Why You Should Welcome Anything Less Than 5 Star Reviews


When I’m looking at book or product reviews on Amazon, nothing sets off my B.S. detector faster than dozens of reviews that are all five stars, and none less than that.

It’s the same at other sites.

Why You Should Welcome Anything Less Than 5 Star Reviews

When I was shopping online for living room curtains recently at a consumer site, I fell in love with a pair of white sheers with delicate embroidery for only $25 a pair. “How can they be any good if that’s all they cost”? I asked myself.

I jumped to the 47 reviews, almost all 5 star reviews. Customers gushed about how beautiful and feminine they looked. One person even said her interior designer complimented her on them.

Then there it was. The review that made me buy.

Stewart - curtains screenshot

If only one customer out of 47 thought they looked cheap, that was good enough for me. I also found a 4-star review that said the manufacturer’s tag was sewn in a prominent place.

I bought them anyway and I’m thrilled with my new curtains.

Don’t Let Fewer Than 5 Stars Rattle You

Some authors check their Amazon pages dozens of times a day, waiting to see if the next review has five stars. If there are fewer than that, they can’t sleep that night. The next day, they’re emailing friends and others, encouraging them to write good reviews.

Don’t do that. Here’s why.

  1. It makes you look desperate.

No one likes to feel pressured to write a good review. They might not have the time. But worse, they might not have liked the book. You can’t fake writing a good review.

  1. Less-than-favorable reviews can make you aware of typos, poor editing or other problems you should have caught.

I’ve seen book reviews that comment on things like poorly designed covers and “a spine so skimpy the book almost fell apart.” You can fix those problems in time for the second printing, but only if enough people are willing to look past them.

  1. Bad reviews will prompt readers who liked your book to come to your defense.

I’ll admit that I almost never write product reviews because I’m too busy.

But when I see a bad review of a product I love, I jump in and join the fray. I explain why I like it and I might even tell a short story about how I used the product, or something good that happened to me because of it.

  1. The pro-and-con discussion between those who loved and hated your book will command attention.

If someone joins a lively debate about the merits of a book, they might share the link with their friends and followers on Twitter or Facebook. This gives you and your book exposure to a new audience of people who just might buy the book to see what all the fuss is about.

Don’t Respond to Bad Reviews

Whether your book receives a bad review on Goodreads, Amazon or offline, your initial temptation will be to respond. If you do, you can get caught up in a flame war that can burn you alive.

That’s exactly what happened to indie author Jacqueline Howett, who wrote The Greek Seaman, a suspense/literary fiction novel. At Big Al’s Books & Pals, a blog that reviews indie books, The Greek Seaman received only two stars. For the most part, the reviewer like the story but criticized the numerous spelling and grammatical errors.

In the Comments section, Howett responded:

Stewart - Jacqueline Howett screenshot 1

But she wasn’t done yet.

In the Comments, the author kept copying four- and five-star reviews she had received on Amazon, as if to insinuate that there was something wrong with Big Al for disagreeing with them.

Stewart - Jacqueline Howett  screenshot2

The result?

Her outburst resulted in more than 300 comments to that review, many from readers who criticized her for being so defensive. The literary community noticed. And soon, bloggers were reporting what had happened. Here’s a small sampling:

How Not to Handle a Bad Review

Author Meltdowns Are Very Entertaining

“My writing is fine!”: an Internet Meltdown or Kelly Hops on the Bandwagon

Kindle author responds to criticism of her spelling with “poisenous venom”

 How to Respond

Accept it and move on.

Even some of the most famous authors receive bad reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. It comes with the territory. And if you can’t bear the thought of someone criticizing you, justly or unjustly, then don’t publish.

Worrying about less-than-favorable reviews wastes energy that can be better spent writing another book or doing something fun.

Wait a day or two and see how you feel. If you’re still upset, resist the urge to keep going back to the bad review and reading it again, hunting for any inaccurate morsel.

Don’t send emails to your friends, relatives and fans telling them what happened and asking them to write good reviews to “push down” the bad one. Most of them probably won’t even know you got less than five stars.

Some authors thank every reviewer who reviews their books, regardless of whether the review is good, bad or in between. Some authors say thanks right at the reviewer’s blog. Others send a hand-written note.

That’s a kind gesture. But anything beyond that is asking for trouble.

Joan Stewart
Publicity expert Joan Stewart coaches business owners on how to promote their expertise by creating content and generating free publicity. Subscribe to her twice-a-week email tips at PublicityHound.com. Joan lives (and tries to stay warm) in Port Washington, Wis., where her German Shorthaired Pointer, Bogie, takes her on walks twice a day.
Joan Stewart
Joan Stewart