Most writers are concerned about reviews. I know this because I read their posts in various author groups of which I am a part or follow. The question comes up frequently, “How do I go about getting reviews?” What they mean of course, is good reviews. Those that, in Amazon speak, are four and five stars. Before I was self published, I never paid much attention to reviews. If I purchased a book, I didn’t bother to see what other readers thought, or if I did, it didn’t really sway me one way or the other. Now that I know more about reviews, it still doesn’t.
I got a one star review over the holidays. It was for one of my romance novels, the fourth in a series. The gist of the review went something like this: “Tried to read this because a friend did. Couldn’t finish it. No one should ever spend any time or money on any book by this author.” I see this kind of review all the time- not for my books, but for books in general on Amazon. But here’s the thing about this particular review. I knew who wrote it, because even though the person tried to stick an alias at the end of it, it linked to their Amazon account and was clearly displayed under their real name. I also knew this person had never read the book. It was written by a relative who was angry at me over something that happened over the holidays and the one star review was an attempt to hurt my book sales in retaliation. Thankfully I was able to have it removed by calling someone else and asking them to intervene. But it made me wonder how many one star reviews and even two star reviews are legit.
Certainly they aren’t all written out of spite like this one was, from someone who knows the author. But most of them read the same way. They attack the characters and say they didn’t care what happened to them. They say the reader couldn’t finish the book. And then there is that warning to run far away and not waste time and money on the author’s books, as if they are saving the world. What are they saving mankind from?
While my review hurt because I understood the mean spirit behind it and it was a personal attack, I don’t think most of those one stars out there are from people who know the author. What I do believe is this: that they didn’t like the book. Which is okay, but why do you feel that you need to post something that can potentially hurt someone’s career? Would you like it if anyone out there could post a review on your job performance? I also think, since many one star reviews have a common theme that it is possible, as with the now infamous ‘sock puppet’ reviews that someone is paying people to write bad reviews too. But reviewers, before you write that scathing review, pause a moment and ask yourself why you are about to do so.
Is it because someone else wrote a book you wished you had written? If so, then it’s not okay to write that review and actually post it. Is it because you found a few grammatical or formatting errors? Still probably not a good reason to rant. If you otherwise liked the story, then say you liked the story and give them a three. If you found something truly objectionable or morally wrong with the book and it offended you, then maybe its okay to write that review. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. One of the highest rated historical novels on every book list is sitting on my book shelf right now because I, even though I a consider myself well read and even literary-minded, haven’t been able to read past page 20. Have I written a one star review about the book? No. And I won’t.
Reviews may or may not affect book sales. It’s kind of hard to track that kind of data. Some say the one stars just balance out the fives. Authors, take them with a grain of salt. Not everyone is going to love what you’ve written. If you are already having a bad day, then don’t go read reviews that day. It’s an opinion and that’s all. And usually not by someone who knows you.
And readers and potential reviewers please remember that the book you are about to diss was written by a real person who is eventually going to read it. It’s a book. Not cancer research. (And for goodness sake, if you are going to criticize the author for typos make sure you don’t have any of your own. Another common thread of one star reviews.)
The bottom line: Opinions are personal and they are your own. But being mean is just…being mean.
If you’d like, please check out my books at http://booksbylynnmurphy.com