Single Star Blues


I’m late to the game with this post from satirist Andy Borowitz, “Hillary Considers Dropping 2016 Bid After Reading One-Star Reviews on Amazon, but it made me laugh aloud. “Secretary Clinton said that she was “shattered” to discover that dozens of people had apparently purchased her book on its first day of publication, read all six hundred and fifty-six pages in one sitting, and judged the finished product so unsatisfactory that it only merited one star on Amazon.”

Clinton, of all people, must be thick-skinned by now (she’s been a cherished target for decades) but authors of all sorts, successful, struggling, aspiring, award-winning, do take those one star reviews to heart–even when it’s pretty clear that the review has little bearing on the work at hand.  Or is part of a “vast right wing conspiracy.” But, as we all know, an unjust attack is not as bad as a trenchant criticism that fillets a work on reasonable grounds.  Those are worse, and writing demands a baseline conviction that what you’ve produced is worth sharing.  Bad reviews and rejections can shake that conviction, but writers know (or must remind themselves) they need to soldier on.

So, what’s your best advice on dealing with a bad review? Would a lascerating review prompt you to give up your run for the nation’s highest office (or similar dream?)

6 Responses to Single Star Blues

  1. I actually wrote about this on a crime fiction site called Do Some Damage this week, (I appoint my husband as troll buster to filter my reviews), but with that said, I also heard something very interesting from one of the top publicists in book publishing. She told a story about how a blogger had given one of her authors a one-star review. The author thanked the reviewer for reading and said she hoped the reviewer would like her next book better. As it turned out, the reviewer loved the author’s next book and gave it five stars. But here’s the rub — the book that had received the one star sold like mad and the one that had received five stars? Not so much.
    That’s a good example for authors to keep in mind when they receive a one star review. After all, my goal as a writer is to be the best writer I can be and to get my books into as many hands as possible.

  2. Cyn says:

    As no stranger to bad reviews, my first step is ignoring them. When that fails, which it usually does in a moment of weakness, I google my favorite books and read the one-star reviews of them. All books, even the classics, have their haters. Authors can’t escape or control bad reviews; the only thing you can control is the quality of the next book you write, so get on that instead.

  3. Katie Newingham says:

    I hope Hillary doesn’t give up. No one can attentively read and process 600+ pages in a day. She has overcome so much in life and is prepared for this hard role – though she will face more scrutiny.

    Having never had an official bad review, yet, I can’t speak to this issue, but I don’t write reviews: good or bad. I mean I tweet the good stuff. My opinion is only one and I wouldn’t want my thoughts to negatively affect someone’s work. That said, don’t give up! <~ note to self.

  4. Depends on the review… there are some that are easy for me to discount because a)some reviewers just don’t like anything, b)the reviewer was predisposed to dislike the book for whatever reason or even c)the reviewer is confusing my book with one of the other half-dozen ones she or he read in one sitting, in one night. That’s happened. Twice.

    (I also got this once: “stupid wrting and lazy didnt like AT ALLL!!”)

    On the other hand, if I get consistent reviews that point out a particular flaw (or several of them), then that’s something to think about. At this point I’m pretty aware of what people liked about my debut and what they didn’t like, and I’m taking all of that into account as I write my next one…

  5. D. C. DaCosta says:

    Pfft. As long as the reviewer paid for the book, you’ve got your money and all is well.

  6. John Adams says:

    Please, don’t anybody tell her about GoodReads.

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