A simple guide to overcoming 1-star review grief

I briefly mentioned in my last post that free giveaways are notorious for attracting random readers that just don’t get your novel. Also, you may or may not know that the average Goodreads rating for any given book is usually lower than that on Amazon. This may be due to a few reasons, one of them being that people can rate your book without ever reading it.

So it’s not that much of a surprise that someone posted a 1-star review of Shizzle, Inc on Goodreads today. Still, it was a kick in the balls that I don’t even have, to read words such as “heaving pile that’s hard to swallow”, “poorly developed characters and an equally poorly thought out plot”, and finally “I’m sure the author is planning an equally stomach-churning sequel.” Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Normally I think of myself as having thick skin, but the review derailed me, and after a pretty good day, too – I penned 1,300 words of that stomach-churning sequel and even had an idea for another Donald Trump video spoof. Suddenly, I didn’t feel funny at all. Felt like an idiot for taking time off work to do this, and a whole bunch of other very unhelpful thoughts. I had to reverse the nosedive before I crushed. I tried watching TV, but it was all bad news, as usual. I poured myself a glass, but it only made me feel closer to tears. Then I struck onto a brilliant idea, and it worked like a charm. I decided to put it down in writing for future reference, as alas, I’m sure I’ll have even more bad reviews on my path to developing Isa into a bestselling sensation. I hope it may help you, too.

Life is all about perspective, isn’t it? I was actually pondering that just a couple of days ago, as I wrote this sentence in Indiot’s draft:

Everything is relative, and everyone is familiar with that concept – it’s the one that causes your ass to appear either huge or toned, depending on whether you’re in a yoga class or Burger King waiting line.

So for a bit of a reality check, I decided to peruse Goodreads reviews of some of the world-famous books that are known as epic bestsellers. Below are some stats on those books, complete with juicy quotes lifted from 1-star reviews:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling. Number of 1-star ratings: 59,343. Most striking quote: “Awful in every way.”
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) Number of 1-star ratings: 33,017. Most striking quote: “Tolkien can’t write. He can’t build character. He can’t advance a plotline.”
  3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis. Number of 1-star ratings: 15,800. Most striking quote: “Well,all right.I have to say that this book is terrible…In fact I haven’t read this book before but I’ve heard from other people that this book had ruined their childhood… :(“
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Number of 1-star ratings: 96,578. Most striking quote: “If I could give this book a zero, I would. I absolutely hated it.”
  5. The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2) by Dan Brown. Number of 1-star ratings: 68,541. Most striking quote: “Whoever edited this drivel ought to be sewn in a sack with a rabid raccoon and flung into Lake Michigan.”
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy #1) by Stieg Larsson. Number of 1-star ratings: 47,572. Most striking quote: “This is a book so bad that it doesn’t deserve a review.”
  7. 1984 by George Orwell. Number of 1-star ratings: 35,943. Most striking quote: “Not really for me. Where’s the action, where’s the romance?”

I was going to do ten of these, but I feel a whole lot better now and would rather return to writing that sequel. I have a lot of work to do before I can earn tens of thousands of 1-star reviews.

Hope you’re feeling a whole lot better too.

146 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

146 responses to “A simple guide to overcoming 1-star review grief

  1. laughing. Good way to put things in perspective. I plan to remember that process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep, the good thing to remember (and I’ve had this discussion with amazon customers) most people don’t pay attention to silly reviews. I love theses reviews though, funny 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you must read your reviews, it will help to take both the good and the bad with a grain of salt. There’s a reason bookstores are stocked with loads of choices…..doesn’t make yours bad. My thing with reviews is that if I read the bad ones, I try (hey, I said try!) to look at them as constructive criticism. Doesn’t mean that sometimes I still don’t have to remind myself that there are simply people you cannot make happy. And that’s okay.

