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When good buzz goes bad

Our guest blogger today is Gretchen Hirsch, chief surgeon at Midwest Book Doctors, a Columbus, Ohio-based editorial firm that helps writers prepare manuscripts for representation or publication. In her nearly 30-year career, Gretchen has written countless articles and nine fiction and nonfiction books, several of which are award-winners. Her most recent work is Your Best Self-Published Book: How to write it. How to edit it.

When good buzz goes bad

By Gretchen Hirsch

Even before you finished your book, you were deep into your buzz-building marketing plan.

You created e-mail lists, scoured rosters of reviewers, and lined up friends and family reviews.

You arranged for a book launch online and in store, wrote your tweets for distribution, and built a website and Facebook page.

You taped a trailer.

You alerted your media contacts.

You did these things on your own if you self-published or in concert with your publisher if you worked with a traditional publishing house. Every bit of your preparation was perfect.

Your book was released and everything went as it was supposed to. Initial sales were brisk.

But now, the unthinkable has happened. The five-star family and friends reviews have dried up, replaced by a stream of jarring one-star assessments.

What to do now

You’re allowed one hour of self-pity. Then look at the reviews again and ask yourself three questions:

1. Do you see trends in the criticism?

Are reviewers citing one or two issues consistently? Readers will forgive a typo, but they have less patience with repeated misspellings or recurrent grammatical errors.

Are they complaining about sloppy research? Then these folks are doing you a favor. They’re telling you what you need to work on as you continue to write. Open that Great Big Dictionary more often. Buy an eighth-grade grammar book and brush up on what you’ve forgotten.

Check and recheck dates, ages, locations, and facts as you write, and do it again when the book is finished. The devil is in the details, and if you don’t give the details the attention they deserve, reviewers will rebuke you for it.

2. Is the reviewer credible?

If you receive a particularly savage review, check other critiques that person has posted. Often you’ll find that he or she reviews more hair care products and toys than books, and you may discover the reviewer never provides positive commentary on a book.

These folks delight in giving even exceptional work a thrashing. You could psychoanalyze that behavior from here to breakfast, but don’t waste your time. Ignore them.

3. Is there anything you can do?

If you’re traditionally published, you may have to grin and bear it.

When good buzz goes badSelf-publishing offers an option, though. Pull the book and fix the errors, perhaps with the help of an outside editor. I did this recently when mistakes I thought had been eliminated in the final proof cropped up again in the published version. It was my fault, not the publisher’s, because I had inadvertently approved the wrong draft–the one that hadn’t been looked at by my proofreader.

Yes, making corrections may cost you some money, and you have to weigh that decision, but think of it as an investment in your long-term success.

Readers want a quality book. Do everything you can to give them one. Mistakes can be valuable, and even bad buzz can serve a useful purpose.

(Learn how to get reader and literary reviews in “How to Get Honest Book Reviews in 3 Easy Steps.” Read the details online and register now.)

What’s the worst thing that has happened with your book since it was launched? And the best? 

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