How do I feel about these one star reviews? I feel fine about them. I am not under the impression that, alone among all writers who have ever existed, I will be the one whose work is universally acclaimed; nor am I under the impression that when readers who feel burned by work are offered an avenue to express their displeasure, that they will rather prefer to stew privately. Nor do I think an appropriate response to negative reviews is to flamebroil the reviewer and send my minions to harass them, thus revealing myself to be something of an insecure psychotic. Someone doesn’t like my work and wants to tell people so? Okay by me. I’ll live. As will any other author who has the sense not to get in a lather over the idea that somewhere someone might not like their work. And if you don’t have that sense, well. Just put on your big author panties and deal with it.
I posted something quite similar here at NRJW on February 19, 2007. Instead of making you click over, I'll just quote it here:
Recently one of my author friends mentioned on a private e-mail loop how hurt she was that one of her books had received a mean-spirited review at Amazon.com. I advised her to shake it off. These things happen, and they mean nothing. I spent a couple of moments worrying that my friend might think my advice a little glib because at that time, my first book had 15 Amazon reviews, all 5-stars, and my second book had nine; five 5-star reviews and four 4-star reviews. But today I can speak with more authority, because an Amazon customer calling herself (or himself) "User 124" has just posted a nasty review of A Family Forever. It begins:
This book is trash!
I am highly suspicious of the five-star reviews for this book. I may be wrong, but their tone is so similar it makes me wonder if they have been written by the author herself?
"A Family Forever" is the trashiest book I have ever read. Although you shouldn't take my word for it, nonetheless I would advise that before you waste your money on this travesty, I suggest you borrow it from your library or your local bookstore when you've got a couple hours to kill, sit down and read it - for free. I guess like me you'll find Coulter's writing style crass.
This is not a book review. It's a transparent attempt to wound me. But rather than sinking deep into my flesh, this clumsy sword blow glanced off my armor. Read the second half of the review, and then I'll explain:
I don't feel easy about about writing this bad review and in the spirit of fair criticism, I have to say that I could write several pages here on what is wrong with this novel, but I don't wanna be bothered with giving up my precious time to this kind of trash.
I can't recommend this book, unless you are on a desert island and "A Family Forever" is the only book swept into your unfortunate hands by the sea. Give yourself a break, don't buy it!!!
As an Amazon customer and frequent review reader, I give no consideration to book reviews that say "it's awful, and the author's an idiot" but offer no evidence to back up the first assertion, let alone the second. If you want to convince me that a book is bad, give it two stars and tell me about the plot holes or provide examples of the unrealistic dialogue. If you can't explain why the book is awful, I'll dismiss your opinion as irrelevant. A one-star review that reads like a preschooler's tantrum doesn't make me think, it just makes me roll my eyes.
It's no different when the book being trashed is my book. This hit-and-run review by an individual who cloaks herself in anonymity and who has never reviewed any other book at Amazon isn't the kind of criticism I take seriously. It's likely that "User 124" is someone who was ticked off by something I wrote on this blog or elsewhere online and whose pettiness drove her to seek revenge via a scathing review. That's why her inept little rant wrung a snort of derision from me rather than the spate of bitter tears she was so clearly hoping for.
If asked by a book's author, Amazon will remove reviews that contain plot spoilers and those that viciously attack the author. If someone wrote, "Brenda Coulter is a Nazi," I would demand that the review be deleted. But I won't be complaining to Amazon about the review by User 124. She hasn't violated Amazon's policy and is free to conceal her identity and trash any book she likes (and here it should be pointed out that one need not purchase a book from Amazon in order to review it). Besides, if we authors could get rid of every unflattering review on Amazon, the good ones would become less valuable.
If you know an author who has been crushed by a mean-spirited review at Amazon or elsewhere online, I hope you'll assure her that the vast majority of readers are intelligent enough to recognize and dismiss these smallminded, heavy-handed attempts to damage authors' reputations. The only people made to look stupid by such reviews are the people who write them.
The difference between the bad review I quoted above and the ones Scalzi posted on his blog is that mine was trashing me rather than picking my book apart. But if I wasn't destroyed by the former, what terror can the latter hold for me?
We authors can shake these things off--and I believe we must. If we don't, we open the door for self-doubt to creep in and hamper our creativity and choke the life out of our writing.
Scalzi concludes with this challenge to blogging authors:
Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you’re lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.
To date, I have found only two other bad reviews of my books--and I have quoted and linked to both of them from this blog. But I'm still a new author (my fourth book will be published late this summer), so I haven't yet had time to collect many. I will, though, eventually. And when pepole send them to me or I discover them on the internet, I will own them because I know that's the way to rob them of their power to erode my confidence as a writer.
If you're a published author who has some bad reviews you'd like to defuse and render harmless to your self-esteem, quote them or link to them in the comments. And if you blog about this over at your place, please leave us a link.