    Hope your writing is flowing easily today. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I went and looked at the reviewer. It only read 10 books, it has no books on “to read” or “currently reading,” it posted no reviews—only ratings, and it only joined Goodreads a couple of months ago. Oh, and I call it “IT” because it has no photo and even no friends. You have BadPeople among competition, Ana? This is not an honest bad review, this is a subterfuge.
    Two thoughts on the subterfuge: one, it is not worth a minute of your bad mood, and two: all of your readers should go on GR and pour some good stars over this pile of bullcrap.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Portia – and thank you for the gold stars you’ve already poured…I’ve re-read them last night. Oh, and thank you for teaching me the new word 🙂 I don’t know if it was subterfuge, but it doesn’t really matter – I have made other people happy for a few hours, and that’s all I ever wanted to do 🙂

      Like

  5. I do the same thing – look at my all time favorite books & think “did I read the same thing as the person who gave it a 1?” … It is hard not to feel like a punch in the stomach at a negative review. I’ve had a 1-star from someone and 5minutes later a 5star … shows how DIFFERENT people are!! The more well-known you become the more people tend to either love ya or hate ya! Best of luck! I loved Shizzle!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Must be something in the air – I have a blog scheduled for later today about a review and its effect! Just keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Also to remember. Not everyone has the same taste in books, or movies, or anything. That bad review–it could have been from someone you wouldn’t even want to socialize with. We all get our feelings hurt because of one reason or another. For me–it’s not getting the job after over 50 interviews–I mean how could anyone NOT want to hire me? Right?? Remember–it is just one person’s opinion. And that’s all! I’m sure the great reviews will outnumber that one poor review! XOXOXO!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Catherine! 50 job interviews? You’re amazing for being so persistent – and it will pay off, I don’t doubt it for a moment.

      I once fancied myself an actress, and learned that it truly is a numbers game – the more you try, the better your chances. I’ve been trying for 2 years to step up in my career, and the best I managed was #2. Funny how that doesn’t even matter now, when I have this writing obsession…

      Like

  8. Tamara Kulish

    There’s haters everywhere! To keep negativity out of your life and not get derailed by it sometimes you just need to ignore it!!

    You’ve got tons of fans and positive responses! Believe those!

    The negative writers? Well maybe they’re people who have been crushed by one thing or another, and instead of being able to rise above it they’re seeking to drag as many people down with them! It won’t do you or them any good to jump into their river of woe!

    As writers we need to write! Just keep doing what you’re doing! You’re making a lot of people happy!

    Peace,
    Tamara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Tamara – this is why I do this, to make people laugh. People laughed at this post, too, and found it helpful, and it just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

      I am so out of woe/nose dive/pity party now – all it takes is to take some action. Once I had an idea for this post, I had a smile on my face, too.

      Like

  9. Yes it’s “ouch”, but look at all the brilliant reviews you’ve had. I think that reviewer must be related to the school bully who has just pulled out a clump of my granddaughter’s hair and banged her head against the wall. There are some people who just take pleasure out of being plain vindictive.

    It reminds me of a book I used to read to my daughter called “Rainbow Brite”. There was a character in the story called Murky Dismal, who spread gloom wherever he went, blotting out all the bright colours and glitter of the kingdom.

    Just think, you’ve made lots of people laugh and spread happiness with your book, just like Rainbow Brite. So banish Murky Dismal back to his cave now and remember that there are loads of people who are dying to read Indiot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sarah! There are, there really are…what a blessing, to have that.
      Is that a true story, what happened to your granddaughter?? I hope there was a swift reaction to that – bullies only do that because they think they’re invincible. I’ve had my share of vicious childhood fights, but I was in Russia, for God’s sake…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s a great way to put things into perspective, I think, though I imagine it did hurt. I had a 2 star rating and an amazing, detailed, 5 star review on the same day – guess which one I focused on? Until I did the same as you, looked up some bestsellers and saw that they, too, had had their share of negative reviews. It’s like the saying goes, ‘you can please some of the people all of the time…’ Well, you know the rest 🙂
    And I concur with everyone else – scr*w the haters and just keep writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Helen 🙂 Well, I woke up this morning to find another 5-star review on Amazon, where it really matters, and a couple of books sold already. So the bad review is now just a bad dream 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome – I’m so pleased for you. And it sounds like that’s much more the norm for you. That one-star was obviously a terrible mistake on somebody’s part 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again – and hey, everybody is entitled to their opinion. I still have 4.4 average on Amazon – and I’m at 35 reviews now – 25 more, and I can get a BookBub promo and leave playa haters in my dust 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yay! That’s right 🙂
        Can I ask, are your reviews on one site (ie the US site) or are they spread across several? The reason I ask is that I have reviews in Australia, UK and US, but they aren’t universal across all the amazon sites, which I find a little frustrating.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Spread all over! That’s right, when I think of reviews, I always think of the US – but I have not checked what’s going on in UK and Australia…maybe I shouldn’t…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe you should! I imagine they’ll be positive 🙂
        Though I find it mad that the reviews can’t be read across all the sites…

