Why sharing a one star review is a good thing to do
27 februari 2021
As an author, I appreciate all kinds of reviews. I aim to please with my stories and want readers to immerse themselves into the worlds I create. So, when I get feedback on how much my readers enjoyed the story, naturally, I’m over the moon excited. And even though I personally want all the feedback to be positive, I know this is not realistic. People all want different things and that’s the same with books and storylines.
Authors giving reviews
I’ve been a self-published author for almost 5 years now and the one topic that seems to go directly against my own personal views is sharing a review of another independently published book. The overall advice I see given is that you only share a positive review (4 or 5 stars) and avoid sharing anything negative.
I don’t understand this. Well, I do, but I don’t. It depends on what you call negative. Of course, bashing a book is negative and I think we can all agree that that is not going to be helpful. Not for the author, but certainly not for you, the reviewer.
However, if a one or two star review gives solid and objective reasons why this rating was given, I don’t see a reason why you should not share that review. Especially when you yourself write books, too. It’s not about bashing the book or the writing skills of the author. It’s about helping the author and focussing on better quality in books. It’s about pointing out the flaws in a book and giving the author the possibility to reevaluate those flaws. Let them decide whether or not they are indeed flaws that need to be solved, or whether it’s just someone’s personal opinion and preference.
Consequences of giving negative reviews
The general idea that authors seem to have is that when you share a one or two star review on another book, you will face retaliation. And sure, that might be the case in a few instances, but should that fear prevent you from being honest? If the intention you have with your review is to help the author, and this is reflected in your review, there shouldn’t be a reason not to post a one or two star review.
Writers who lash out and retaliate have some inner work to do. You have to realize that a negative review isn’t personal and shouldn’t be taken as such. Do you think Apple would care if someone said they despised their products? No, because Apple knows those people aren’t their clients. Will it prevent some people from buying the product? Possibly, but those people aren’t your reader anyway.
Of course we want our books to do well, but it’s important to realize that having negative reviews doesn’t 100% decide whether your books do well or not. Be realistic and honest with yourself. If you can’t handle negative reviews, you might have to reconsider publishing your books to the main audience. It’s perfectly fine to just publish for your friends and family. But if you want your book to be available for all readers, and you’re asking for their money, you need to be able to handle all kinds of reviews.
Some authors are a bit in the middle. They don’t post the reviews online, but they do provide their feedback to the author. This is definitely a great thing to do, especially since most authors don’t even read the reviews on their books.
But let me tell you a bit about the experiences I have had reviewing independently published books to give you perhaps a bit of a different perspective; I always buy every book I review. I do this for two reasons.
1) I don’t want the author to pay for a review in the form of giving their book for free. This is my way of supporting them for the hard work they’ve put in their book.
2) By paying the full amount, I turn myself into a reader (instead of a reviewer) and give myself a free pass to be completely honest in the review I’m going to write. If something is given for free, there’s always this idea of having to be thankful and not valuing the product as a product.
I also read reviews before buying a book. What I’ve noticed is that, particularly with independently published books, the reviews are almost always 100% positive. It raises my expectations as a reader…
…only to fall flat into sheer disappointment when the book is riddled with grammar errors and huge plot holes. And these aren’t my personal preferences either. No reader wants to read a book with so many errors in it that it takes away from the enjoyment of the story.
A book blurb can sound absolutely amazing, but the reviews will tell you if the assumptions you make from the blurb will be correct and if it’ll fit your personal preferences. Take for instance the book Shadow and Bone from Leigh Bardugo. It’s been made into a Netflix show and the blurb sounds a-mazing! But when you read the reviews, you’ll get a different perspective. What you feel is important in a story might be talked about in a review, so I always read the reviews before buying any product (not just books).
Based on the blurb I would’ve bought this book in a heartbeat, were it not that more than one review talked about something I find extremely important: being authentic and true to yourself, especially when it comes to love and relationships.
I’ve read too many books where the main character, usually female, is being pressured and insecure and their love interest being overbearing and to put it blunt, a complete a*hole. I don’t get this obsession with relationships between any gender where one is the ‘bad boy’ and the other is the ‘insecure, good girl’.
Based on that review, I’ve left the book in my wishlist.
Now, I understand the need for character development. So, if a character starts off this way but becomes powerful and acts completely authentic at the end, I’m all for it. But that was not what was said in these reviews.
…Also for independently published books
When we take this example and change the author into an independently published author, it’s more than likely that these kind of reviews wouldn’t be posted. And that would mean every reader that’s like me would be disappointed by the story. And who will they blame? The author. It’s more than likely they wouldn’t pick up another one of your books.
Why would we withhold our opinion for independently published books, but not for traditionally published books? Both books are products and it shouldn’t matter who published it. If you believe you’re not supportive of indie authors when you post a negative review, you might want to reconsider what you call supportive. If a book is riddled with spelling errors or huge plot holes and you don’t inform the author, you’re doing more harm than good.
I’ve known authors, who haven’t worked with betareaders and just posted their unedited story on Amazon for other to buy. When presenting them with constructive feedback in a personal manner, they just ignored it. This is why I feel it’s important, after publication of the book, to give that feedback in a public manner.
Our opinion, when given in a constructive and positive manner, helps prevent the reader picking up the book they won’t like and might bash. When I read negative reviews, I skip over the unconstructive ones. I don’t care about the “I didn’t like it” without explanations. I want to read why you didn’t like it, because that tells me if I might not like it either.
The right focus
Selling books is not the most important thing for an author. At least, not to me. It’s creating a positive and authentic relationship with your reader. It’s being honest and truthful about who you are and what you find important. Because readers might only buy one book, but fans will buy multiple.
After all, you can sell 100 books to the right readers, and have them, and their friends, buy your next books. Or you could sell 1,000 books to the wrong readers and not sell a copy to them, or their friends, ever again. People will talk about your book, especially if they’ve had a negative experience.
So, let’s share our true thoughts on every book we read. Let’s make our reader connect to us by not just our book blurbs, but the reviews we give as well.
Disclaimer; all of my blogs are my personal thoughts and opinions. You’re free to disagree with them, and I won’t hold that against you.
Petra is a published Indie author. She’s been writing all her life, but only dared to publish a book when she started writing the Somnia Series. She’s a motivational coach for (Fantasy) writers, offers all kinds of services on her own Dutch platform www.fantasyschrijfcoaching.nl, and uses her author’s website to help other writers achieve their writing goals. She loves using her platform to promote other Indie Authors who have the courage and determination to make their books worth your (reading) time.