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Yes it’s painful, but the general rule for reacting to a negative review is: Don’t respond.

Yet if you must, tread lightly. Let’s face it, online reviews have become one of the most effective marketing tools an author has to promote their books. In fact, there are book promotion websites that won’t accept book advertising for books that have an average lower than 3 stars. They don’t care that the reviews are bogus, uninformed or flat out inaccurate—they just look at the average.

A children’s board book published by a client—the really thick paged books for babies—was sold in used condition by Amazon. The reviewer had the audacity to give the book a negative review because pages had teeth marks from a toddler. No surprise there but clearly not the problem of the publisher.

You may not be able to contact the reviewer directly but there are a few things you can do to minimize, improve or reverse the review.

Review spam can be removed

We heard about an author’s cookbook had a 1 star review which read:

“It looks stupid.  A teen ager told me wat to say.”

She contacted the store—Barnes & Noble—and they promptly deleted it. It never hurts to ask.

Comment on the review itself and/or vote it as unhelpful

April Hamilton has been working with eBooks for several years and the 2008 edition of her The IndieAuthor Guide has 51 reviews with a single 1 star review. April took issue with the review and posted some compelling responses. Other reviewers chimed in mostly in defense of the book. Read it here.

Sometimes it is more powerful if someone in your community comes to your defense. You don’t want to appear desperate or defensive. An author we know told us about a reviewer who claimed his book ripped off a motion picture theme. Fortunately, someone commented that the book was written well before the movie was released.

Sometimes a negative review can actually be more helpful

In a LinkedIn Group about publishing on Amazon a member shared that an author (Pete Morin, Diary of a Small Fish) asked him to change his review rating from 5 stars to 3 stars so that more people would read it. The author liked the review (“Deeply and basically flawed, but a really good read.”) and felt that with 33 5 star and 18 4 star reviews no one would find it. The reviewer happily changed the 5 to a 3.

Now, four years later, the book has 97 reviews with an average rating of 4.5.

It’s an interesting, and gutsy, marketing strategy. Just keep in mind that everyone has an opinion and sometimes the best reaction is to remain silent.

Have you had unwarranted negative reviews? How have you handled them? Share your story below.

Image credit: Abigail Keenan