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s mad. I went and looked, they were OK. Funny enough, they were also displaying American reviews in other countries, but not vice versa.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Elm

    I laughed so hard at the Narnia quote – “I haven’t read this book”. Right, that has made me feel happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such an eye opening one! And I can understand how one would feel. The idea of yours to overcome it is awesome. Truly, those facts amazed me.
    Cmon girl, we have hopes and lots of chances to come! Use your precious time and energy for writing. For Haters let them keep hating! 😋😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post, Anna. It’s abundantly clear you are a delightful person with a terrific sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m almost looking forward to some one-star reviews! 😉
    (Oh, BTW, the quote for example #2 is missing)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for pointing that out, James – I have just fixed it. I love my Surface Pro when it works, but not when the mousepad freezes and then goes on a rampage of randomly doing stuff I didn’t ask it to do…
      Oh, and thank you for the compliment. It shows what an intelligent, wise, and all-around awesome person you are 🙂

      Like

  14. I just cried with laughter at the quote in response to 1984. “Where’s the romance?” hahahahahahaha!!
    This is brilliant. Such a good way of putting 1-star reviews in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. susanfaw

    Thank you, that was brilliant! lol going to pin it on my board above my computer. Now…back to my drivel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You can’t please everyone. I think about people who hate The Beatles. If they have haters then everyone else should too.
    On a personal note, I just went through this the other day after releasing a new short single. As it turns out, I know the 1* reviewer personally. Then we discovered that her FB account was hacked. Long story but I’m glad it ended well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whew, I’m glad too – well, one of my bad reviews was posted by y sister’s best friend. I did not bother to try and find out why, because I have a suspicion that it has something to do with the fact that this “friend” has been trying to write a book for decades and has not finished the draft yet.

      Like

  17. Goodreads is known for being populated by “trolls” who love to hate on other people’s books. I don’t spend much time on Goodreads because of this. If you only have1 one star review, you are fortunate. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, unfortunately I have 4 1-stars out of 56 total. What’s the worst, one of them was given by my sister’s best friend. That one boggles my mind – my sister sent her a free copy in her excitement to share the news, the woman said it was funny to her face, then gave a 1-star rating without a review. Riddle me this, please. The only guess I have is that she’s been writing her “great American novel” for 20 years now, and it burned her to see that I published mine.

      Like

  18. It is sad how bad the writing is from one star trolls. If they can’t write well it indicates they might not read well. Also amusing how one person wrote this book is so bad it does not deserve a review-yet they wrote one anyway. I have a one star review, but what upset me most was the person ‘sort of’ gave away the ending. But if you read close and know what precedes the ending, the reader realizes something else entirely. People either get it or they don’t. Everyone gets bad reviews, but we continue to write and do our best, hoping we get more positive than negative.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Reblogged this on bryan the writer and commented:
    I really loved this perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. One of my books has recently received a 5 * review which is so destructive, it is impossible to believe the reviewer read the book. The reviewer criticises credibility of the story and gives a negative assessment of the main character. My best 1 star review on another book said, “Worst book ever” – which of course, I posted on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else. That single 1 star review generated more interest and greater sales than all the 5 * reviews put together!

    A few years ago, I found this 1 star review posted for a classic novel:
    “It would have been better if this author had stuck to modern English throughout this novel, instead of trying to write in what she obviously thought appropriate to Victorian times. The occasional lapses into archaic English were amateurish irritating and often unnecessary.”

    The book? Persuasion by … Jane Austen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahaha! That would be perfect for my list…can I use it? Is it an exact quote?
      Good on you for leveraging a bad review – I guess I did too, cause I woke up this morning to a new 5 star review and sold 2 books already.

      Like

  21. I’ll readily admit I have given a few negative reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but I try to be constructive when I do (indicating lack of character development, plot holes, inconsistencies, that sort of thing). The positive reviews, however, from my end, outweigh the negative. What is interesting to note is the blowback after I’ve given a negative review — I’ve had horrible commentary in response, much of which was actually assumptive and personal rather than anything in response to the book (the whole purpose to begin with).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this. I think you did the right thing in researching popular works and their reviews as it illustrates that not everyone will like our work, and it’s best to take the reviews with the proverbial grain of salt…Learn from the well-written reviews, toss the ones that aren’t constructive in the slightest. The ones I can’t stand are the ones that indicate as a preamble something like “I don’t usually read books like this…” or “I’m not a fan of the (author’s) genre, but…” (Why bother reading what you’re not interested in?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you – and yes, I’ve had critical reviews that were helpful, because they were specific (and not offensive). I assume that the reviewers are adults, but they could also be teenagers who are used to talking like that to their Mom 🙂 Oh, and don’t get me started on the ones that picked a random freebie in a genre they don’t like…

