“So what then is an indie author to do?”


I’m linking to a blog post from last January, but I think this is worth talking about. Besides, I only saw a link to it from @EvilWylie this morning. It’s supposed to be advice about reviews and what an author should do about them, but it’s the worst advice you could ever find, short of kidnapping reviewers so you can hunt them on your private game reserve.

[Update: that link leads to a 404 page now. Apparently he’s pulled it down.]

Context: apparently the author sometimes receives Amazon reviews giving his books only one or two stars, and that is not allowed.

He starts by saying he never leaves reviews with less than four stars, which is perfectly sensible as policies go. There are a lot of people who prefer to be silent rather than talk a book down. Positivity, amirite?

Then he starts talking about the sort of people who *would* leave a two- or one-star review, and immediately it becomes about “holier than thou Grammar Nazi[s]” who don’t understand how hard indie authors work on their books! And are just like those awful elitist college professors. Or something. Plus, all books have errors in them, so why do these reviewers have to be so fussy?

But what to DO? The first suggestion he makes is, if it’s the first review, to unpublish and republish the book so the review will be lost. Also, maybe–just maybe–the author should consider the possibility that they need to take another editorial pass.

Next, he suggests talking to the reviewer, maybe asking for their help, because it’s possible that a person leaving a negative review is not a bad person.

No, seriously, that’s what he says:

Often a reviewer doesn’t take into consideration of the impact a bad review can have on your sales. They may not even be bad people.

Look at that fuckery. In fact, let’s highlight something: They may not even be bad people.

Let’s get to the point, because this is the point right here: Just because someone does something you don’t like and/or is actually harmful to you, does not mean that person is attacking you personally. How people manage to bumble into adulthood without learning this, I’ll never know, but it’s a simple fact. Okay? “I feel pain” does not necessarily lead to “You tried to hurt me” even if they’re college professors.

So the author suggests talking to the reviewer politely, asking for tips to make things better. In his first example, this works out fine because the reviewer takes the time to respond, offer help, and improve the author’s work. Wasn’t that kind of them? They even changed the review.

But what happens to a reviewer who leaves a negative review but doesn’t respond to the author’s request for help? What if they don’t want to take time out of their day to point out the errors they found or beta-read a project?

So what then is an indie author to do? Well this is where we as indies have to stick together. This is trench warfare people… anything goes.

Clearly, the solution is to find a bunch of other authors to go on the attack:

I called on some friends to discredit the review, promising to do the same for them should the need ever arise. I’ve made a lot of friends in indie author community through kindlemojo. I asked some of fellow authors to write comments in this fellow’s review.

OMG, I had no idea that some of them were going to be as vicious as they were. The looked up this guys history and saw that he mostly liked to review video games and painted him as a mommy’s boy living in her basement with nothing better to do. They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way. One of the comments even accused him of being a mole of the big 6. However most were simple rebuttals to the unfair review. Someone even pointed him to the article I reblogged about how the first mass marketed Harry Potter novel had over 200 typos. After a few days of the onslaught he took the review down.

Let’s highlight something else here: They got personal with him as well – it was getting quite ugly – but in a good way.

Hey, there is no good way to get personal with a reader who left a negative review. The author includes a quoted text of the review in question (not a screencap, because as they said they bullied the reader into dropping it) that states the one-star is because the reader found four typos, but even if we were assume the review really was that extreme, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who posted the review or why, you leave it alone.

I have a one-star review that I know for a fact was payback for an online scuffle. Whatever. I leave it alone. There’s a one-star review on the Goodreads page for Game of Cages that mocks the book for an error that doesn’t actually exist: the reviewer misread the scene. What’s more, she has a ton of likes for that review and it pops up at the top of the page. Whatever. I leave it alone.

One thing indie authors like the dude I linked above could learn from traditionally-published ones is professionalism regarding reviews: Leave them alone. They’re written for the benefit of other readers, not for the author (or the author’s marketing efforts).

Don’t attack people because they say they don’t like your book. Even if you think they didn’t read it or they’re just taking a dig at you–even if you know both of these things for a fact–it’s completely unprofessional to silence readers’ opinions in readers’ spaces, whether by unpublishing the book or through an “onslaught” when they refuse to help you fix your mistakes for free. If it bothers you so much, do what other authors do: stop reading your reviews.