When you release your book into the wild and readers start discovering it, reviews should begin to appear on Amazon, Goodreads, and other online retailers. This is a natural result of executing your marketing plans and getting your book into the hands of readers. As readership increases, so will the number of reviews your book receives.

With that said, book reviews aren’t usually easy to come by. Realistically, it can take 10 to 30 readers to generate a single book review. Most readers simply don’t take the time to write them. But when they do, reviews can be marketing gold.

Book reviews, especially on Amazon where most of the world’s books are sold, are extremely valuable. Not only do they help prospective readers decide to read your book, book reviews also show Amazon your book is popular.

Many authors have found that the visibility of their book increases on Amazon once the book receives 50+ reviews. It’s believed that Amazon’s algorithms kick into high gear and Amazon will display your book more often in search results and in book recommendations across the site. For these reasons and more, increasing the number of reviews for your book should be an ongoing goal for all authors.

Get Ready for Crabby Readers and Internet Trolls

As the readership of your book increases, you should expect to receive an occasional negative review. It’s simply a numbers game. More readers lead to more reviews, and while most of those reviews will be positive (provided your book is well-written and thoroughly edited), negative reviews are part of the process every author will experience.

It’s impossible to dazzle every single reader. There are readers who will never be satisfied no matter what and will never, ever, ever write a five-star review because they don’t believe any book is worthy of such designations. Some will nitpick even the tiniest details, calling out missed typos. (For the record, a small handful of editorial mistakes are to be expected, even in books by the largest publishing houses. A dozen or more errors indicate your book would benefit from additional editing.) Some readers just won’t like the book, for whatever reason, and that is their prerogative.

And then there are the internet trolls. Sadly, there are people who take pleasure in writing negative reviews of books, restaurants, products, and anything else they can find even the tiniest reason to complain about. These are the kinds of people who leave nasty comments throughout social media.

Others in the troll family could be there on behalf of your competitors, may be envious of you for any reason, or out to get revenge for a perceived slight of some kind. (I feel sorry for these miserable people. What an awful waste of precious time and energy.)

How to Handle Negative Reviews on Amazon

Regardless of the motivation behind negative reviews, the reality is that they are inevitable, unavoidable, and an expected part of the author’s journey. Look up your favorite books on Amazon and I promise you will always find negative reviews in the mix.

The following are ways to handle negative reviews for your books.

Try Not to Take it Personally

No good can come from ruminating over a stranger’s opinion, and I speak from experience here. As authors, we need to practice letting go of these slights. It’s easier said than done, and it may take some practice, but it’s a waste of your time and energy to let a crabby review get to you. Remember, it’s part of the author’s journey.

Look for Trends

If you receive negative feedback on your book repeatedly, especially if the reviews call out similar concerns, it’s important to evaluate that feedback. Perhaps the reviewers discovered legitimate issues that you overlooked such as excessive editorial mistakes, a lack of diversity or sensitivity, mis-stated facts, or confusing text. Any trend in negative reviews should be investigated and corrected with a future edition of the book.

Consider Prospective Readers’ Perception

As a frequent online shopper, I’m skeptical when a product has few or no negative reviews. That’s a red flag to me because I understand the numbers game. A bag of cat food or a protein shake (items I frequently purchase online!) with hundreds of positive reviews will always have a small number of negative reviews. If the number is generally low, I don’t even bother looking at them.

If negative reviews don’t exist at all, I question if the seller paid for positive reviews (a practice in violation of Amazon’s policies so don’t do this!) or had his friends post positive reviews. Conversely, if the product has a higher-than-typical percentage of negative reviews, I will usually read them, and they can dissuade me from making a purchase. This evaluation process applies to cat food and books alike and is typical behavior for online shoppers.

Give Thanks to the Trolls

Because online shoppers and readers expect to see a small percentage of negative reviews, your book may actually benefit from having them. When a book has nothing but glowing reviews, it can cause skepticism among new readers. An occasional negative review shows that real people are reading and reviewing your book, even if those people are grumpy internet trolls.

Don’t Feed the Trolls

It is tempting to reach out and challenge a negative review, but little good comes from this. You shouldn’t try to bully someone into changing a review, nor should you sweet talk them into it. I find it’s best to let it go, even when it takes everything in you to do so.

Recently, I received a scathing review of my latest book. The reviewer was the worst kind of troll because she’s not even a writer; she was out for revenge.

I am slightly obsessed with succulents and often buy them from Etsy shops. The disgruntled reviewer is an Etsy seller who sent me half-dead plants that looked nothing like the advertised photos. I almost never write negative reviews, but after reading her other customers’ reviews, it was clear I wasn’t the only one who’d experienced this. (There is a trend indicated in her product reviews!). I ultimately decided to post a photo and a brief, honest review.

The next morning, I awoke to a series of scathing messages from the Etsy seller, including one saying: “I hope your soul shrivels up and dies along with your plants!”

Yes, she really said that!

I have never experienced anything quite like it. I offered to ship the plants back to her at my own expense in exchange for a refund, but she wasn’t willing to do anything to make it right. I decided to let it all go and move on.

The next day I happened to check my book reviews on Amazon and imagine my shock when I saw a review from the Etsy seller, complete with her name and no effort made to disguise her identity. Enjoy this little gem:

She even purchased the book! (Which is currently on ebook promotion for $2.99.) And I verified it’s her when I clicked on her reviewer name and Amazon showed she reviewed the boxes used to ship my half-dead plants!

I could never have imagined this scenario, but it happened, and the moral of this story is that trolls are unavoidable and not worth confronting. Move along and trust that your readers will be wise enough to see through these shenanigans.

Bury Those Bad Reviews

Amazon offers a button next to every product review to report it for evaluation, but this button isn’t meant to help you get grumpy reviews removed. It’s meant for flagging inappropriate reviews, spam, and the like. This means it’s nearly impossible to get Amazon to remove a negative review.

Instead of wishing a bad review would magically disappear, your best bet is to bury under positive reviews. This means it’s time to ramp up your efforts to get new reviews for your book. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Reach out to your community—your email subscribers and social media followers—and offer a review copy of your book along with a request for reviewers to write an honest review. It is a violation of Amazon’s policies to offer anything in exchange for a positive review so be careful of your verbiage here. Review copy recipients should add a disclaimer to their review that says: “I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.” Doing this will also help prevent Amazon from erroneously removing reviews.
  • Connect with everyone who has read your book including beta readers, peers you sent review copies to previously, buyers who registered for downloads, and readers who reach out to you. Send a simple request: “If you enjoyed my book, would you please take a quick moment to write a review?”
  • Make one-on-one direct requests to those you know have read your book, which can often get better results than an email broadcast.
  • Shamelessly ask whenever the opportunity strikes. Let me set an example for you…

If you’ve read my latest book, The Nonfiction Book Marketing and Launch Plan, would you please take a moment to write a review? 

(You know you want to see that Etsy seller’s review for yourself, right?!!)

Remember, negative reviews can be useful for a variety of reasons. They can potentially show you concerning trends, they help readers believe that your positive reviews are legitimate, and they keep us humble!

Like this post? You will love my book!

Learn how to master book marketing with this comprehensive workbook: The Nonfiction Book Marketing and Launch Plan.