1-Star Reviews? We Should All Be So Lucky

A fair amount of indie writers are at least partially obsessed with the reviews they receive for their books...if indie writer forums are any indication, anyway. Many indies have felt the staggering heartbreak of a 1-star review, of a reader blatantly saying "I hated this," that ugly sting of rejection. No one is so self-assured that they can completely shrug off all judgment all the time, certainly no writer. To be a writer is to bleed on the page -- and when a reviewer knifes you in the back, it might cut deep.

But I happen to be a fan of 1-star reviews, and I'm trying to convert other indies to my twisted way of thinking. In the spirit of embracing all of your reviews -- good and bad -- I'd like to play a game.

What's Your Favorite Book?

What's your favorite book? It crops up in forums all the time, it's an easy topic of conversation, it's something that may change with the weeks for some readers. For me, it is (and undoubtedly will always be) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Arguably, some of my affection for this tome could stem from the fact that I adore everything about Clark Gable (who played Rhett Butler in the movie, which I saw before I ever watched the book). But I digress.

The point is, I think Gone With the Wind is just about perfect -- the true Great American Story that so many writers long to pen. And one day, I decided to go take a look at my favorite book's reviews.

Can you see the twist coming a mile away? That's right: Gone With the Wind has 1-star reviews -- and not just a few of them. Some people hate this book so passionately, they've called Mitchell names outright. I'm talking all caps, hate-riddled, strong language, bad reviews.

It's one of the most popular books of all time, it became one of the most popular movies of all time and it's still being sold all over the place to this day. But yeah, it's got 1-star reviews that could reduce many a writer to hysterical tears.

Now, go and look up the reviews for your favorite book, and play along. The next time you get a 1-star review, remind yourself that it means you've got something in common with Margaret Mitchell. It's what I'm going to do.

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  1. I love negative reviews, as long as the reviewer has actually read the book. If someone hates a book and still reads it to the end, they're entitled to their opinion. If they then takes the trouble to explain why they hated the book, they're doing other readers a favour. They're doing the author a favour, too, because it means people with the same kind of preferences won't buy the book, which results in more genuine goodwill from those who buy it.
    I've had reviewers rant about the fact that one of the supporting characters in "Storm Dancer" is gay. This really annoyed her, and she set out to warn other readers about it. It means other aggressively homophobic people won't buy the book - and that's fine by me.
    Then there are negative reviews by people who simply don't get it. I find them a source of amusement (see my article on http://ladywholunches.net/blog/tag/rayne-hall/ ).
    The kind of review I hate is where the reviewer writes "I didn't actually read this book. I don't have to read it to know that it's crap."

    If someone hasn't read a book, they shouldn't review it.

  2. excuse typos. I posted my comment without proofreading.

  3. I think part of the problem is reviews are so prolific these days. In the past, it's been 'professional' reviewers in newspapers who've shared their opinion - now everyone can!

    I also agree with everything Rayne says :-)

  4. You've both made some really good points. I think everyone should take the reviews they get seriously, but not personally.