One Star ReviewsOne star reviews. They're something that new authors often fear. It feels personal - a person out there has said your hard efforts are not worth anything at all. But are one star reviews really that bad? All one-star reviews here are from my own works. The first is from my pen-name story which is why I blurred it.
It's important for authors to learn to look at all incoming reviews objectively and to realize that readers leave reviews for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes they're well thought out tomes about the entire book. Sometimes they're quick button-presses on a Kindle of stars only. Sometimes they're commentary on shipping speed of a print copy. Sometimes they're complaints about formatting. A user sees a feedback box as their opportunity to say something. They can say all sorts of wild things. This is good! It means we as authors get all sorts of feedback on all sorts of things. The goal, then is to understand three things. One, how is the feedback being drawn out of the user. Two, what is the user expressing. Three, how can that be used to better the end product.
How is Feedback Elicited
You might assume that feedback happens because a user adores a book and actively seeks out a way to share their thoughts with others. But that's far from the truth. Amazon - and other systems - hammer users pressuring them to leave feedback. Amazon and online stores thrive in having that feedback in their network. It makes their brand stronger. So Amazon (and others) keep prompting users for feedback on anything they've looked at. Emails are sent. Screens pop up as they browse. This can sometimes annoy users into pressing buttons just to get those feedback requests to go away. So it's definitely NOT that the user necessarily went out of their way to leave this feedback. In many cases the user is sick of seeing the push for feedback and wants to say something - ANYTHING - to get the system to stop doing it.
So there are many cases where users leave feedack saying "I haven't read it yet." They're registering their thoughts on the item so that they stop getting asked about it. Maybe they downloaded it a month ago and they've been busy. Maybe someone else was using their tablet and downloaded it. Who knows. It's not worth getting upset about :). The overall quest with feedback is to get so many healthy, proper feedback entries that the few random ones are part of the static. You're always going to get those random bizarre entries. Fighting them is probably not worth your time. It's far more worth your time to build up your library of happy, healthy reviws.
Still, if you really want that "haven't read it" feedback removed, write to Amazon. They don't allow reviews by people who haven't even used the product. So they're likely to remove it. But remember, that will just cause the system to start harassing that user again to leave feedback. They could be even more irate the next time they see the box. It might be worth it just to leave that entry in the system. Besides, it proves to your users that your feedback is authentic and not shill entries done by friends and family members (which would be against Amazon's terms of service, unless that relationship is clearly identified in the review)
What is the User Expressing
Users see a feedback box as a magical way to communicate ALL sorts of things they're feeling. The feedback box, to them, is about them expressing their emotions. They don't care what you want to hear. They want to share what they feel. That's how users work. So yelling at them for using it that way is counterproductive. That's what they're going to do. You have to accept that that's what they're going to do and then evaluate it properly.
So look at the message. Take a deep breath if you have to. What are they saying? Are they talking about the actual book itself - the storyline, the characters, the plot, or the writing? Are they talking about the formatting and layout? Are they discussing the cover image? Is it something out of your control like Amazon's shipping policies? If it's something you can't control, then the most you can do is lobby on their behalf for some rule changes. But if it IS something under your control, it's worth at least making sure you understand their statement. That way you can consider what to do next.
How Can This Feedack Be Used
You might think that you'll love the 5-star reviews and hate the 1-star reviews. But, actually, it's often the 1-star reviews that help us grow the most. They help us perfect our product to best reach our target audience. So approach the 1-star review in this fashion, even if it's not gently written.
Is the person unhappy with what they got? Did they think they were getting a clean romance and they were surprised by graphic sex in chapter 3? Then that is your responsibility as an author to make that more clear. Make sure your description says - up front and center - that this is meant for an adult audience. Don't hide it down in paragraph 32. Don't expect the user to guess this! You need to always make clear what you are "selling." Your buyers aren't mind readers.
Is the person unhappy with the quality level? This is also your responsibility. If you have typos, grammatical errors, formatting issues, or other similar problems, you absolutely have to fix those immediately. You are presenting your work as a finished product. Your readers have the right to expect that. It would be like selling someone a car that didn't run properly.
Is the person unhappy with a specific aspect of the storyline - perhaps you have a rape scene? Again, things like this can be quite "triggering" for someone who has been traumatized in the past. Make sure your description provides information to let your readers make an informed decision about what they will be getting into.
For example, here was a person who didn't like my story Aspen Allegations which is set in Sutton. He thought I had never been to Sutton and described it based on web pages. However, I actually live in Sutton and have for twenty years. I went to every location on that actual day the story took place. So I wasn't even writing based on distant memories. I was writing based on being there, in that spot, on that day, and describing it.
So that is my responsibility as an author to make that more clear. I updated my description of the book to explain that I wrote this from first-hand knowledge. While this was the person's home town, they might not have visited it in twenty years - and it has changed a LOT over that time period. Since I made my description update, I have not received any similar complaints. I continue to get reviews from thrilled readers who live in the area and like my descriptions. Heck, some think I describe in too much detail :).
Here's another case where it seems somehow I did not describe my story well enough for readers. The story is "Creating Memories" and the blurb begins: "Storm's memory has been viciously purged by a blow from a bandit's cudgel. She has a completely blank slate, a fresh start on life. Yet doubts plague her. Was she a bandit herself? A helpless captive? When her memory returns, if it returns, would she betray those she had come to care for?"
The review began:
I completely understand that she doesn't like to read these kinds of stories. That is fine. I don't like to read about stories where the hero rapes the heroine and then she loves him for it. We all have specific themes we don't like, and that is OK. But I would hope that my description made it clear that this was a story about a fairly violent amnesia situation. If that were to upset someone, I would hope my blurb would alert them to that fact. It made me wonder how she got to the download button before seeing that blurb. Maybe she bought it on her Kindle without reading that? Maybe I should make the tag line on the cover itself clearer, to help with that issue? It is an issue I should at least give thought to.
And then there are people who are simply unhappy with life :).
This person here posted this exact same text onto a whole series of books written by a variety of authors. Maybe they were trying to raise their review count. Maybe they were unhappy with books in a certain genre. Nobody knows. However, it was fairly clear that they weren't actually reviewing things accurately - this was the only thing they said in their reviewing lifetime. So sometimes, even after evaluation, you have to smile and pray that the person becomes more content with their lot in life. Surely, if this is how they spend their time, they're not enjoying life very much in general.
So, to summarize, accept that one-star reviews are going to happen. It's part of life. Read them, consider them, and then keep on going. Do your best to write high quality content that earns hundreds of five-star reviews. When you do, those little one-stars are the spice of life that prove your review collection is an authentic one.
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