The Elusive One-Star Review

Perpetual Motion Club coverBelieve it or not, a one-star review is truly a gift. Not everybody gets one. Count yourself lucky if you can honestly admit to receiving a one-star review.

The fact is, five-star reviews are rather easy to come by. You get one in one of two ways. The easiest, of course, is to write a stellar book. The other is to have your friends review your book at Amazon. Seems like it would be easier to get your friends to review your book than to write a perfect novel, but not really. Perfect is in the eye of the beholder and no matter what you write, someone out there thinks it’s perfect. Someone totally gets it. Your friends? You can’t always count on them. My advice is: from this day forward start picking your pals better. They should at least be able to read. If they like to read books, so much the better. But further, they should be the type that don’t mind putting down a few words here and there in comment sections. Those are the people you should go for when choosing friends from now on.

Getting a one-star review, now that’s tough. A one-star implies anger, punishment, vindictiveness. You have to touch a nerve to get a one-star. When you come across a book you don’t like, do you take the time to write about it? No. You toss it to the incinerator and move on. To motivate you to go online and spew vitriolic hatred forth, you’d have to have emotion invested. Lots of it and it must be negative. Negative emotion comes from a raw nerve. For a writer to find and expose that nerve takes guts and talent. Supreme talent. Only the very best of scribblers ever get a one-star review.

Naturally I’ve received one.

My new book, The Perpetual Motion Club (YA spec fic), has launched today. And yes it received a one-star review. I’ll not go into it here or even provide a link for it. I just want the world to know that, yes, I too, have touched a nerve. I have made a difference and changed the world. I motivated a reader.

I’m not satisfied, though. I’d like to see a few reviews up at Amazon. If anybody would like a free ebook of The Perpetual Motion Club in exchange for a review (1-stars happily accepted), let me know ([email protected]) and I’ll shoot you a copy.

Here’s some blurbage:

Elsa Webb just wants to make it through her  high school years with her dignity intact, but everyone – parents, teachers, basketball team – seems to be against her. She turns to the murky world of perpetual motion phenomena for answers and starts a  club. With her perpetual motion club she immerses herself in a strange, new scene filled with dubious characters intent on defying the laws of physics. As she gets caught up in the idea of building a perpetual motion machine, Elsa treads dangerously close to the edge of sanity until salvation comes from the last place she expected it. Told with light humor, The Perpetual Motion Club is for anybody who has ever had an idea.

Here’s a nice quote from one reviewer who did not have a raw nerve to tread upon:

“This novel flouts the YA tropes and runs along its own path, not one which is beaten, but one which is triumphant. This is a warm, fascinating and engrossing novel which I could not stop reading. Until I came to my own screeching halt at the end, that is. I wanted more! Highly recommended, but only if you’re tired of trope and want something new, original, and well put together.”      — Ian Wood, Novellem

See the book’s not all bad.

The print book will be available soon (later today, maybe?) Otherwise for right now, only the ebook is  available.

Watch yourself!

Sue Lange

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The Elusive One-Star Review — 12 Comments

  1. This makes me feel better about my near record-setting number of one stars on my debut novel. I guess I’ve always liked to believe the same thing, that making some readers angry is just as good as entertaining others, but since one stars cost me readers, I’m still not THAT fond of them.

  2. Well, except a lot of one-star reviews have nothing to do with the content of the book. They’ll go on about price or (in the case of physical goods) order fulfillment problems or some political ax the reviewer has to grind and so on. And the one-star reviews of the actual book are often the type that say: I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Or the book had too many typos (number usually unspecified, but some people are intolerant of even one). Mind you, as a customer, I learn far more from one-star reviews than I do from the five-star variety, which seem to be written almost universally by people who haven’t a single critical faculty in their brains.

  3. Interesting: “..the five-star variety, which seem to be written almost universally by people who haven’t a single critical faculty in their brains.”

  4. Ah, I think I found the review in question… LOL. Sorry, I fail to understand why, in a world filled with more books than anyone could possibly read, one would even bother reading a piece of fiction that one didn’t like from the outset.

