Inverting Bad Reviews

YESTERDAY WAS A LANDMARK occasion in my author adventure.

After 71 combined book reviews across Amazon and Goodreads I received my very first 1-star. Yay!

It isn’t all roses and rainbows once your book goes live. There are always critics – some valid, others…well – perhaps a little misguided in their assertions. Nevertheless, the great ‘democracy’ that is Amazon, empowering every member with a vote, ensures your voice will be heard. That is, of course, a good thing.

I’ve always been honest and open, trying to keep it ‘real’ for aspiring authors, and perhaps encouraging readers to set aside their Lee Child or Harlan Coben thrillers to take a punt on those, like me, who are trying to come at you with an angle that perhaps doesn’t fit a certain mainstream mould.

There can be a lot of cloak and dagger stuff in the indie publishing world. I’ve been trying to demystify some of the process and as part of that, want to display the good and the bad that comes with the territory.

snipsigil
Name hidden, although forever scored in my mind. Ain’t got nothing but love really.

I must confess. Receiving a one-star shook my confidence. If you want to give an indie author insomnia, I’d highly recommend taking that approach. I discovered it late last night and for a moment it made me question the story (SIGIL), my skill (or lack thereof) and my own writing ambitions.

To help put a positive spin on it and put it into perspective, I decided to look at some negative reader reviews against some timeless classics I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Here are a few books and a selection of one-stars that stand out:

  • War and Peace – ‘way to long and boring‘.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone – ‘Lacks magic…very disappointing…writing is average…‘.
  • 1984 – ‘it put me to sleep…I’ve wasted 10 bucks on this incredibly boring book‘.
  • The Lord of the Rings – ‘Aweful…this series is horrible beyond all conception…Tolkien overbloats EVERYTHING to the point where it’s absolutely ridiculous, and I loose tract of the plot amidst unimportant details. Quite frankly my only thought is I DON’T CARE WHO EVERYONE’S FATHER IS, IF YOU WANT ME TO KNOW THEN WRITE A PREQUEL, JUST TELL THE STORY IT IDIOTIC BRIT! I don’t know how someone who wrote something as good as “The Hobbit” could produce this junk.
  • Don Quixote – ‘What an awful book. An old madman cruising the countryside and dragging his poor servant with him. Just an awful book‘.
  • Matilda – ‘I am nine years old and I read this book for school. This book is about giants eating people and I thought it was realy gross. It talks about the giants crunching on people’s bones and stealing kids out of their beds. It is AWFUL. I would not recommend this book to ANYBODY!!!’.
  • Wuthering Heights – ‘Why is this a classic?!Β Dense, boring, overbaked, farfetched, unlikable, humorless.

Now I’m all for injecting a bit of realism into reviews but in my opinion, a one-star would be something filled with spelling mistakes, zero plot with no structured story or compelling characters. None of which I find in the shortlist above where they are widely considered to be classics.

I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to my own work, but it just goes to show-

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time

  • If you have read Sigil and have been affected by the content, please call our special hotline at 01-800-LetsTalk. Agents are standing by to take your call.

spectrum sci fi short story

58 thoughts on “Inverting Bad Reviews

  • In this case, I think you have nothing to worry about. This person wasn’t criticizing your writing. Their main criticism was that the characters in your story spoke like people in real life. This person really needs to buy their mysteries in a Christian Book Store where they are guaranteed that the stories are all sanitized to contain no material offensive to a Christian. There’s nothing wrong with your book in this instance. It’s just a matter of someone pretty really sensitive to the content they’re exposed to.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Good point James. I’ve probably been categorised in a section which might leave me open for criticism from some quarters. Aside from using the odd swear word (using the Lords name) I had actually believed the book to be pro-christian, afterall the main character is a priest. A man but flawed. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  • Honestly. Did the person read anything or just a few character’s names so they could rant about it? Sounds like an old Baptist preacher I knew back in the days I went to a church..ranting off and not making a lot of sense. He should probably just stick to the new testament..after all there is a bunch of stuff in the old to horrify a person.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Got to 4% which would be about 8 pages of the book before pressing the delete button. Hopefully I’ll have a few positive reviews on the US site of Amazon to bring that average rating back up again. Great to hear from you again Suze!

      Liked by 4 people

      • As someone that would check reviews before buying a book I didn’t know much about on Amazon… this one star would have been marked as not helpful by me. While it may bring your average down slightly, there are plenty of us who actually look at what the negative ones even were to see if they are valid enough to outweigh any of the most positive ones. It’s rare to find something with no negative reviews of some sort – most people understand that and take reviews with a grain of salt as necessary.

