There's another little known fact. On the US Amazon site (no idea about the other countries because Amazon's not exactly consistent), they've gotten rid of the tagging feature which helped indie authors gain visibility. Essentially, when you would view a book and saw a list of suggested books, tags were helping determine which books were displayed. They also helped in searching (I think, I could be wrong because I'm new). Amazon now wants users to rely on the "Like" functionality and reviews to promote books. I can't go into details about HOW this works beyond saying they have a magical formula that nobody knows.
Now you know reviews are important for the book, but that's not the point of my post. Reviews are ESSENTIAL for the author. Why? They should help you become a better author. I'm not talking about the 5 star reviews (or 5 blue ducky reviews in my case), though those are fantabulous because you get warm fuzzies when you see them. I'm talking about the negative reviews. You know, the ones everyone (including myself) dreads to see.
Let me start by saying, I've learned that all 5 star reviews can actually be detrimental. Having a mix of star ratings gives your book more credibility that it hasn't been reviewed by a ton of your friends. A well worded 3 star review can in many ways be more beneficial than a 5 star review written by an obvious super fan. That being said, nobody really looks forward to the poor reviews.
The first time I got a 3 star review about my book I wanted to cry. Seriously. Then I sucked it up and read the review. Parts of it were kind of funny in that I 100% could NOT see where they were coming from, but parts were very valid. One of the big complaints about Breaking the Nexus is the length. I know it's short, I designed it that way. As many of you know, I had problems with severe pain and stiffness in my hands and I wanted to ensure I could release Breaking the Nexus so I could give my hands a rest before continuing. Honestly lovelies, it has taken about 2 months to get back to fighting form. But I digress. I love the pacing of my book and as much as it has frustrated my readers, I love the cliff hanger ending. It may not have been what I had in mind when I set out writing this book back in November of 2011, but it's the only way I could see ending it. Trust me when I say, Waking the Phoenix will have an even more epic ending :)
Another 3 star review made me scratch my head because there was a ton of praise and the only criticism was length. I tend to click on low reviews to see what people didn't like, so this one works in my benefit. Since that was the lowest star rating on Amazon, I thought I dodged a bullet. I thought I'd escaped the horrible 1 star review.
Then I looked at Goodreads. BAM! There was a 1 star review. I didn't even let myself get upset, I started to read the review. The person wrote about how they loved the story but hated the cliffhanger. I could have pouted, cried, and screamed at the unfairness of a 1 star review. I didn't. Want to know what I did?
I contacted the reviewer. Not to demand an explanation or to ask her to change her mind. No, I contacted her to honestly thank her for her opinion and to ask her to be a beta reader for my Waking the Phoenix. I bet you're thinking I'm insane right? Here's the deal. I legitimately want her input because she enjoyed the rest of the book and I want it to be the best it can be. She may be more critical than some of my other betas who adore everything about my book.
Guess what happened when I contacted her? She said my book was exceptional. She just wanted areas fleshed out. I know it moved quickly and I wondered if I needed more detail in other places. So not only did I brave the risk of rejection by contacting this person, I got a wonderful compliment and have gained a beta who could prove to be quite helpful in my future books.
My point is, bad reviews suck. I didn't like seeing 1 star but everyone is entitled to their opinion. If everyone tells you you're amazing and awesome, you'll always wonder if it's true or if they're just fans. Criticism is VITAL to help you improve, no matter how painful it may be to hear.
I'm not saying everyone should take the approach I did and contact the reviewer. In fact, I don't suggest it. The only reason I did was she specifically mentioned she really enjoyed the story and characters and I was asking for her help. Most times, it's best to read the review, analyze the criticism, and decide if it warrants further consideration or if it could just be a case of that person didn't like your book. No matter what, don't take it personally; look at it as an opportunity to improve your craft. If you're still upset, just go read your positive reviews to cheer yourself up ;)