The Psychology of Bad Reviews

By Rachel Thompson | Blog

May 30

The Psychology of Bad Reviews vectorstock_1117818

 

*I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV.

 

Now that my third book, Broken Pieces, is out, I’ve experienced the highest of the highs (contacted by a few publishers to create a print version, several award nominations and an honorable mention, and 5-stars from Midwest Book Review and two Amazon top 10 Hall of Fame reviewers), for which I’m frankly kind of stunned and truly honored.

 

On the other hand, I’ve been the target of some rather bogus-looking one and two star reviews which, I’ll be honest, suck. More from a practical standpoint than anything else: it’s not the cruel and often outrageous remarks which have nothing at all to do with the writing that hurt as much as how it affects my overall star review ranking, which people glance at quickly prior to purchase.

 

And believe me, I’m not the only one. I see bogus reviews everywhere, on all types of books – a virus on the organic nature of art. (Please note: valid bad reviews are fine. That’s NOT what we’re discussing here today.)

 

We are all more inclined to purchase a 4-5 star reviewed book than a 1-star. That’s a fact. Before you think this is another article about authors whining or behaving badly, it’s more a study into the psychology of readers and types of reviews.

 

Let’s deconstruct.

 

FAKE REVIEWS

 

I did an article recently for IndieReader.com, which discusses sites like Fiverr whereby an author can purchase multiples of fake 5-star reviews of their own book, and negative reviews of other authors’ books.

 

For $5. Yes, really.

 

After the revelation last year that bestselling authors have done this for a while now (John Locke, anyone?), many authors seemed to jump on the bandwagon to pad their reviews. And here’s the thing: Amazon and other sites have ways to track this stuff:

 

  • Too many reviews showing up at once is a red flag;
  • Grammatical and spelling errors is another – since many of these companies are overseas;
  • There’s no guarantee you ‘get what you pay for,’ meaning the reviews may come in and go back out just as quickly.
  • Since they don’t read the book, the review is filled with inaccurate fluff (i.e., great book! I loved it! Will recommend to others!).

 

Psychology: many authors I’ve talked with privately say they see nothing wrong with this practice. What is capitalism after all if not chasing the buck? And if padding their reviews (or hurting another author) will help them pay their rent, who cares? If others are doing it and benefitting, why shouldn’t they? In other words, cheating is acceptable.

 

This horrifies me not only from an ethical standpoint but also as an author of integrity. Paying for fake reviews shows me they are not writing for the love of the art, but simply to make money. Sure, it’s a great benefit! Don’t get me wrong. But the justification is weak. It also reeks of insecurity. Plus, if you’re looking to sign with an agent or publisher, believe me, they check EVERYTHING.

 

GRAFFITI

 

I love this description from author friend Martha Bourke:

 

Sometimes I feel like our review pages are like graffiti walls, you know? ‘Come on by if you need to get something off your chest – doesn’t even need to be related to my book. Upset with Proctor & Gamble? Feel free!’

 

And that describes many of the reviews we get. I recently had someone write a ‘review’ of one of my books they admittedly hadn’t read, and she posted it to complain that the book she thought was free wasn’t at that moment (which is an Amazon customer service issue, not the author’s). I explained that even though I created free days, ultimately it’s up to Amazon what time that day they make the book free.

 

Psychology: Many people just want to vent, and they choose to use the wrong forum for it. If you have an issue with mistakes or holes in the writing or formatting of a book, fine. Put it in the review. It’s the responsible thing to do. If you just want to bitch, find another venue.

 

Point is this: buy (or download free if available) the book, review the book. That’s how it works. Save your complaints about Amazon for ya know, Amazon. Or your dog. They are generally very good listeners I’m told.

 

 

REVIEWERS VS READERS

 

I’m an avid reader. I read a few books per week on average, and if they’re good, I review them. Not as a favor to anyone; simply out of my desire to pay it forward. I pay for my own books but let’s make this very clear: I’m NOT a reviewer.

 

It’s important to make this distinction between readers and reviewers for one main reason: reviewers receive books free and their job is to review them. They follow review guidelines. They look for certain things as they read and share their thoughts and opinions with us. There is no guarantee whatsoever of a positive review.

 

Readers like myself however, and yes, this is a generalization so shoot me, don’t follow any type of formal review guidelines (my only guideline: if it’s god-awful, I won’t leave a review but I will contact the author privately). We write from the gut: did we love the book? Did we fall in love with the characters? Did the author make us feel something? Like that.

 

Most reviewers I know will rarely give a 1 or 2 star review publicly, preferring instead to work directly with the author or publishing company to give their feedback. Most reviewers know this is how we authors make our living (or supplement our day jobs), whereas many readers leave reviews that would leave them running for cover if someone had written that about them.

