  Experiments and various studies have shown that negative reviews which are obviously unjustified increase empathy and boost positive feelings for the author.  That in turn translates into book sales.  A silver lining indeed!

3.  There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity:

I believe we all become writers because we have a story to tell.  We speak through our written words.  However, when we can actually sell those scribblings, it helps as well!  That allows us to keep doing what it is that we love.  So if our work sits unnoticed in a virtual book hinterland, these sales will not come.  In order to sell a book, readers need to know it exists!  This is where the book review comes into play.  The truth of the matter is that whether we like it or not- bad reviews attract instant attention.  This then transforms into potential sales.  One particular study has shown that for Indie authors, bad reviews caused sales to increase by an average of 45%.  Those are big numbers!  Why does this happen you may ask?  Consider this- when you are looking to add some new titles to your Kindle and are perusing the reviews- where do your eyes go?  It is highly likely that they are drawn straight to the 5 star or 1 star ratings.  That is human nature.  Once this attention has been received, the potential customer will then look at the other reviews and thus balance the validity of the one stars.  Yup… there is no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to book sales!

4. Negative Reviews Highlight the Positive Ones:

Building upon our last point, there can be precious little doubt that negative reviews will serve to accentuate the positive ones.  Particularly if there is a striking discrepancy.  In short, the negative reviews will originally attract the interest of the potential reader.  Like flies to honey!  Once that happens, they will then look to the more favorable reviews in order to do a comparison and get a clearer picture.  This in turn has the real potential to turn into a much needed book sale!

5.  Adds Legitimacy:

I do not believe this will come as any great surprise to people- but there are a lot of fake reviews out there.  They are also extremely easy to spot and will show up in a variety of algorithms.  They may be from family, close friends, or someone with a vested interest.  Typically they are lacking in any substantial detail and explain how wonderful a work is without actually explaining why.  These are the types of reviews which can actually do serious harm to an author’s profile and reputation.  Needless to say, consumers tend to be a very educated and suspicious lot.  If they see a book which only has glowing 5 star reviews, red flags and alarm bells start to go off.  It begins to look more like an advertising ploy than actual legitimate book reviews.  However, if there is a balance with poor, or even mediocre reviews, buyer skepticism is reduced and conversion rate increased.  That is ultimately what we are all after!

6.  Constructive Criticism:

Ok… this one may be difficult for some authors to accept.  Be that as it may, perhaps the reviewer made some good points?  Maybe the pacing of the story is off.  Perhaps the characters come across as flat and unrealistic.  Whatever the reason may be, take it and use it for what it is worth.  If criticism is constructive, there could be some serious value in the comments.  Being a writer means that we are all lifelong learners.  That is what it is all about.  Those authors who are open to all types of input- good or bad- can only benefit in the end.

7.  Building Relationships and Connections:

While it is certainly reasonable that the first reaction when receiving a poor book review could be anger or disillusionment.  Once again, that is human nature.  Nevertheless, it is also a great opportunity to network.  Book reviewers and book bloggers are vital to this industry.  The good ones have huge and engaged followings and their influence cannot be underestimated or ignored.  By responding to a negative book review in a positive fashion, you will have taken a giant step towards building a very important contact.  Believe me… book reviewers do not enjoy writing bad reviews.  When they are received with openness and positivity it is quite likely a new relationship will have just been built.

8.  Numbers Matter:  

The number of book reviews that your work receives is critically important to your visibility as an author.  In the majority of instances it does not matter whether the review is good or bad (although Amazon does have a preference for 5 star ratings in their own ranking system).  Whatever the case may be, bad reviews will help with SEO.  Google has clearly stated that all reviews ( from 1 star to 5 star) account for more than 15% of Google rankings.  If you are able to actually respond to the review, the rankings go even higher. Visibility matters!

So there you go.  While getting a bad review will be an awful feeling, it can still be turned to work in your favor and help build your portfolio.  Also, always remember that these are individual opinions.  Not everyone will always like our work… and that is perfectly ok!