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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love Your One-Star Reviews

Congrats, you finally got the manuscript published - you know, the one you've been working on for three years. You've toiled away at the keyboard, typed until your fingers were stubs, and finally, it is finished. Time to pop it up on the Big A and see how many copies you sell.

Here Comes The Good Stuff

You're smart; you've lined people up to do some reviews right away; good thinking. This way your novel won't look like to typical "thrown together, rushed indie booklet" you hear so much about. With some actual reviews, hey you stand a chance of getting more readers.

So, Uncle Fred gives you four stars, your mom - five stars (thanks mom), and your neighbor gives you another four star review. Then you stupid cousin from Idaho, the one you doubted you should even send a copy to in the first place, nails you with three stars. A fun delightful read that shows much promise for this author. Perhaps a run through an editor might have helped. That's the last time you ever use him, that's for sure.

Now, The Interesting Happens

Several complete strangers purchase your book and leave a review. Another four-star, which basically says the reader liked it; and a three star where the writer goes on and on about what a great book it was. While this review confuses you, you decide you'll take three stars any day. This is your debut novel, after all.

Thus far, you have six reviews. Your average review score is 3.83; not bad, all things considered. You'll take this for now. Better are right around the corner. Each day you see that you sell a book or two. It won't be long before another couple four and five-star reviews hit the page.

Then, The Bottom Drops Out

A few days later you check your review summary, and you notice the total is 8. Hot Dog, two more reviews. But then your heart skips a beat or two as you stare at your average score. How that heck did it drop to 3.25, you ask yourself?

Here's how: The next reviewer gave it two stars. A quick read, without much substance. Maybe the author's next book will be better. You brush this aside by rolling your eyes; what does this person know about literature?

And then you spot your very first one-star review. Your lips tighten, your stomach knots, you feel your fists balling up. Perhaps the worst book I've ever read, if I could have finished it. Don't waste your money on this drivel. And don't quit your day job, Mr. Author.

If you could form a rational thought at this moment, you might count to ten and take the good with the bad. But you can't. This isn't just a one-star review, it's a personal attack on you!

Here's How You Need To Handle This

1. Do not (I repeat, DO NOT) send a response to this reviewer. So they didn't like your book; not everyone will. And that is the plain and painful truth.

2. Do not get another bunch of your friends to write you sterling five-star reviews to help raise your score. People will see through this tactic. Any book that is five-star heavy, with minimal one and two-star ratings, is suspect to many readers. They figure you got your entire neighborhood to tip the scales (and they're right, aren't they?).

3. Sit Back and Relax. You have officially become a real-life author. I truly believe that until you get blasted like this (it's a reality check for most), you're just putzing around in the minor leagues. You earn your stripes, your chance at the "bigs", and a lot of humility by having one-star reviews.

Let's take any old big title - how about 1984? I just checked on Amazon, here are the stats for Mr. Orwell's classic. The overall rating for this novel is 4.5 on Amazon. Hey, that's pretty darn good. But, and listen to this, there are 279 two and one-star reviews (that's 5% people). This should tell you with no room for doubt, not everyone is going to love your book (or any book for that matter).

I know one-star reviews aren't fun. I have a few in my camp. Six on book one alone (and that's 12%, ugh!). But they come with the territory, I know that now. So, as difficult as this sounds - enjoy them. You've made it my friend!

Until next week, here's hoping you don't live in Boston. Man, they have way too much snow out there; too much for even a Minnesnowta guy like me. I bet ebooks are selling good in New England this winter.

e a lake

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