When a writer friend or fellow Fictorian tells me they just got a one-star review on Goodreads or Amazon, my teeth clinch and I wince. Getting a one-star review isn’t quite like being hit in the stomach with a baseball bat, but more so pounded in the chest with a meat tenderizer.
There is one glimmer of respite: you’re not alone in that ridiculous one-star review that didn’t even get the name of your characters right. You’re not the only one who asked yourself if the reviewer actually saw the words on the page, because it says right there on page 13 that Mary’s mother was an ex-CIA agent bomb specialist, hinting that she could have prior knowledge of how to deactivate bombs. Just saying. It’s on page 13. Not even 20 pages into the book. But, you know, maybe the reviewer couldn’t see words.
Even veteran writers get one-star reviews that are ridiculous or extremely rude, or both (it’s like a crap sandwich).
WARNING: Language. These authors use language.
WARNING: Language. These authors use more language.
But Children’s books. Those are safe, right?
And if you think there are still some sacred texts free from scathing reviews, I’d urge you to look up reviews for The Holy Bible. “Badly edited, poor continuity and internal consistency. Authors seem to change between books. Plot is cliched and thin, with virtually no character development save for Judas Iscariot,” says one reviewer. While some of these reviews are clearly written in jest, just remember, no work is safe from other people’s opinions.
But you as the author can past these scathing reviews by reminding yourself that you aren’t alone. Rant to your friends if you must, but keep it private. Don’t add any fuel to the fire. Your friends and other writers can help you through some of the personal attacks, and help bolster you up against the attacks on your book. Remember, what you see online are opinions. Everyone’s got them, and they don’t really matter. But your happiness DOES matter. Protect it, and keep close friends nearby who also want you to be happy.
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One star reviews are no biggie, as long as they talk about the work, but I think personal attacks on the author are unacceptable, especially if those attacks manifest into stalking or something more sinister. I don’t think authors should just sit back and be quiet about that kind of thing. And trust me, it does happen. It happens a lot.
I try hard to be constructive when I leave a review, even if I totally hated what I read and am giving it a 1 or 2 star rating. I usually spend at least an hour writing and editing my reviews – especially if they’re low ratings. I try to mention at least one thing that worked or that I liked and be clear about what didn’t work for me, why, and what the author might want to do to improve it.
I’ve been called names, had the author’s friends mark my reviews as unhelpful simply because they’re low (as if that’s going to make the review disappear!?!), and been trashed in social media.
I’m not asking to be thanked, obviously, but at least recognize that I gave my critique (aka “criticism”) serious thought that extended beyond “It sucked, ya loser!” into the arena of “I want to help you better your writing”. Maybe that’s arrogant, but having an author (or their friends) vote my review as unhelpful doesn’t invalidate my opinion or make what I wrote less important for consideration.
Thank you for your thoughts, Melissa and Rosa!
I, like you, Rosa, spend quite a bit of time writing and editing book reviews for books that I’m ranking 1-star and 2-star. I want to be sure my opinion is clear, but also mention that it’s really just my opinion. I like to also have a sentence where I explain how I can understand how people would like the book, and maybe the book would be for them if they liked this story element, or this kind of character.
I also used to say that I could see how someone else would like it, but I was told that it sounded condescending. Like, “Well, I can see how someone with lower standards or bad taste in literature would like this.” I was also told it made my review “confusing”, like I was apologizing for not liking it, or trying to “kiss the author’s butt” so they don’t get mad at me. *eye roll* I guess my reviews get one-star comments, too! LOL