Being the author of a published book is a lot like being a customer service rep, at a place of business. No one wants to think of it that way at first. After all, what kid ever dreamed of being a customer service rep when they grew up?
But as the face of the brand, when someone hates your book (and someone always will!), you’ll likely be the first person they come to about it. So what do you do when this happens to ensure it doesn’t blow up into something ten times worse than what it started as?
There is no one-size fits all approach to the situation. Readers and reviewers are all different, and will go about their dissatisfaction in different ways. Whatever route they choose, here are a few of the ways you can help to fix the situation.
Be Easy to Reach
Some people will hate your book, roll their eyes and toss it into a forgotten pile. Those are not the readers you need to be worried about. Art is subjective, and not everyone will love what you have to say.
The reader you want to watch out for is the one who will want you to know, in no uncertain terms, how they feel. The easier you are to reach, so they can unleash their wrath directly, the less likely they are to write an entire blog post about how much they hate the book.
No one wants to receive messages about how much someone hates something they poured their heart and soul into. But this is a much better option than having an entire 500 – 2500 blog post about it online.
Ensure your readers have a direct line of contact to you via your website, an email address, or social media. Do not make your social media accounts private. If you must have a private account, then create another for the public. Facebook and Twitter are your two best options.
When it comes to unpleasantness online, many people will tell you the mature answer is to mute, block, and/or ignore. This is great advice, until it comes to your book. Why? Because if the person doesn’t get the frustration out of their system from speaking directly to you, then they will move on to larger forums out of spite.
The longer you let them boil and simmer, the more likely they are to spit deadly fire in the direction of your book. If the book is recently released, or you are an indie author with very few reviews, having 1-star ratings pop up on Amazon, Goodreads, and several blogs is not an easy thing to deal with. But it is easy for them to do.
While you are under no obligation to pander to a troll, acknowledge their dissatisfaction. Do not ignore them. Besides, as many writers will tell you, some of the worst critique they ever received of their work, contained some of the best advice for their improvement.
A standard response that is likely to keep the peace?
I am sorry you did not enjoy my book, but do thank you for bringing it to my attention. I will take all you have said into consideration, as I continue to work on future projects. Thanks again.
Act on Your Persona
While pacifying the dissatisfied reader is often the best approach, it is not the best approach for everyone. If you are a writer of controversial topics and sassy characters, a bit of sass may serve you well. However, keep in mind that this can backfire and is a tactic best left to the witty, quick thinkers.
Many authors have mastered the art of shaming trolls who attempt to drag them through the mud, and often have the support of their readers when they do so. They may choose to out trolls, shine the light on their nefarious activities, and silence them by besting them in public.
My human, Alex, for instance, though mostly amused and rarely offended by terrible critiques, generally chooses that route over pacifying when it comes to her personal blog and her fiction. Think of her as the author version of Wendy’s.
It works for her, because any other response would be out of character. Her writing covers a lot of controversial topics in fact and fiction, which are always written under the influence of her quick wit and fluent sass. That is not the work of a pacifier, but the work of an outspoken activist.
Keep in mind, however, that this puts you at risk of being blasted online. If you are not prepared to suffer the consequences and risks of taking on trolls and truly dissatisfied readers, stick to pacifying.
Offer a Refund
One of the great things about online shopping is how quick online stores usually are to issue a full or partial refund if you are unsatisfied with the product. Obviously, many people abuse this system; claiming dissatisfaction with a product they loved, just so they can get their money back. But, it has its virtues.
If a reader is truly dissatisfied with your book, especially to the point that they didn’t finish it, offer them a refund if possible. This is unlikely to be something you can do every time someone makes a complaint, so you will have to look at each individual case and save this remedy for the worst of the worst ie the people most likely to stir trouble online if not appeased.
Hire a Community Manager
Whether the particular situation requires a partial refund, a dose of sass, or extra doses of patience, you may not want to deal with these instances as an author. Some people are more sensitive than others, or would just rather spend their time actually working on their novel, than managing the PR behind it.
If this is you, then your best bet is to hire a community manager. A community manager checks your reviews online, your social media mentions, and mentions of your book, to ensure that all is well. If all is not well, then they are responsible for resolving those issues on your behalf, as best as they can.
Meanwhile, you get to focus on what you do best. Writing. Do you need a community manager to speak with a few dissatisfied readers, or deflect a few trolls? I’d be happy to help! Just shoot me an email to get started.
About the Author
Shadow the PR Cat is the Goodwill Ambassador at Alexis Chateau PR, and head of the firm’s indie author division. His job includes tweeting, taking selfies, rolling in catnip, and advocating for animal rights and social equality. Follow his kitty adventures on Twitter as @ShadowThePRcat.