How Negative Reviews Can Help Sell Books

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Seems like a radical idea, but negative reviews can actually help sell books and I can prove it.  One reader gave me the best present ever when she contacted me through my website. She’d just bought my supernatural suspense novella, Salt in the Blood, based on a two-star review. Yes, you read that right — two stars. She told me it was the best two-star review she’d ever read. She also mentioned the commenter’s reasoning was exactly what made her push the buy button.

In my post, What Do You Do With A Bad Review, I pick apart the review and show you how to make lemonade out of those lemons, but I never imagined a review like this (see below) would help sell books, too.

bad review

Until now, I’ve shuddered every time I read it.

But the young lady who contacted me said the reviewer’s mention of the descriptive language of the novella caught her eye and she immediately wanted to read more. She felt like the main criticism was the short length and fast-paced story, which is covered in the book’s descriptive passage. But here’s the other thing: She said that she only looked at the book in the first place because it didn’t have a full five stars.

Let me repeat that, because it’s important.  She only looked at the book in the first place because it didn’t have a full five stars. 

negative reviews help sell booksHow a Negative Review Can Help Sell Books

It seems counterintuitive that consumers would bypass a five-star rated item, but research backs this trend up. The folks over at Techcrunch report that the sweet spot for generating purchases was an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5. Why? Consumers are getting wise to the plethora of fake reviews on Amazon and other ratings sites. And many simply discount the five- and one-star reviews as not insightful enough. According to an analysis of Amazon reviews, more than half of people give five star reviews, and the next most common star rating after one star is four stars. Very few people give two star reviews.

Another way a negative review can help sell books is if it is specifically critical. The woman who reviewed my novella disliked it, among other reasons, for its short length and fast-paced story. Luckily, these two characteristics are appealing to some readers, so someone who’s looking for a short, energetic read might be further intrigued by Salt in the Blood based on her review.

Playing the Review Gamereviews help sell books

Writers live for good reviews. After pressing ‘publish’ we await the verdict of our reading public and pray they pronounce us fit to be read. If we get negative feedback, we question whether or not we should put pen to paper again. We sulk. We get angry. But instead perhaps we should drum up a bit of thanks. A little bit of criticism, besides being a good way to keep one’s ego and expectations in check, could be just the ticket to higher sales numbers and even more fans.

Of course, a review is not just a star rating, at least on publishing giant Amazon. In next week’s post I’ll take a closer look at the Amazon review system and give you a few tricks you can use to keep your books looking good the browsing reader, even if you score a few negative reviews.

See you on the next page!

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