“Hit me with your best shot! Fire away…!”
Book reviews are an interesting case study, but there is a distinct psychology behind them. When I’m surfing online bookstores for new books to read or even anticipating new releases of some of my favorite authors, I cannot help but notice those glaring “1 Star” reviews. I admit it, they make me shudder a little.
Are “1 Star” book reviews legitimate (for the most part) or are they from spiteful, unhappy people with too much time on their hands?
Here are some classic quotes that I randomly found from various books throughout Amazon:
“worst book I ever read”
“too many typos and couldn’t read”
“waste of time”
“author should pay me”
Here are some big clues to reviews that are written by someone with an ax to grind or just the fact that they hate seeing so much praise for a particular author:
- The review is the ONLY one they’ve written under a certain name (it’s simple to set up new emails).
- All of their reviews are similar in content (or exactly the same), usually one or two sentences.
- There is no constructive comment as to why they didn’t care for the book (characters, storyline, etc.), just that it sucked.
- They explained that they didn’t like the particular genre, but read it anyway to give it a bad review.
- Sometimes the review just doesn’t make any sense.
My take on 1 star reviews is that everyone has an opinion and generally are not afraid to use it. If someone has taken the time to post a review, whether a 1 or 5 star rating, and they explain in an intelligent manner why they loved or hated the book. I commend them, no matter what rating they gave – even if it’s my own book. It gives credibility to the book, reader, and the overall written book review.
If someone doesn’t like a book, it usually means that the reader is outside the intended target audience. For example, a person who loves erotic romance wouldn’t necessarily like science fiction, but that’s okay because there’s always something learned from it.
From the January issue of The Writer, there was an interesting article titled, Can bad reviews be good for book sales? by Chuck Leddy:
“While bad reviews can certainly damage author egos, a new study from Stanford University suggests something surprising: Bad reviews can actually lead to increased sales, especially when the author is unknown. The authors of the study suggest that even bad reviews increase consumer awareness of a new author. And while the reader of a poor review may remember the bad impression it leaves behind, the negative impression soon wears off.”
For all you fellow authors out there, take heart and don’t worry about “1 Star” reviews. If it’s a legitimate review, take note and don’t fixate. It’s all a part of the process of being an author.
Please feel free to leave me a comment. Would love to hear your opinion of “1 Star” book reviews.
* * *
That is interesting. I have read that most people begin to get 1 star reviews when their books have gained traction and reached a large audience. So in a certain way 1 star reviews are a sign of success. Next thing you know no-name authors struggling to “make it” will begin requesting 1 star reviews to make their books look like they are reaching a wide audience, LOL!
Disclaimer-I am a no-name author and I won’t be doing that.
I was thinking the same thing Rolando said — should I start asking for 1-star reviews? Nah… If it happens, it happens, but I certainly won’t solicit them.
But it’s true, the 1-star reviews I’ve read are petty and unthinking. Why would anyone even read a book that offends him so? Or do they not even read it? When I open a book I dislike, I don’t keep reading; and I certainly don’t review it. (I can’t review a book I haven’t read, after all. And why waste my time reading something I hate?) But some people seem to take a perverse pleasure in extreme negativity.
Do 1-star reviews affect my opinion of the book they bash? Probably not. The reviews that influence me are the ones that actually say something. One-stars say more about the reviewer than they do about the book or its author.
I agree. The majority of the 1 star reviews I’ve read are just a couple of short sentences and very unhelpful to the author and other readers. There are exceptions and that is fine, but by and large most don’t make the grade.
I’m gonna be honest here: I am far more likely to give a one star review than a five star review. Most reviews I write are in the 3-4 star range, but I can think of only one or two books that have merited a 5 star.
The number one reason I will give a bad review (1 or 2 stars) is sloppy editing. That’s not on the author exclusively, but on the entire writing team. It shows a lack of craft, and that’s just shameful in this day and age when we have all these wonderful tools and resources at our disposal.
The second reason is because the book is flat-out offensive. If an author writes scenes using rape as titillation, makes excuses for violence towards women (in a non-historical context), or uses misogynistic language, I may very well DNF the book, no matter how well written. Hate speech against gay, lesbian, or trans* individuals will also result in a DNF and a single star. Racist language outside of the context of the story, again, DNF. Authors should be told when their work is patently offensive, and a 1 star review is one way to do so.
