Negative reviews are an inevitability if you publish a book on Amazon (or anywhere). Emotionally, they sting (read this article by Tucker Max if you need some help coping with those in stride) but they can also have a negative impact on our future book sales if you get too many of them.
This is because 97% of consumers read reviews before purchasing and better reviews of course means more conversions and fewer refunds.
This is particularly important for less popular books since just 1.5% of customers leave reviews.
This means if you sell 100 books (to strangers, those close to you who buy early will of course leave reviews to support you) you might only get 1-2 reviews. If one of those is a 1 star or even 2 star, you’re book immediately looks far less desirable.
Look at the image below and tell me which you’d purchase (all things being equal).
Quantity of reviews is important but the average rating is just as important (if not more important)
As you can imagine, the data supports the idea that higher review ratings lead to higher conversion rates.
This impact will be even greater if you sell fiction books. Nonfiction can make sales a bit easier if the topic is exactly what the reader is looking for but fiction relies much more on a larger quantity of positive reviews to merit the shoppers attention.
I have to mention it but it’s so obvious I don’t want to even include it as a list item. You need to make your book great! People don’t pay to read average books. Even if they’re free or cheap, it costs someone hours of their life to consume.
There are many reasons why someone leaves a negative review on a book. Although the price is relatively low, the time investment is very high.
This article will show you some of the most common mistakes authors make that cause readers to leave negative reviews on Amazon books (kindle, print and audible) and how to avoid them.
#1 Misleading Title and Description
Your book might be amazing but if it attracts the wrong readers, it won't be received well.
For example, if someone purchased my book “Evergreen Affiliate Marketing” looking for information on how to run their own affiliate program, they’d be very disappointed.
The book is about affiliate marketing from the affiliate marketers perspective, not the company. So, I made a very conscious effort to clarify this many times.
In the example above, the reader clearly wasn't satisfied with the congruity of the title and the substance.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you're running paid ads to your books, make sure that you're targeting the right audience.
You'll get negative reviews about misleading titles if you're showing your book for unrelated search terms.
#2 Grammar, Spelling and Formatting Errors
Although we all make mistakes, spelling and grammar mistakes have a massive negative impacts on both sales and reviews.
Research shows that as soon as people spot a spelling mistake on a website they’ll often leave it because they fear it’s fraudulent. This is applicable to our Amazon product pages.
Another survey of 5,500 American singles in 2016 by online dating site Match.com found that 39% of participants judged the suitability of others on the platform by their spelling and grammar. This ranked as more important than their smile!
Don't skimp over proofreading your book and the Amazon product description. Issues in the book will lead to negative reviews and issues on the product page will lead to lost sales.
For audiobooks, the narrator you choose is critical. Spelling grammar and formatting aren’t noticed (a good narrator fixes them when reading and hopefully tells you about them) but the tone and speed of the narrator is.
In most cases, reading the book yourself seems to be ideal. People seem to be far more critical of professionals who are subpar than they are of amateurs trying to better connect with their readers.
#3 Inaccurate or Outdated Information
Readers immediately lose trust if they read things that are clearly false or no longer apply.
For older print books, we have more room since we can't go and edit every book that was printed.
However, we are responsible for updating the content of our books as times and details change.
You don't have to do this of course (you can't sign away your life to obsessively updating your content) but prepare for some negative reviews if your book has a large amount of information that is outdated.
#4 Aggressive Upsells
Not every author is trying to make money with their book sales. Many books in the nonfiction space are little more than sales pitched disguised as quality content.
If you have a high ticket offer to sell, just know that it will inevitably lead to some negative reviews. If that's ok with you, go for it.
#5 “Fluff” and Redundancy
One of my personal issues with the book industry is the unwritten rule that a successful book needs to be thick and have a certain page count to be considered legitimate.
Have you ever read a book that should have been a blog post?
Even if the content is great, no one appreciates redundancy and fluff.
Don't insult your readers by wasting their time with fluff. If your book only requires 70 pages, make it 70 pages.
Additional Steps to Prevent Negative Reviews and Lessen Their Impact
Ok, we've covered some of the reasons people leave negative reviews on books, now let's discuss about things we can do proactively to avoid them.
#1 Read Your Competitors Reviews First.
Success leaves clues and so does failure. When I wrote my book, I read every review of the books on the topic.
I saw negative things like.
- “Not for beginners like advertised.”
- “A long winded sales pitch for a high ticket program.”
I also saw positive things like.
- “Shows real world examples.”
- “Loved the diagrams.”
- “Chapter summaries made it much easier to remember concepts.”
I kept these in mind as I wrote my book.
#2 Reply Professionally to Any Negative Reviews.
According to Search Engine Land, Amazon favors authors who quickly reply to questions and reviews.
Replying to customers negative reviews can have other benefits as well.
According to TrustPilot, when customers are satisfied with a company's response, 13% will delete their negative review and a whopping 43% of will actually change their negative review to a positive one . if they receive a satisfactory reply from the company (in this case the author).
Many customers (readers) just want acknowledgement and an apology. Don't miss out on replying properly to negative reviews.
The example above isn't a review of a book, but the concept holds true. Notice how they changed their review just because of a great reply from the company?
Also, showing that you read and reply to negative reviews can have a positive impact on potential buyers who are reading them. If someone has a complaint and you answer it clearly and professionally, buyers may view it as less negative.
#3 Ask for Reviews
This will not only help bury the negative reviews, it will have an impact on future buyers. If a book has 1,000 5 star reviews and a 4.9 average rating, people will be more likely to view it with rose tinted glasses.
Just be sure to follow Amazon's review guidelines if you proactively seek reviews.
- Negative book reviews are inevitable and won't impact your sales as long as your average total rating is still high (4.5 stars and above see little negative impact).
- The most important step is obvious, make your book as high quality as possible.
- Other not so obvious steps include ensuring that your book title and description delivers on the content inside (don't mislead customers), ensure your book is free of typos and grammar mistakes, avoid excessive upsells, ensure information is accurate and don't waste the reader's time with "fluff" content.
- Respond to negative reviews professionally and completely.
- Work to proactively drive positive reviews to offset the inevitable few negative ones.