Is it a bad book or a bad review?
Finding the ideal reader for your book can be the difference between a bad review and a good review. Bad reviews can be hard to accept as an author but they can also give you insight into your marketing and who is reading your book. They give you a chance to ask “am I reaching the right readers for my book?”
Every author gets bad reviews.
Imagine you’re a novelist looking through Goodreads at some of your new book’s latest reviews and this is what you come across:
This is not an epic, beautiful tale of a wonderful family’s trials, or whatever. It is a long, poorly written story of a family’s sex life.
How does this author take such an interesting and impactful topic and write it so bland, emotionless and boring?
Was this book well written? No. Did I still enjoy it anyway? Also no.
This is the book that made me ignore other people’s recommendations. I have no idea what anyone sees in this piece of trash.
Yikes. You can imagine how hard that feedback would hit a person. They might think the author should hang up his or her hat and find a nice job in a tea shop or selling timeshares.
What if I told you that these were reviews that were left on the recent critically acclaimed books, respectively, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a National Book Award Finalist; The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020; The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, which made nearly every 2020 “best of” list; and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize?
Showing up in front of your ideal reader matters.
Sometimes the wrong person stumbles on your book, and there are just going to be those people who don't like it. But sometimes these bad reviews come from bad marketing, along with targeting the wrong types of readers.
By ensuring you know exactly WHO your reader is, and making a concerted effort to market to that particular audience, you can make sure that reviews like this are far and few between. That they only happen when the wrong reader stumbles across the book.
And it makes sense that most of the reviews are good for these books. Not only are they all great books, they also all have major publishers lined up behind them with loads of expertise in audience targeting. That’s how you know that finding and showing up in front of your ideal reader matters – the big publishers are willing to spend big bucks doing it.
Authors have to know how an ideal reader.
But indie authors and new voices in writing don’t have that luxury. We have to know how to target our ideal reader on our own, and we need to start figuring it out as we are writing, and carry it through our marketing efforts. We need to dig in and do the work early, and constantly check our work! Otherwise, we’ll end up with readers like the ones above who just don’t “get” us. Readers who don’t know why we’re telling this story and hate the way we’re telling it.
I’ve seen reviews like the ones above on books that clients brought to me for relaunches. These books were well-written, urgent, interesting, powerful. And unfortunately, without proper reader targeting, they found an audience who just couldn't connect with them. They left salty reviews. They didn’t check out the back catalog. They didn’t tell a friend, unless it was to tell the friend to “skip this one.”
But when my clients make the small changes needed to their marketing to find and speak to their ideal reader? The great reviews roll in – “I felt like this book was written for me!” – and the sales come, too.
My clients often learn an important (and pretty encouraging) lesson: it wasn’t the quality of the book that was generating the lackluster reviews and sluggish sales. It was merely incorrect targeting in the book marketing.
Getting in Front of Your Target Readers
Click here to join an exclusive workshop with my friend, Belinda Griffin. She’s a book marketing expert who has mastered the art of audience targeting, and she’s coming to share her secrets with us! No matter what your publishing journey looks like, this is the workshop every author needs to connect authentically, leverage publicity and grow their platform! This workshop is now on demand, which means you can watch (rewatch) it anytime!