More importantly, I think other readers should be warned about offensive content. Glorification of rape, physical violence, or hate speech is not something I want to read, and if it blindsides me after reading several glowing reviews on Amazon, I get downright angry. I must imagine other readers feel the same way.
I’m neither spiteful nor unhappy. I simply tell my opinions about a book in frank language and let other readers choose for themselves.
I was a reader long before I became a writer, and I can say this: If you write a fantastic book that celebrates the human condition, the flawed, imperfect, beautiful human condition, if you give your characters dignity under duress inspite of their flaws, if you make me want to pick it up and read it again before the last page is turned, you have earned a 5 star review. And when I love something enough to give it 5 stars, you’d better believe everyone of my friends and family will have a copy of it within 6 months, because I won’t stop badgering them until they read it so we can discuss.
Be that writer, and the one star reviews won’t matter because they can’t touch the joy you brought to the people who gave you five stars.
I normally check out the author and the book before I read it, so I know if it probable I will like it. I don’t give bad reviews, instead I contact the authors and give then a set of suggestions to improve their books. If the story is great the editing has to be VERY sloppy for me not to like the story. I know people that get bent out of shape about a handful of typos and some comas out of place. I am not this type of reader. For me a good story often trumps imperfect editing. And the reason is simple. You are so drawn into the story that you don’t notice the flaws in editing!
Mmm. I don’t mind the occasional typo, that’s not likely to get me too worked up. When I say “sloppy editing” I mean basically unedited: pushed out the door without proofreading. Lots of typos, lots of misuse of homonyms, etc. Things that are easily fixed with attention to detail. More of an issue with authors who self publish, but I’ve seen sloppy editing from traditional publishers as well. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s why we have editors. MS word spell-check does not replace the skills of a competent editor.
Pingback: This week’s Links and Reads « Hunter's Writing
Jennifer…thanks so much for starting this discussion on your blog. I recently was criticized on my review of a book by a little known author. In fact many of my books are from new authors… in any event I took advantage of the comment to also write blog entries to let people know or remind them of my method of ranking. There is absolutely no ability to claim that ranking is an effective system because most times it is based purely on personal opinion instead of some type of unbiased opinion (which I try to include personal in my actual review). Like above, I do not read/review books when I realize that I will not continue reading the book (about 50 pages) If I had the time, I could go out and rank it one or two, but I feel in order to rank it, I should have read the entire book to be able to effectively explain why. I then use 3/4 when there are issues that I address in my review. I do use 5 most of the time, purely because of the ranking system…there are no further options! I have found after thousands of books, if I cut out personal issues such as not particularly liking the genre and similar thoughts, that most books are basically a good book…I use a maximum of 30 errors to be willing to review a book) So, why not give it a 5? If there is really no reason not to recommend it to people who might be interested (and I normally clarify that in my review when it was not a book I particularly enjoyed)
I have a couple of polls started on my Facebook Reviewers Roundup about this topic…Would welcome all of your readers to add their comments there (even a cut and paste from here would be helpful…we have about 2300 people talking books there so any feedback will be useful!
One star reviews. They do smart to receive. I’ve been fortunate/lucky/deserving in that my books have been well-reviewed. My first book, Numenon, found its niche and was #1 ranked in three categories of mysticism and way up there in the Kindle rankings for about a year. Newbie that I was, I didn’t realize how well the book was doing and it took it for granted. I thought it would be that way forever. (Now, I wish that I’d taken a screen shot of my rankings.)
But sure enough, the book got around enough to pick up some readers outside of its target audience. Lower reviews crept in. And then I got the one-star review. Whoa. Did she roast me. Spent some time at it, too. The tone of her review was totally different than everyone else’s, not just negative, but picking up on stuff that no one else did. And me. She didn’t like me, either.
What effect this have? Oh, Numeon’s sales PLUMMETED. Just dropped out of the sky. They fell and kept falling and never have gotten near what they were. My husband said the book had just run its course, but I find the coincidence between the one-star review and the sales plunge compelling. Numenon has gotten a bunch of five star reviews since, but they haven’t made a difference.
So, I only give 5 star reviews and only to books I feel truly deserve them. There’s lots to do in life beside evaluate books.
Pingback: Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts from Readers in 2013 | Author Jennifer Chase