There are actually three things you can't escape: death, taxes, and bad reviews.
We all receive negative reviews occasionally, and yes, they're pretty tough to handle. We authors pour so much of ourselves into our work that an unfavorable review feels like a slap in the face, a repudiation of our personal worth. Suddenly you wonder why you bother. You've slaved over your book, dedicated weeks, months, even years to the task of bringing it to fruition, and then someone labels it "shallow", or "boring", "cheesy" or "predictable". It's enough to ruin your life (not to mention those of your significant others).
Over time, you learn to cope with those feelings of rejection. First of all, you come to realize that you are not your book. Every individual has different tastes, so you can't please everyone. The fact that someone didn't like what you wrote does not reflect on your status as a human being.
Second, it's clear that the negativity of many reviews is a property of the reviewer - not the book. There are people who get a charge out of being snarky. For some reason, tearing apart someone else's work makes those reviewers feel better about themselves. Sad, isn't it? If you receive a poor review, check out other reviews by the same person. Often you'll find a pattern of criticism, which may in fact have nothing to do with reality. Some consistently negative reviewers may be authors trying to tarnish the reputation of their competition. Others, I think, are frustrated wannabee authors. Some are just people who for some reason enjoy being nasty.
However, with the advent of social networking and instant approval or disapproval - with the ridiculous competition for attention that authors face on Amazon and to a lesser extent other online book outlets - a negative review can definitely impact your sales. Book browsers don't necessarily even take the time to read reviews - they just check the number of stars a book has received. Personally I have a lot of trouble with the concept of reducing a book's quality to a single numeric rating, but it's a fact of life. So, if you receive a bad review from a reader, what should you do? What can you do?
In one of my author groups, members exhort each other to go online and "shout down" bad reviews, by labeling them as "unhelpful" or "disliking" them. I'm ambivalent about this practice.
If a review is deliberately destructive - and if it has no connection to the reality of the book - I can see this kind of mass disapproval might be appropriate. However, if a negative review appears to be an honest expression of the reviewer's opinions, as opposed to an ego trip designed to build the reviewer up by tearing someone else down, I'm definitely not comfortable labeling the review as spam or illegitimate. Sure, it might help sales, but I have to put myself in the reviewer's shoes. If I sincerely didn't like a book, and can say why, I don't want my assessment attacked simply because it's not positive - or even because someone else does not agree with me.
Because yes, I've written bad reviews myself. I review for several sites including Erotica Revealed and Erotica Readers and Writers Association. My books for ER are usually assigned rather than books I request (although I suppose I could object if I were sure I'd hate a book). As a reviewer, I've got to be honest, even if it might be painful for the author. (Heck, I know it will be painful.) I try my best to find something positive to say about a book I don't like, and I'm careful to emphasize that the review is merely my opinion. I'd hate to have somebody jumping on my reviews, though, calling them "unhelpful".
The trouble is that the publishing has become this nightmare world where quality hardly makes a difference. What matters is "buzz". How many people can you get to "like" your book? To mention it on Facebook or Tweet about it? Can you twist all your friends' arms into voting your book as "best", whether they've read it or not? Can you make yourself heard above the roar of the digital crowd?
You know, I hate getting bad reviews. But even more, I hate the way considerations totally divorced from the book itself now determine a book's success. Some of my colleagues tell me that I have to play the game if I want to be noticed. Sorry, but I really don't have the time, the energy, or the stomach for that. To me, that's not what it means to be a writer.
By the way, my BDSM short story collection Just a Spanking is free today and tomorrow at Amazon. If you haven't already got yourself a copy, hop over and snag one now!