 

Psychology: I’m no shrink, but like the person above in the graffiti section, for whatever reason, people leave poor reviews for well-written, top reviewed books for many reasons:

 

  • They have an axe to grind with the author
  • They see the author and their books as competition to them or their favorite authors
  • Jealousy (sorry, but someone has to say it)
  • No other outlet in their lives to be judgmental or name call

 

I always encourage authors NOT to take negative reviews personally. This is one of the biggest lessons any author learns early on. Certainly there can be valid criticism and I love that type of feedback! I’d rather have a 1-star that says ‘I hated the use of tweets to open the chapters!’ than ‘didn’t like it, didn’t read it. Not sure what it’s about’ (and I have more of those than I could share here); or as mentioned above, the judgmental statements about us as people.

 

Bottom line: humans are judgmental beings. We have to be. We have so much information flying at us every second, we have to decide quickly what is worth our time and what is not.

 

Our job as authors is to provide the best work possible and then move on. People won’t love it, even if our dog does. Get over it.

 

What do you think?

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss my weekly posts! Just enter your email address over on the right hand side of this page >>>>. It’s easy, and I won’t share your email address with anyone. Redhead’s honor. 

Need personalized help? Check out my BadRedheadMedia.com services page.

*New feature: ads! No more than 8-10 per month on each of my blogs. See Advertising  for details!*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month – created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(57) comments

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/jO1rLevVZd Fake, bogus reviews suck. Why do people write them? A breakdown.

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/etttNosqC5 via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/ljY0rkleRX via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/oDu2Ft1Kgo via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/rXjoxaAyzo Fake, bogus reviews suck. Why do people write them? A breakdown.

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/pPSkjxsRP4 via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/t9t9k0QyAB

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/5DEeNfY1n7 via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/lZwdbe5WNP via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/LxTpA3w1L9 via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/x95dKDKcDi via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/EY6sEhysRj via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply
@Jujuberry37 May 31, 2013

“@RachelintheOC: The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/g8dRsE8sz9 Fake, bogus reviews suck. Why do people write them? Great read Rachel

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/OaMn3BcxWG via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/RAMNKgqUdW via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/60T4yKgT2J via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/DfCfVgO0uc via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply
eden baylee May 31, 2013

Said brilliantly, Rachel – some really great points.

Authors who have time to leave bad reviews hoping it will boost themselves is, plain and simple — school yard behaviour. Can’t we be adults and feel good for the success of others who work their asses off and do well, emulate them, learn from them, and perhaps get there ourselves by following the same model?

Readers don’t owe authors a living. They can hate a book and write a bad review. I get it. Some people just enjoy the drama.

But authors? Please grow up. Authors would do better to support each other than tear one another down. We write and sell books — different books. It’s not like we are producing the identical widget. There is room for everyone who had a great product.

eden

Reply
    Rachel Thompson May 31, 2013

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Eden!

    It is sad when you see authors going off on a review — and I get it because it’s usually so incredibly rude or incorrect or whatever — but we are PROFESSIONAL writers. It’s our responsibility to create the most amazing product possible and if we don’t, it’s our own fault people are whining about it.

    If it’s truly award-winningly fabulous and we’re getting 1-stars, oh well. Can’t please everyone. The fake and bogus reviews are bothersome on the one hand, but on the other it means someone is threatened by us. Again, oh well. 🙂

    Reply
@JenniferBlake01 May 31, 2013

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/kLTn7YSnAa via @badredheadmedia Exactly, Rachel!

Reply
@dekebridges May 31, 2013

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/WzqgUtfOY7 via @BadRedheadMedia RT @BeckyGaylord

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/exZ29Q8KIh via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/tMA66WxMxp

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/TUktS8DKIV via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply
@dekebridges June 1, 2013

The Psychology of Bad Reviews: by @BadRedheadMedia http://t.co/2Z04BFaIiF

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/yK1OWQSWAV via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/ug8GbcEDln

Reply
@TMcCallahan June 1, 2013

“@Screwpulp: The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/jBCSGRGzyS” SO IMPORTANT! All authors/editors should read & share this!

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/GEcokBSfoY via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews – http://t.co/V5ip5SGZNb

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/iSE2JXfMkT via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/AX5KKf9gA9 via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

An article about fake or bogus one-star reviews: “The Psychology of Bad Reviews” by @badredheadmedia http://t.co/ZG92eIzI8p

Reply

#MondayBlogs The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/iLzYIBQySz Fake reviews suck. Why do people write them? A breakdown.

Reply
Viv June 3, 2013

In the end, a genuine review is simply one person’s subjective opinion. I have had a single 1 star review and it stung, because of the acid with which it was written. I’ve had to work hard not to let that one star spoil the whole thing for me.
I don’t understand the mentality of someone who targets other writers in a similar genre with horrible reviews. It is, as Eden said, schoolyard mentality.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson June 3, 2013

    Very true. It shouldn’t affect our voice or vision.