    • If I am reading purely for pleasure, I have been known to give up a book I am not enjoying. If I have promised to read and then review a book for a publisher/writer I will do my best to finish it whether I like the book or not.

      I recently read a book of a genre I knew I didn’t like (christian fiction) and said this in my review. Part of my review stated I liked it to this point, but from *this* point hated it and had the author ontinued in the original vein I would have happily given it a much higher rating.

  5. I got a one star review for my book The Death of Carthage. It came from a young man who disapproved of my portrayal of my hero’s wife as being tolerant of his relationship with another woman. He felt that she should have committed suicide rather than put up with her husband’s infidelity. The fact that the other woman had gone to great lengths to save the husband’s life was evidently irrelevant. Well, different people have different perspectives on these things and you can’t expect everyone’s perspective to agree with your own. You can’t please everyone.

  6. I actually think the two- or three-star reviews are the most interesting; they’re the most likely to be written by people who are thinking seriously enough about the book to find both its good points and its bad ones, and to take time to explain why in a way that will tell you whether *you’re* likely to like the book or not.

    That said, when considering one-star reviews, a quote from Stephen King comes to mind from an essay he wrote on writing. King recommended that when your manuscript is complete, you show it to a small group of people (he suggested ten), and then listen to their criticisms. If, he said, six or seven of them, or even four or five, were all criticizing the same thing, then it didn’t matter how much you liked that thing — you should almost certainly change it. But if they were all criticizing something *different*, he said, then you could safely ignore all of them. Similarly, it seems likely that if all the one-star reviews of a book are angry about something different, you can disregard them all; if a bunch of them are all angry about the *same* thing, then you should seriously consider not buying the book unless you happen to like that thing.

  7. I’ve given one-star reviews, but I also try to give a clear explanation why I feel the book failed.

    As for the reviews of others (on Amazon and Goodreads), I tend to automatically deduct a star to account for an overwhelming amount of irrational exuberance. (This may be unfair to a few, but not to most.)

  8. When I first continued Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover” series, I got a rash of outraged reviews. Most readers loved what I was doing and felt I stayed true to the spirit of Marion’s vision. But now and again, someone decided that I’d strayed from their version of a character, and then…oh boy.

    One of the most interesting reactions was to my depiction of Danilo Syrtis grieving for the death of Regis Hastur, the love of his life. The reader was irate that I had polluted Darkover with “overt homosexuality.” Now, Marion had made it luminously clear (in The Heritage of Hastur, Sharra’s Exile and various short stories) that Regis and Danilo were (a) gay, although Regis might be characterized as gay-pref bisexual; (b) lovers. Not only that, but homosexual liaisons were considered not only a normal part of adolescent behavior, but preferable to consorting with prostitutes. But the reader had another, fixed version of Darkovan attitudes and therefore decided I was changing what Marion had created. I still shake my head about that one. A sense of humor is indispensable in such cases.

  9. I think it’s interesting that people will give a lower rating because they disagree with a moral choice made by one of the characters. That has happened to me, although the reviewer liked the book otherwise and gave it a good review. But she was quite clear that the moral choice is what lowered the rating.

    But then, what else is a reviewer supposed to rate? After all, readers read books for their own reasons, and they have every right to love,like, hate, or reject a book based on those reasons. We aren’t asking the readers to critique the book or give writing advice.

    So a 1-star review is not necessarily indicative of a poorly written book. And I agree with you, it’s great when a reviewer bothers to state what is was he/she did not like. It proves they read the book and the book made them think.

  10. I very rarely leave a 1 star review, usually because if I find it that bad, I don’t finish it! However I rarely give 5 stars either, but they do happen. Most reviews are 4 star, some are 3. Ebooks lose up to a point because of formatting issues, but I put this into the review. I’ve seen some books that have had up to 5 words merged together, and this makes it difficult as a reader to finish the book. That one got a big drop in the rating!

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