Every now and then, not often, but a few times a year, I receive a panicked call or email from an author which goes something like this:
"I just noticed that someone left a terrible review of my book on Amazon.com (or some other online bookseller). How can we get it removed?"
Well, the short answer is: you can't. Customers are able to leave reviews of your book on most any bookselling web site, and you may as well get used to the idea now that not all of those reviews are going to be positive. That's just the nature of the business. That doesn't mean people can go on these sites and attack you personally, but they can just about say anything they want about your book.
The great thing about the Internet is that it allows anyone to go online and instantly communicate anything they want to say. The bad thing about the Internet is that is allows anyone to go online and instantly communicate anything they want to say. Some people say things online that they would never say to someone face-to-face. The anonymity of the Internet gives them free reign to say mean things.
Take this one-star book review from Amazon.com, for example: "The character development was shoddy, unrelatable and unbelievable, the plot kept changing along with character perspectives the actually story never really getting anywhere, it was written as if it was a bunch of stories that someone decided to string together with random sentences and pieces of other stories."
The book being reviewed? The Holy Bible.
When you publish a book, you are putting a piece of yourself on public display. Just as in everything else in life, not everyone is going to like you, or your book. Book reviews are subjective. Opinions will vary from person to person. In the not-so-subtle words of my company commander from Navy boot camp: "Opinions are like a hole in your butt. Everybody has one, and some of them stink."
I once shot a TV commercial for a radio station where I used to work. The kindest review I read about it was "Terry doesn't look as old as I thought he was." Another review contained the world "yuck." The local newspaper named it "The Best Worst Local TV Commercial" in its year-end edition. My morning show's ratings were increasing, so I got a chuckle out of the reviews. When you are in a public position like radio announcer (or author) you've got to have a thick skin.
So, what can you do when your book gets a bad review? Should you respond to bad reviews online? My recommendation is "no." Why throw fuel on the fire? Let the positive (and negative) reviews speak for themselves. When your readers contact you to tell you they like your book, encourage them to leave a fair and honest (and hopefully positive) review on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and other book review and bookselling sites. Let your loyal readers be your cheerleaders.
Don't let negative book reviews get you down, and don't let them dissuade you from writing more books. Every author has received bad reviews for their books. It happens to everyone.
Just ask the guy who wrote the Holy Bible.