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Be Grateful for a Bad Review

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Reviews are the least expensive and most effective form of book promotion. More than 300 titles are published each day. There’s no way anyone can know and rank all of them. That’s why bookstores, libraries, and readers rely so heavily on book reviews. Reviews sell books.

Occasionally a book receives a negative review. Realize that the reviewer might just be having a bad day, could be envious of your success, or may dislike your stand on some issues. Take heart. Any review is a good review because it results in ink. Exposure–kind or unkind–will bring in orders. Focus on the ink, not the words. As John Kremer puts it, “No one remembers the negativity of the review, but they do remember the title of the book.”

While some readers may be discouraged from buying your book by a bad review, others will focus on your subject. They’ll buy the book because that subject interests them.


Reviewers Re-Viewed

Most reviewers are underpaid and overworked. Their contributions to bookselling go unrewarded and unrecognized. No one ever built a statue to honor a reviewer. Also, at least according to author Andrew Greeley, “Most reviewers are mean-spirited. Even if a reviewer likes a book, he or she must find fault and write snide and/or patronizing little asides about the author’s character or motives that demonstrate the reviewer’s intellectual and moral superiority.”

So make your book as good as it can possibly be and remember that few new products get the free publicity showered on books. Authors, publishers, and booksellers owe a debt of thanks to reviewers. Hope for good ink, be grateful for bad ink, and–in the words of Steve Wasserman, Book Editor of The Los Angeles Times–”Take solace in the fact that most people do not buy books on the basis of any review they actually read.”


Dan Poynter is the author of “The Self-Publishing Manual” and a past Vice-President of PMA. His company, Para Publishing, provides valuable guides on book publishing. Visit


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