Bad Reviews

I want to talk about bad Amazon reviews today.

When I was in college, I studied Communication. It was an interesting time – early 2010s, research being done about social media, the potential for sales online well known.

We talked about Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and how people tend to review.

The short of it is, people who review tend to give a lot of biased opinions – one-star reviews or five-star reviews influenced mostly by their attitudes as human beings and having little to do with the business or product itself. The reviews don’t usually offer a lot of substance, just a “This restaurant was amazing! Delicious food!” or a “This book SUCKED. Waste of money.”

As a business owner, these reviews aren’t going to give you enough depth to actually apply those comments to what you do.

Moreover, when you look into these users’ other reviews, they are all going to rest on the same plane.

There are three types of reviewers:

1.) The Praisers. They rate everything 4 or 5 stars. They’re easily satisfied.
2.) The Meh-ers. They rate everything 3 stars or average. (I personally fall into this plane)
3.) The Criticizers. They rate everything 2 stars or below. They’re never satisfied.

The Internet developed the term “troll” for the third group because they tend to complain a lot, but there are no terms that I’m aware of for the first and second groups – probably because they’re not divining to hurt anyone. So many people fall into this third group that Yelp (among others, I’m sure) had to create an algorithm that makes these sorts of reviews drop or not automatically show, IF the reviewer proves that they have an issue giving too many bad reviews.

On Amazon’s KindleBoards, a high-profile user called me “unprofessional” for labeling the third group “trolls,” and for being dismissive about a reviewer who roasted an author because she thought the book was going to be longer. The author made the book’s length public and broadcast it wherever possible in order to avoid issues regarding what the customer was actually getting.

Bottom line? This customer didn’t do research into what she was purchasing. When she realized she made a mistake, she took it out on the author. Her other reviews were all one and two star. She is, almost by definition, a troll.

It’s not unprofessional to recognize that not all reviews are equal. While this customer’s one-star review may have had a small impact on the product’s rating, it isn’t the end of the world. There’s no need to respond to attempt to vilify her. It won’t work, anyway.

Reviews are important. They impact a customer’s decision about whether they should purchase or not. The reviews are ultimately for the customer, but customers know well enough to look past reviews like this. It’s not reasonable to think that customers will all look into a reviewer’s past ratings to determine which of the three planes they fall on (if any), but think of previous times you’ve looked into reviews before purchasing something…

You focus on the detailed reviews, don’t you? Not the star counts. If someone is really passionate and inspired to review something, they’re going to offer some substance – whether they loved something or hated it.

Rating something one-star or five-star and then disappearing one sentence later does not mean they’re passionate. It’s more the opposite, really.

If my best friend were to do this and ask for my opinion on it, I’d be nice. I’d say, “You’re justified, at least you gave input.” As someone considering releasing a product who also scours reviews as a consumer, I think these types of reviews are lazy and unhelpful and should be disregarded. If the consumer isn’t going to care about them, why should I as an author? No one was helped.

People are busy, that’s the world we live in – but it’s not hard to scale a review down: “Plot disorganized. Too fast. Choppy language. Don’t buy.” See?

Don’t make excuses for your reviewers so that you can read more into their opinions. As writers, there is only so much we can do to improve ourselves, and knowing what  feedback to take seriously is critical. Once we publish something, the reviews are mostly beyond our control.

I’m shocked that someone could find this logic unprofessional. How does one sleep without distinguishing between trolling and legitimate gripes? If you’d like to see what people had to say about reviews, you can read the thread here.

A lot of authors don’t even read reviews because of these factors. Personally, I wouldn’t go as far to be that dismissive. How do you assess reviews, either as a consumer or as a business owner/author?

EDIT: As this thread has gone on, it seems as though many authors don’t legitimately believe in every word their reviewers utter, but feel they have to publicly pretend to in order to prevent developing a reputation. The customer is always right, but *whisper* the customer isn’t always right.

The Internet is searchable. It’s probably best to avoid being an ass online as a general thing. But the whole point of KBoards and other author forums is to help each other, and that includes dealing with review angst, right?

… Or is the whole point of these forums to subtly market our books?

I would never call a *specific* customer a name online, but I’ve seen authors give it back to their reviewers publicly without being offensive or hurting themselves. In some cases, it’s probably helped their sales. It shows confidence. It’s a matter of personal choice, honestly. I don’t think anyone needs to be crucified for doing the taboo thing, but it’s not wrong to play it safe, either.


One thought on “Bad Reviews

  1. Pingback: Holier Than Thou – Ashley Dufault

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