Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrating Bad Reviews

(Originally posted at The League of Extraordinary Writers)

I come from a line of men who worked with their hands. My grandfather rebuilt boat motors; my dad builds and repairs furniture.  For almost ten years, I made a living as a carpenter/handyman/remodeling company owner.

When you do this sort of work, you inevitably accumulate coffee cans filled with random nuts, bolts, and screws. And this gives rise to what I’m modestly calling Mullin’s Law: In any can of random nuts, 2% of them will be wingnuts.

The rest of this post is not for the wingnuts out there. If you’re an author who trolls threads on Goodreads, you’re a wingnut. If you’re a blogger who continues to review YA, despite professing a disdain for the whole literature, you’re a wingnut. If you’re a blogger who reviews the author’s weight instead of her book,
or uses hateful and misogynistic language in your reviews, not only are you a wingnut, but your threads are stripped. Seek professional help retooling.

Now, to the rest of you, the 98% who are just plain nuts: bad reviews rock. One-star reviews rock. Two-star reviews rock. Authors, celebrate your bad reviews (you’re allowed 5-10 minutes of cringing self-pity first). Bloggers, don’t feel badly when you negatively review an author’s work. Unless that author has published ten or more books, you’re helping her with your negative review. 

Want evidence?  Check out this study of New York Times book reviews conducted using Nielsen Bookscan data and reported in Marketing Science. The upshot is that negative reviews of works by authors who had previously published fewer than two books boosted their sales by 45% on average. Negative reviews of well-known authors (i.e. those who had published 10 or more books previously) hurt their sales by 15%. So the advice about celebrating your one-star reviews doesn’t apply after you’ve published your tenth book.

I first posted on this topic on my blog last July. If you're interested in a more thorough discussion of the benefits of bad reviews, click through. To sum up, the worst thing that can happen to an author isn't bad reviews; it's being ignored.

What do you think? Do the other authors out there help spread the word about negative reviews of your work? Do those of you who blog feel hesitant to post a negative review? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments, please.