The 1-star Review

The 1-star Review


It happens. You're celebrating your latest release. Or checking in on your book babies. And there, popping out at you, is the worst thing to happen to your day. 

The one-star review. 

I've never met one that didn't elicit some sort of emotional response in me. 


Emotion #1: ANGER

Some reviews are designed for one reason - to mock and make fun of the story that you just spent months (or years) creating, molding, perfecting. I've had ones that accuse me of being a man, ones that call the characters I personally associate with vapid or annoying. I've read words specifically engineered to get as much of a reaction as possible.  


And I reacted. I screamed. I threw things. I ranted and raved and wrote scathing responses that I NEVER EVER SENT. I contained my meltdown in the confines of my house and with my poor family. 


Here's a golden piece of advice that you should take to heart. NEVER PUBLICLY REACT. TO ANYTHING. Reviews aren't the only thing that will create anger in us. There will be readers who create chaos. Drama with bloggers. Book pirates. Other authors that spread rumors or act out. My husband has been the victim of a hundred heated reactions where I felt the need to expound on all of my feelings regarding a hundred different scenarios.  

But I've never taken my emotions online. Just don't. It doesn't matter if your opinion is solid gold. It doesn't matter if a hundred people comment and agree or sympathize with you. If your emotions are negative, then they shouldn't be attached to your brand. PERIOD. I receive emails and messages on a weekly basis from readers who appreciate that my brand and social media sites are drama-free and consistently positive.  


Emotion #2: SHAME

Here's the rub - sometimes the negative reviews are right. Sometimes they point out plot holes that I didn't see, or inconsistencies that do exist, or that my ending was rushed, facts were wrong, or tone was off. Sometimes I read a one-star review and realize that EVERYTHING IT POINTS OUT IS TRUE. 

And, let me tell you, it HURTS.  

It makes me want to never write again. It makes me want to take my book down, never show it to another person, and go back to my old job. It makes me feel worthless and untalented and just plain dumb. It doesn't matter if I just read fifty glowing reviews. One bad review can kill that high instantly. BLAM. DONE. AUTHOR DOWN. 


So what do you do? New York Times Bestseller Douglas E Richards had some great advice when I spoke to him. He suggested pulling up a wildly popular book that you love. Harry Potter, for instance. Or Carrie by Stephen King. Go and read their one-star reviews. Trust me, they will have hundreds, you'll have lots to comb through. Read them and understand that this is a struggle that every author faces. It doesn't matter how talented you or your book is. Someone won't love it. Someone will find, or invent, issues with it. 


You are not alone and you have lots of talented individuals to keep you company. 


Emotion #3: REVENGE


Don't laugh. When you read some one star reviews - the really really terrible snippy and hateful ones ... you want to hunt that reviewer down and pick them apart. You want to throw barbs back, and inflict pain, and do SOMETHING, and often that something is to comment on their review or send them a private message or email. 


DON'T. There is nothing worse that you could do. Step away, take a deep breath, and forget them. Focus on something positive, push them out of your head, and MOVE on. I once read a horror story about an author who tracked down a Goodreads reviewer, found out her real name, and showed up at her house. It absolutely ruined the author's reputation, destroyed her book sales, and caused her book to be flooded with hundreds of one-star reviews.  Maybe you're scoffing at me right now, thinking that surely ONE intelligent comment, maybe even a NICE one, thanking them for their opinion, couldn't hurt anything. It will. First of all, it will tell Amazon or Goodreads or whatever site the review is left on, that that review is more important than others because it now has a comment attached to it. Which is something that we obviously don't want. Secondly, anytime an author comments on a review, even a positive review, it can be viewed as invasive. When an author comments on a negative review, it can cause that reviewer to rally, in places that you will never see, among other reviewers and call you things like "stalker" and "obsessive". 


One-star reviews are a part of every author's life. It's part of the equation. Just remember the basic rules (breathe, ignore it, focus on the positive) and you will survive this one, and the next. I promise.  


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