The discussions bloom from there with many people saying no reviews should be left if they're not 4 or 5 stars. I've even seen people use the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."
My dear fellow self-published and indie authors, get over yourselves.
And I say that in the most loving way possible.
Here's the thing. Bad reviews are a necessary and unavoidable part of the business. Bad reviews happen to everyone, even Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, and J. K. Rowling. Why shouldn't they happen to you? Why should you be exempt from something even the leaders in our industry can't avoid?
1, 2, and 3 star reviews are necessary to a book's legitimacy in the market. No book, no matter what it is or who writes it, is going to be enjoyed by EVERYONE who reads it. We're human. Every single person who reads a book is going to like and dislike different things. No two people are going to have exactly the same feedback.
As a consumer, it's extremely suspicious when a book has nothing but 5-star reviews, particularly if there are more than a handful of reviews posted. Potential readers who see a book with a total of 5, 8, 10+ reviews that are all glowing, 5 stars are going to become suspicious as to the honesty and legitimacy of the reviewers. The thing that first comes to my mind is friends and family who more than likely give positive reviews without reading the book or because they don't want to strain their relationship with the author.
Every book should have a variety of reviews simply because we're all so different!
- There are good things to be taken away from bad reviews! I promise! Sometimes, the reader's style is just too different from the author's, but sometimes good suggestions are made that can help improve an author's writing. Every author should always be learning and improving. Noone's writing will ever be perfect. Realize that there are things to improve upon and use information from these reviews to your benefit.
- Not all bad reviews are constructive. Some people are complete jackasses, and they remain so when reviewing a book. I've been on the receiving end of that. We all have. It happens. Realize this. Embrace it. Brush it off and keep on writing, remembering that not everyone is going to like your book and some are going to be jerks about making that known. You can't stop them, nor should you try. They have as much of a right to express their displeasure as the readers who think your book is better than ice-cream, chocolate, peanut butter, and sex.
- If a reviewer gives a low rating due to an abundance of grammatical, punctuation, and/or formatting issues, they have every right to do so, and this can be no one's fault other than your own. This isn't due to a differing of styles or opinions. This is due to your own misjudgment. Professional editors should always be hired. Not friends. Not family. Not beta readers. Professional developmental and copy editors.
Now, I'm not talking about a handful of errors here and there. We're all human. Even editors can miss things. That's part of why we have multiple editions. Even traditionally published books can have a couple mistakes on the 1st and 2nd editions. I'm sure my books aren't perfect. I'll guarantee there are a couple of mistakes still lingering, and I've addressed and fixed the few that have been brought to my attention.
If someone gives a bad review because there were so many errors they had difficulty finishing the book, they're probably not making it up. Look at your manuscript again. Admit you aren't perfect and made mistakes. Hire an editor. Fix it. These types of bad reviews are no one's fault but your own.
We're professionals. When we publish a book, it should be as perfect as it can be. It should be scrutinized by readers, reviewers, and leaders in the industry. It should be expected to be just as professional as those of the top traditionally published authors in our genre. It should be held to the same structural, developmental, and grammatical tests as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, and J. K. Rowling.
It should pass the test with the majority of its readers. But not everyone is going to like it.
And that is as it should be.