Is your first response to a bad review to hide your head or reach for a tub of ice cream?
Here are a few surprising statistics that might change how you look at reviews, bad ones and good ones.
First, here's a stat that's probably not so surprising. The Taliest Self-Publishing survey as saying that having your book reviewed by one of Amazon's top 5000 reviewers can boost your sales up to 32%.
Amazon publishes their top 1000 reviewers, some with contact info, so those looking for products reviews can look them up. Don't just start spamming every reviewer, though. Not all of them review books, and some may not want to review your genre. Do you research before submitting.
Jonah Berger (University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business) talked about results of a study he was part of on Harvard Business Review regarding the effect of reviews on sales. Across the board, good reviews help sales. Not shocking. What are the numbers, though? Good reviews can increases sales from 32-52%. That seems to apply to authors of any standing, which is not true for bad reviews.
When it comes to bad reviews, being a largely unknown author is a benefit. Why? Berger noted that bad reviews for big time authors/products can decrease sales by about 15%. For the rest of us, bad reviews actually help! By quite a bit! A bad review (even the REALLY bad ones) can boost sales by 45%. Crazy, right? That's what the study said, though.
Why does this happen? Even a nasty review is still making more people aware of your book than knew it existed beforehand. It might even make people curious. Readers are smart people, too, and they'll want to decide for themselves whether or not your book deserved that awful 1-star commentary. Here's the full report on their findings.
Stanford's Web Credibility Project backs up this idea. They have found that what helps build product credibility (not just with books) are things like comments and reviews. The customer doesn't have to rely solely on your perfectly worded description, which they know was crafted to make them want to one-click your book. They have regular people's thoughts and recommendations, and the more the better. It gives them confidence.
Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Baba Shiv broke it down to familiarity. He explained that the more familiar it is, the more likely it is that familiarity will factor into their purchasing decision. Familiarity is a positive feeling, overall, but, he admits, it can only take you so far against bad publicity. He also found that more well known books suffered worse from bad reviews.
So what does this mean, other than that grabbing a spoon and a jar of peanut butter shouldn't be your first reaction to a bad review?
It means that if you're a new author breaking into the market, don't get too worked up about a few bad reviews. Chances are, they're doing you a favor. If these reviews have valid complaints, definitely address them in your next book. You seem to have a bit of a grace period as a new author, though. Just be glad someone took the time to write a review and spread the word about your writing. Keep writing, keep improving, and hopefully by the time you become well known enough that bad reviews have more of a negative effect than a positive, you won't be getting many bad reviews :)