John Briggs Books

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What to Do with That One-Star Review

I’ve seen one-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere that make no sense. One reviewer complained that she didn’t know it was a children’s book when she bought it, even though it was clearly listed as a children’s book. She then declared, “This book wasn’t for me.” Well, no kidding!
Another one-star reviewer said he read a book with a dictionary next to him because there were so many big words. This was deliberate on the part of the author because he was mocking pedantic (nickel word!) writers.

So what do these one-star reviews have in common? They never address the quality of the work. They’re just complaints, little more than frustrated observations without professional objectivity – and the Internet has created an explosion in these types of reviews. In the days before web-everywhere reviews, you had to rely on your Uncle Art, who firmly believed no one knew anything, or your cynical friends who took delight in bashing everything they didn’t like.

Well, your Uncle Art and your high-school buddies have a much bigger stage now, and they like to let everybody know what they think.

Steps to Combat the One-Star Review

  1. Ignore. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but you have to accept that bad reviews are part of the game. You simply can’t make everyone happy. In fact, it’s been said that if everyone likes your work, you’re doing something wrong. Some of the greatest novels ever written got bad reviews, so let it go. Responding to a poor review can make you look petty or hypersensitive. Worse, it drags out the argument and puts new attention on it since the reviewer is likely to respond. The reviewer might even encourage his friends to post bad reviews if he feels personally attacked. For some reason, people who write bad reviews are often thin-skinned. Not always, but often.
  2. Encourage positive reviews. When someone buys your book, remind them that, “If you like it, please leave a review…” This encourages them to leave only a positive review by gently suggesting if the reader doesn’t like it, she doesn’t need to advertise it.
  3. Encourage positive reviews, Part II. Amazon, Goodreads, et al, have that dreaded one-through-five star system, but Facebook only has a Like button. If you can, drive readers to your Facebook page where they’ll see plenty of thumbs up and few, if any, negative comments.
  4. Publish your positive reviews. Don’t be afraid to publish the positive reviews you receive. Put them on Facebook, Twitter, your website, etc. It doesn’t erase the negative reviews, but it puts the focus where you want it – on the positive.
  5. Encourage readers to make up their own minds. Studies show that potential readers click on bad reviews first as a way to talk themselves out of buying the book. Your posts, tweets, etc., should encourage people to read your book and contact you with their thoughts. Be sure to stress that you want to hear what they have to say. Their opinions are important, and you should make them feel that way. And if they have positive things to say, then politely ask them to post a positive review on Amazon.
  6. Examine the criticism. Sometimes criticism is valid. If you’re getting a lot of the same kind of comment, take it to heart and either change things in future editions or avoid that mistake with your next book.

I have to admit that I like this opinionated age because I’m in favor of anything that promotes free speech, but it can hurt you professionally. It’s unfortunate that the amateur review has largely replaced the professional review, and it’s too bad that more reviewers don’t have a critical eye toward books, but the explosion in literary opinions matches the explosion in published books – some are great, some are sloppy, and all will find someone who agrees with them. Your job is to follow that old comedy axiom: play to those who are laughing. Find the readers who find your work appealing and get them to stick with you, leave a positive review, and read your next book.

Remember, you’re never as bad as your worst review, and never as good as your best review. Keep writing, keep promoting, and take comfort in knowing that more than likely, more people than not like your book, even if they’re not quite as vocal. Now, good luck, and here’s to getting no negative reviews!

***If you read my book Mary Dyer, Friend of Freedom and liked it, please leave a positive review on either Amazon or Goodreads. It’s greatly appreciated!


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This entry was posted on September 24, 2014 by in Book Marketing, Writing and tagged , .


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