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  • Something to look forward to when I start putting my own stuff out there, although your 1 star review actually made me laugh. Doesn’t sound like you have anything to be doubtful about in your writing. Also, no-one can please everyone, it’s just satisfying that small minority who think like you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  • You get reviews at least and it sounds like most of them are reasonably good. Focus on them, they’re where it’s at. There’s always going to be someone who is not happy, as the arts are by nature subjective. I’ve only received one review for my published works buried deep in the Amazon pile and that was 2 stars from a relative who thought as a Christian I would not write such stuff as horror.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Imkling for your kind words. There are a tonne of resources out there to help connect your book to readers who, in exchange for a free read, will happily review and publish it online. One that springs to mind is Story Cartel. If you aren’t on Goodreads, you should consider setting up an author profile – this is a good way to run giveaways and get loads of eyeballs on your books too. I’ve got so much more to say about this but you might find something of value in my self-publishing section – https://aidanjreid.com/self-publishing-archive/
      2 stars from a relative though? That’s pretty mean!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know my dad, an evangelical Christian, has not reviewed my books… but he did throw a hissy fit about me putting “unchristian” content out into the world and said I should be concerned with what “God the Father” would think. Puh-leease. If he had even deigned to read it in the first place, I’m sure he would not have given it a good review either because – OMG sex and language! LOL

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  • I understand being offended by taking the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t do it. Personally. But I don’t care if others do, as they are responsible for their own lives and we have free speech. I definitely don’t care if a CHARACTER in a book says it. It’s a character. I get the anger at words, but it has nothing to do with the book. And people will see that.
    I applaud you for putting a positive lens on this. It must be hard nonetheless.
    I’ve read toms of books that used the Lord’s name in vain. It has nothing to do with content. I want to read your book now, lol!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for the considerate comment Teacher. Nothing like a bit of controversy eh? πŸ™‚ I don’t mind bad reviews, but when you don’t have a whole stack of reviews to begin with, a negative review brings the whole weighted average down (despite there being two 5 stars and two 4 stars against it). So, it’s a bit of a repair job I need to do now to try and get not only people to read the book, but then to convince them to leave a review when they’ve finished! The joys of marketing eh?

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  • ouch! that hurt, didn’t it–not so much the words as there would be a limited number who took that as condemnation of your book over all, but the impact a 1 star has on your rating average. I got a 1 star on goodreads one time and followed it back and asked why, as I thought I might be able to fix the problem. she apologized and said she hadn’t read the book; just accidentally hit that and would “fix” it. of course, it can’t be fixed. she hadn’t read it? gimme a break!

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    • Absolutely! I don’t mind critical feedback but when the feedback isn’t actually about the content of the book, it sure does put a spoke in the wheels! Hopefully in time that one star well be shown to be an anomaly but I need to start stacking on 4’s and 5 until such point. Thanks for commenting!

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  • Well good God, man! πŸ˜‰
    Glad you’ve been able to put a positive spin on the review. A have a friend whom announced she had “made it” when she got her first negative review (overshadowed by many glowing ones from non-friends or relatives, and later nominations for awards). Hopefully it means good things lie ahead for you, too!

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  • Rating a book one star because it is out of your comfort zone is in poor form (just my opinion). How can you truly review or rate anything you have not completed or experienced? Reviews are great feedback and negative ones can be expected and helpful at times (we cannot please them all), but this sounds more personal and is not productive criticism. I am glad you were able to see past this, but concerned that these sort of reviews make the cut on Amazon 😦

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yeah, I totally agree. I’m all for constructive feedback to help shape future novels. There’s very little I can do with that review although my average review will of course suffer as a result (not ideal for a new book – good luck getting new readers). Impossible to please everyone. Even more frustrating that the person read 4% of the book which, once you get past the cover, contents, acknowledgements – probably only equates to about 7 or 8 pages.

      Liked by 1 person

  • That’s awful. I’m sorry that your rating suffers due to people like this! But it founds like you have great supporters. This has been on my TBR pile for a couple of weeks now. Funny enough, It was on my Amazon recommendation list. I’ll read it soon so I can add to the positive! I have no doubts it’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, it’s *that* kind of review… Well, if that’s your first one star, really you’re doing pretty darn good. Especially since this review didn’t even give you anything about *your* novel. All they said was that they didn’t appreciate taking the lord’s name in vain… which means that this one star review isn’t even about your book. I’m not anti-bad reviews. I leave them a lot and that would be hypocritical of me. But they should be legitimate reviews. They should list valid reasons for not liking your book – bad spelling, poor execution, uninspired story, underdeveloped characters, whatever. All of those are fine reasons to leave a bad review – and they might differ from how other people feel about your story. But leaving a bad review over something like this… well, it breaks down some of the reviewing process I think. If you don’t like a book for these reasons, maybe leave a comment (without a rating) that suggests you didn’t care for it because of your personal preferences. After all, maybe someone else feels the same. But there’s no reason to put down someone else’s work for something like this.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to go on forever, but I just wanted to say that the review doesn’t reflect anything of value. It’s unfortunate, but it’s bound to happen, right? So stick with it and keep going! One review like this doesn’t mean much of anything.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks a lot E.C. I would happily invite one-star reviews if I could do something with them! Some constructive feedback perhaps. As you mentioned, sloppy grammar, paperthin plot etc. Hopefully over time, it’ll work itself out re average reviews. Building the number of reviews will help (assuming I don’t pick up any other rogue 1-stars!) which should hopefully reflect the content. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  • A writer friend of mine recently received some feedback on something she had written. It was just one word… ‘Sh*t.’
    Not much that can be said to that really haha! Unfortunately, you’ll never get 100% positive feedback from anyone, because some people just don’t like anything, and quite frankly, some people are assholes. You handled it well though!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s ridiculous. People can laugh these things off, and if you have a bunch of reviews already where a one-star won’t rock the boat, then fair play. But many authors starting off can be seriously thrown off their stride because they’re only just canvassing for reviews. I don’t mind a one-star saying the plot was thin, full of errors etc. But you need to be able to stand over your one-star and give a solid reason. I hope your writer friend didn’t take it too seriously Suzie!

