Bad Book Review Blues

Sunday, December 16, 2007
With the launch of my memoir, "The Break-Up Diet" looming closer and closer, my neurotic writer voices are kicking into high gear in my head. I know the early readers liked it... But what if they were just being nice? What if it's really terrible? What if everyone hates it and they post a bazillion horrible reviews all over the internet? Then I wake up with the bed sheet wrapped around my neck.

The voice of my creative censor is quite persistent; yet, sometimes I think I'm not the only one listening... On more than one occasion, serendipity has smiled and dropped exactly what I need (when I need it most) right into my lap. This time, it came in the form of a tips article in a great marketing newsletter I subscribe to. It helped put me at ease and I liked it so much, I wanted to share it with our WOW readers:

Be There or Be Talked About: Managing Your Reputation Online
A few weeks ago, I had an author call me in a blind panic--someone had reviewed her book online and it wasn't good, in fact, it was downright nasty. She was horrified, and the worst part, there was very little she could do. It wasn't someone we, the publisher, or the author had ever worked with before, nor had anyone ever contacted her, how she got the book is anyone's guess, but she did, and she hated it.

The price for online exposure can sometimes be high, but this story brings back the clear truth: regardless of whether or not you market yourself on the 'Net, somewhere, somehow, you'll wind up on there. Whether it's through a review or some other posting, you'll end up on the Internet and as a vigilant marketer you'll want to know who's saying what about you. Whether it's good or bad, you can still manage it. Also, you want to keep an eye on what people are saying about your topic.

So how do you win the online reputation game? Here are some tips you might want to consider. Keep in mind that in all the years I've been online, I've not known a lot of folks to go through a negative posting, in fact, it's generally the opposite. Most of the time those who choose to review a book or comment on a service do so positively, but even positive postings need to be monitored. Why? Well, there's a lot you can do with them, and these tips will show you how.

1) First, monitoring your reputation online doesn't have to cost you anything. You can do this very simply with tools that are already available to you for free. Google and Yahoo both have monitoring tools. They're super simple to use, all you do is go to the links, sign up for them and plug in the keywords you want to monitor. Keep in mind that you're not only doing this just to monitor who's talking or writing about you, but to keep track of what's being said about your topic, so you can both keep track of new developments and engage in conversations with other bloggers. Here are the links: and

2) Use RSS feeds to help keep track of conversations on the Internet that involve you, your topic, or your book. You can go to any of these sites to create these custom RSS feeds: , , , , ,

3) Using you can keep track of your keywords across 22 different search engines. Keep in mind that you'll need an RSS Feedreader to monitor the feeds that come in.

4) Online groups might be another place to look. If you haven't signed up for any groups related to your topic, now might be a good time. Check out , , and

5) It's probably not a wise move to spend your days chasing down every blogger that posts on your topic, so before you decide to connect with a blogger, head on over to to get some site stats first. That way you can make sure that before you go the effort of contacting the blogger, he or she has a wider audience than just mom and Aunt Viola.

Now that you have your monitors in place, what's next? Let's look at how you can constructively use this information. First you'll want to have a blog. Why? You'll want to use this as a forum to address news on your topic or on you. And don't wait until you need to post something to start a blog, start one as soon as possible so you're up and running.

A blog will humanize your site and help you create a relationship with your readers, then whenever your monitors alert you to a new topic, a new review, or a new mention of you, you can respond by offering your own twist, insight or feedback. In the case of the negative review, the author decided to address the thing we all fear most: what if someone hates your book? She posted a blog and got so many positive responses they virtually canceled out whatever the reviewer said.

Next, if you find someone has commented on you, your book or your topic, I recommend connecting with them, offering your insight, or thanking him or her for any positive reviews or mentions you received.

Aside from monitoring, blogging, and online networking, another sure-fire way to protect your reputation online is to have a lot of positive feedback, reviews, features, or mentions. Why? Just like the author who blogged on her review, the good cancels out the bad. The Internet is very self-correcting that way, so get out there and get yourself some great "press," it'll pay off not just in the case of a reputation, but also when someone is searching for information on your topic.

And finally, if you're sitting on a controversial topic, it might not make sense to spend your days policing the Internet. People will say what they say and the 'Net has given many a voice even as they remain in obscurity. That said, remember the golden rule of PR: there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

So, there you have it! I can sleep peacefully knowing that even if I get a bad review somewhere, at least I'm getting some PR!


J.Alpha said...

Please don't lose sleep worrying about bad reviews--it's such a drain on creativity.

Besides, you can always take Anne Rice's approach to criticism by denouncing the "sheer outrageous stupidity" of the negative reviews :-)

Just sayin :-)

Danette Haworth said...

Wow! Excellent! I didn't even know such tracking tools existed!

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice! I imagine it can be crushing to read such a bad review, but you've given some great points on how to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I just heard the best interview yesterday on NPR, with Ridley Scott regarding his latest "Final Cut" of the movie "Bladerunner." He was totally misunderstood, he said, and the critics were vicious. And he thought, "Why did they even write about it if they didn't like it or didn't understand it?" (Of course they wrote about it because bad reviews sell papers.) And he expressed sorrow at having had to sacrifice so much of his artistic vision for producers and funders who didn't know anything about art in the first place. But he's been strong enough to rise above it and show his pride in his work by going ahead and re-releasing it the way HE always wanted it. I thought that was amazing. It really shows that, A) critics are gonna be harsh because they're not in the business of promoting good art--they're in the business of expanding ratings/readership... and B) Never lose faith in the integrity of your work!!! If you always keep faith, other people will come around eventually.

fuquinay said...

My book comes out in April, and I just got my first review—a bad one from Publishers Weekly. It's not fun. And how did I know about it? Google Alerts.

P.S. Word Verification: nasta.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top