    We don’t all love coconut (me: hate it) but that doesn’t mean I don’t buy it for my kids who can’t live without it.

    xx

    Reply
@SpikedUpFrog June 3, 2013

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/RfOz2lz0UB via @badredheadmedia If you are going to write a #review, make it real. #MondayBlogs

Reply
@JudySchaumburg June 3, 2013

Devils! RT @rachelintheoc: #MondayBlogs The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/IznPQRgqND Fake reviews suck. Why do people write them?

Reply
@kayekellyauthor June 3, 2013

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/x3pNBpAi4v via @badredheadmedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/ZYzrtf8qRq via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/TUI4oxuLfM via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply
@cnnevets June 7, 2013

A nicely balanced, thoughtful discussion of the psychology of bad reviews. http://t.co/PGQJirrpXI via @BadRedheadMedia

Reply
@jbarber5000 June 8, 2013

Had no idea u can pay for reviews, good or bad RT @BadRedheadMedia The Psychology of Bad Reviews http://t.co/TSKpveoqU4

Reply

The Psychology of Bad Reviews – http://t.co/6PWMIwmQak #ebooks #selfpub #indieauthour #amwriting #ampublishing

Reply
Kristin L. Walters June 24, 2013

I just read some bad reviews on a friend’s book’s goodreads page that seemed odd to me, almost like they had an axe to grind or were jealous, as you suggested. Yuck. I think it’s despicable.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson June 24, 2013

    It is awful, but sadly, more common than we think. I personally don’t get it but maybe it has to do more with people’s psyche than the book itself. IDK.

    Poor reviews can sting, but many times they have little to do with the work itself and more to do with the ego of the reader/reviewer. I find reviewers are usually quite objective in their reviews — what they like, what they don’t like, given specific review guidelines or criteria, whereas readers shoot from the hip.

    That is, IF the review is valid and not a bogus paid service (something else I just don’t get).

    Thanks for the comment.

    Reply
J.D.Hughes June 24, 2013

Good article!. I notice you said that you responded to an Amazon reviewer’s comments. Is this a good idea? I often feel I ought to engage with reviewers, but have been told not to do so since it generally attracts trolls. What do you think?

Reply
    Rachel Thompson June 24, 2013

    Hi JD. In that particular case, she was complaining that a book SHOULD have been free but wasn’t. I felt it important to explain that Amazon implements free when they implement it — that it was simply an issue I didn’t have any control over (other than scheduling it). It would have been great if she had chosen a different venue to complain (given that a ‘review’ forum is for reviews, not complaints about a book she admittedly hadn’t read), but again, it was out of my control.

    I used to never respond to reviews. Only recently did I decide to thank some people, whether it’s a positive or negative review. If they’ve taken the time to read it, I think it’s worth a sincere thank you, even if they hated it! It’s still a win — they read it and I evoked emotions. That’s awesome.

    xx

    Reply
Myriam Loor June 27, 2013

Once again you are right on. A review can be an easy tool for a vindictive person to hurt an author. It’s never about the book, it’s about the author.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson June 29, 2013

    Thanks, Myriam. It is about the author, and many people feel a review is the place to be vindictive for WHATEVER reason. I’m not sure I understand it, as it’s not something I as an avid reader would ever do!

    People dislike some authors for whatever reason, and that’s just a reality of this online, tech world. Our job as authors is not to take it personally.

    xx

    Reply

[…] The Psychology of Bad Reviews […]

Reply
Billie Ann Zahir January 25, 2014

While I know a writer SHOULD ignore the bad reviews and walk away, I can’t see how any author, who has put their heart into his/her writing can do that. However, the insight into the source of some reviews helps by giving potential factors for excessively harsh reviews. In addition, your work in helping us aspiring authors use social networking sites to promote our books aids in building personal relationships with readers whose appreciation cushions the blow from those nasty reviews. I would also like to suggest some reviews which are not glowing may contain valid points of the reviewed work which can be used to improve future efforts of the writer. No, I don’t agree walking away from bad reviews is possible. Rather, I believe facing bad reviews with the right mind set is the best option if an author does not wish to allow bad reviews to injure his/her writer’s soul to the extent of being permently paralyzed publishly in the future.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 26, 2014

    Thanks, Billie Ann. It IS hard to ignore and walk away when someone calls our baby ugly and I agree fully, we CAN learn from the negative. The question you raise in your last sentence is the heart of this issue: can our psyche handle it? Can we learn and just keep going or do we stop midsentence and never write again because someone we don’t know or respect trashed us? It’s a process.

    Yes, it hurts.
    Yes, it sucks.
    Yes, we question ourselves.
    Yes, we hunker down and keep writing.

    Writing is easy. Bad reviews suck. But we have to trust ourselves, ultimately.

    Reply

[…] the public doesn’t react in a favorable way to the published work, it can be hard to handle as an author. However, as a publishing house, we help our authors deal with bad reviews because […]

Reply
Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment:

brhm-bad-redhead-logo
Sign up for the newsletter to get a FREE PDF of top review sites!
x