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Not every person likes everything. Some people just have no sense of humor. :p

    I’ve had people tell me my style of writing is offensive. I’ve also had far more people tell me it works. You can’t please everyone, and you won’t please anyone by trying to; just stick it out. (This is coming from someone with bipolar depression, so if I can manage, so can you!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you 🙂 I was only down for an hour or two – then I started writing the blog and was just laughing off some of the 1 star comments the famous authors got. I mean, asking “where’s romance” in 1984??

      Like

  23. Good response to a lousy review, Anna. Another good thing is that they say people take your 4-and 5-star reviews more seriously when you’ve got a few 1-stars! Besides, those are just the trolls of the internet, looking to make us all feel terrible. Don’t take what they said too much to heart. You’re very funny and your blog posts alone are always amusing and well thought out!!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I got a 2* review that compared my writing to that of an eighth grader.

    So I went off and read all the 5* reviews of one of my other books!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. There’s relativity and the absolute. There is no absolute truth. I’ve read your book and MY TRUTH is that it was an entertaining read. Keep ploughing on. You’re doing just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Matthew FitzSimmons

    I had a reviewer on Amazon say that I “wrote like garbage” and that I “hate women.” Got to hand it to them, that knocked the wind out of me. I’ll probably never forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, Matthew – how many thousands of five-star reviews have you amassed so far?? You’re definitely a case study belonging on my list of bestsellers with random playa haters. Have you even had a chance to read all the thousands of positive reviews?

      Like

      • Matthew FitzSimmons

        Early on, I had a friend cull a representative sample, but I’ve done my best to stay away since. I think reading them only leads to trouble… whether they’re good or bad. I’m not sure that reading reviews of any kind leads to healthy writing. At least for me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Some are helpful, if they are specific enough. Strangely, none of my real life friends liked my book – I think they don’t get my sense of humor. Thank god for the Internet. I mean, Al Gore. Thank Al Gore for the Internet

        Like

    • And thank you for sharing, by the way. It’s both humbling and unsettling to know that bestselling authors get hurt by bad reviews…

      Like

  27. What a troll! It’s probably someone who was jealous of your talents in high school. Thanks for the great blog, we all need encouragement sometimes. There’s a guy out on Twitter who’s been posting the rejection quotes from agents to people who went on to have best sellers, which is another one to keep things in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Aneta

    Brilliant way to put things into perspective!! Love this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. That must have really hurt! I’m glad you could turn it into something more positive. Those books are all bestsellers and popular but they have thousands of 1 star reviews. Hopefully your books will end up a bestseller 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. One way to look at it is that you’re getting a good number of reviews, so eventually there’s bound to be a bad one. And as long as the good heavily outweigh the bad you’re doing fine. Doesn’t make the bad any easier to handle but puts it in perspective. They’re grumps, anyway. Bet they slag everything off on Trip Advisor too.

    Like

  31. I love this idea. I might have to do that for my next 1 * review. I’ve noticed thought, that sometimes the 3 stars hurt worse than the 1’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I’m glad you stay positive. I love the push you give to writers and to people, on the fringe, who are writing secretly. We have hopes and dreams, too. They can’t take that away from us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! And I hope you publish those hopes and dreams – thanks to the great wide open world, you will find the audience that loves exactly what you have to offer.

      Like

  33. My little trick is I think of the raters as one-star readers!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. olivia barrington

    There are so many people out there who are miserable in their lives and just want to make other people feel the same. This person hoped to get a sad, negative reaction from you and hopefully ruin your day. You showed him. You turned it around to inspire you to write more, and do research for a great blog on negative reviews and how they can actually be a blessing in disguise. Kudos to you, Ana! I’ve never left a negative review on a book because if I don’t like it, I stop reading it and move on to one I do like. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s poorly written, etc. If I won’t waste my time reading it, why waste my time leaving a review about it? Just don’t believe in trashing an author. P.S. I like your humor and I get it! Now get back to work on those bestsellers that so many people DO love. And have a GREAT day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Olivia! I can’t imagine ploughing through daily writing grind without this blog – as soon as I started writing that post, I had a smile on my face 🙂

      The first draft of Indiot is finished, by the way. Now it’s the editing grind…

      Like

      • olivia barrington

        Congrats!! Now the real fun begins…. I know you are going to do the editing but I thought you said you had someone lined up to help? Doing double duty writing the 3rd sequel and editing the 2nd. Now that’s multi-tasking. You have tremendous energy, dear girl. By the way I truly enjoy reading your blog. You have a talent for writing it, too. Happy editing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, again, Olivia 🙂 So the next step is beta readers, but while I’m waiting for them to respond, I will be lining up a copy editor. Will choose an American one this time. I do multitask, but that’s because I have ADD, haha!