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  • This link was sent to me by a friend and like her I am wondering about some people in this world. I agree that it shows more about them than your work. There are things to say not always pleasant but that make sense and improves our work and then there are things we have no understanding of the why, or where of. I think it’s great we know the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said Barbara. Hopefully over time the average score will even itself out and be a better reflection of the content of the book. But when you don’t have a bunch of reviews to begin with, you hope that those that do pass Amazon’s spot check will at least give you constructive feedback. Thanks for following and commenting πŸ™‚

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  • After reading this strangely stupid review, I am all the more eager to read your book and write my own view on it. Honestly, there are some people with pretty non-creative heads to appreciate anything beautiful. Good luck on your future ventures and don’t pay heed to such people. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  • No matter what we write about, if some people are emotional about it, it means that the writing is actually an excellent one cause it tells readers something that is so connected to their soul. They praise or negatively critic the work because the writing itself managed to ‘touch’ their mind and soul, reality bites, thats why people react. Simply put, your piece, alive and works.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I wouldn’t worry about that review because it had nothing to do with your book at all. Two words at 4% and they were gone for reasons that had nothing to do with your book at all, and any potential readers reading that review will be able to discern its context having nothing to do with you book at all. If anything, they’re not the reader you want anyway. Join the club though – it’s like a Mile-High Club of sorts, to get that one-star review. Stephen King has a ton of them!

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    • That’s true Liz. I think every author dreads that first one-star, and it’ll eventually happen to everyone of course. Can please them all. Need to start stacking a few 5-stars though to relegate it to the bottom of the pile!

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  • The review bothered me because it’s not a criticism of the plot or writing, but of characters speaking as some people do in real life. I decided to comment on the critical review in question just to add some perspective.

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  • I swear there has to be potential money in writing 1-star reviews like this, because they’re just so hilarious they’d almost be worth five bucks; I seriously want a genuine review like this and I’m disappointed that in 2.5 years of self-pub people have criticised my characters for just about everything APART from their potty-mouths! Consider yourself privileged and pin the badge on your coat.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Agree so much with a lot of what other commenters are saying here. I have a concrete set of spiritual beliefs, that do affect my writing style, and the books I chose to read. But if I select a book that I’m well aware probably doesn’t share my beliefs, or isn’t written from the same point of view, there might be things in that book that I disagree with. But that doesn’t mean, in and of itself, that the book sucks. Don’t lose heart, as most readers will judge your work on what they think of the plotting, the style, the characters, and their overall expectations for entertainment, etc. And most of the people in the world will either politely ignore you or give you a fair shot. Just the nature of the beast. Don’t flail in agony! One opinion based on one very particular guideline isn’t the be all and end all of the review of your work. πŸ˜‰

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  • I echo what James said – your one-star reviewer only criticised your book for “blasphemy”, and didn’t say anything about your writing. Some people are very easy to offend, which is their problem and not yours. I get why it bothered you though. Writing is really personal isn’t it, and when people criticise your writing it’s as if they are saying you are a rubbish human being. Anyway, see it as a sign that you’ve arrived!

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  • As a pretty hard-arsed atheist, that 1 star review probably made me want to read it more :-p
    You write because you want to. It’s your story. Apart from listening to advice from people who know what they’re on about, don’t write to please anyone but yourself. If someone doesn’t like it, fuck ’em.
    Sorry. Rude word alert… oh… oops.
    πŸ˜‰

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  • The measure of greatness is the ability to find a way to move past the doubting voices–all to continue to embrace our own authentic selves, our authentic voices…a daunting task that, hopefully, lessens with time and practice. Thank you for sharing your experience and for encouraging us to put things into perspective…so happy for you that you are finding your way past the pitfalls of putting yourself out there…that is heroic…and needed…and, you know I LOVE your writing. God bless you πŸ™‚

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