        Like

  35. I don’t read novels much – too arbitrary and manipulative, most of them – but I’m curious about yours after reading this. Any chance of publishing an extract I could respond to?

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Yeah, thanks, had a look and it bounces along very fluently. Her motivation is clear and she’s amusingly deluded. As for reviews, an average of 3.5 out of 5 seems pretty good to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. To cheer you up still further, I wrote an 80,000 word historical novel about the English Luddites … still unpublished. I’ve filled 20 large journals of late-night ramblings which my wife says she’ll make into my coffin. My children turn my poems into paper darts and throw them into the street for beggars to laugh at. Any ideas how I can advance my writing career?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have one idea – self-publish that novel. Get it professionally edited, get a professional cover, the whole 9 yards. Then market it, once it’s published. It will give you that feeling of “it’s possible” and from there you can think of all your work as something that will be publlished, and not just ramblings.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Hi Ana. I took the liberty of sharing some of this post with the FB page set up by my publisher for their authors, and with one of my writers groups. Here’s the link If you’d like to check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1518194541798581/1660042730947094/?notif_t=group_activity

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you James – very happy for you to share anything from the blog – have you tried the “share” button at the bottom of each post? I’d appreciate that, because people would have a link to my blog, and may be interested in other posts.

      Like

  39. Annoying Anna but also made me smile. For the books I have given away on Good Reads in the actual giveaways I have zero reviews! I have given a few away for people who offered to review. One said the book had a nice cover! Which is comforting, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. I love your kick ass ways of gaining perspective after some random jerk did his or her best to hurt your feelings because s/he had a shit day. You are an inspiration!!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reviewer hadn’t even read the book and was just being a jerk. Anyway, your way of responding to it was inspired. The funniest of the criticisms for me was “Where’s the romance?” for 1984. Talk about missing the point.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. A writer puts her entire heart and soul into the plot and characters of her novel. They become real to her and she wants to share them with the world. My characters became friends and family, to have someone disparage them then becomes personal, doesn’t it?

    A first novel is a learning experience anyway. I’m going back and update my first one because it’s embarrassing to see how many little mistakes I made. A novel will never be perfect in an author’s eyes, so strive for excellence not perfection and you’ll improve each time. You are too great of a writer not to! Blessings back to you Ana,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ellie! Yes, I’ve had to force myself not to read my first one, cause all I want to do is edit…maybe one day, when I decide to publish a box set.

      My protagonist would have an awesome comeback for those reviews…maybe I will do another video of the animated cover, of her responding to a 1-star review…thanks for giving me the idea 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  43. This was a great way to deal with negative comments! I will definitely be reading this again whenever I’m feeling down on my own writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Thanks for posting, Ana. Yes, you really can find haters for anything. No worries. Besides, I’ve heard Ms. Rowling’s first “Harry Potter” was turned down by 31 agents. None of them, of course, are kicking themselves now!

    Liked by 1 person

  45. I found a hater for Dark Art. Got a kick up the kilt. Maybe it irritated more than it should. My reader bought the book and wrote:

    “I rated this book 3 stars because of the lack of typos …” She went on to criticise the ‘extreme’ violence — which is non-gratuitous, realistic in the context and important for the story-line which is about characters caring about each other whilst being exposed to evil people and the hardening impact of self-defence. The metaphor links across to the inhumanity of corruption in politics/big business, greed and the abuse of others.

    Enough about me and my smouldering kilt. I feel better for sharing. Here’s a touch of warm empathy. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

  46. parijatshukla2014

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Pingback: Putting Things into Prospective | Tober's Traditions

  48. This is the best approach to this kind of situation that I think a person could take. I look forward to following your blog and good luck with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Ravenclaw Book Club

    Hahaha I’m glad you could find the humour in the situation! I always think it’s hilarious when literature snobs review Harry Potter and say the books are terrible. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  50. This is amazing. Thanks! Good to keep in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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