Twinkle, twinkle little ONE star…

I read my first one-star review at 11.13pm this Tuesday evening.

Like every other ego crushing moment in my life, I can recall exactly where I was and precisely what I was doing. I was propped up in bed, dog on lap, iPhone in hand, stalking my book on Amazon. 

‘Ooh, another three reviews today. Excellent,’ I mumbled, excitedly scrolling down and pondering whether Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway would be best cast as Ellie when the movie version was commissioned. 

Of course, it would be important that I retain the rights to approve the screenwriting, my mind continued to wander. When suddenly, like a pin advancing on a balloon (a nasty, rusty, tetanus-riddled pin), the words ‘Bored’ and ‘Silly’ came into view, alongside a solitary (and sheepish looking) One Star, whose expression I imagined to read: ‘Don’t blame me, I just work here.’ 


My eyes narrowed and my heart raced as I read on:

‘To many characters, to many drinks, to much sex talk. Hated it. No real story line..Don’t waste time on this one. Silly and boring’

‘Silly AND Boring?’ I argued, to no-one in particular. My dog raised an eyebrow. ‘How can too much sex and too many drinks be boring?’

NB my use of the word ‘too’ not ‘to’ as per fuckwit reviewer.

I was being defensive, I know. But there’s something quite aggressive about a one-star review. It’s a hate review. In my quest to provide lighthearted entertainment I had somehow inadvertently enraged a reader to such an extent, they deemed it necessary to take time out of their busy life, otherwise undoubtedly filled with the consumption of poetic literary prose, to logon to Amazon and type a warning to other potential readers. How had I done that?

I hadn’t written a pro-Nazi manifesto. It’s a chick-lit novel. 

Once I’d taken a deep breath and reminded myself that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, I began to take a more objective perspective and considered where my defensiveness was coming from. If I was fully confident that my writing was good enough, I wouldn’t look to reviews for validation, would I? And the word ‘silly’ grated on me so much because deep-down, I knew that I would rather have written something, I don’t know, a little more…intelligent. 

None of us like criticism, but unless we hide away and avoid ever having an opinion then it’s inevitable. In fact, without criticism, how could we ever hope to improve?

Besides, I just checked. I’m in good company; Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ has nine one-star reviews on Amazon…


If you have time to waste, read more reviews (and add your own) for my ‘silly’ and ‘boring’ novel below:

US reviews

UK reviews  

16 thoughts on “Twinkle, twinkle little ONE star…

    • I was actually considering having a look about, to see what optionsI have. You were one of the folk I was going to speak with. Now, there’s been a change.

      You’d be the ONE to talk with :3

      A one star is no set back, it’s a way to show your spine, humour, and decorum – you stood up well.

      • You bring up a good point, Kris. There will always be flamers and trolls on the Internet and the BEST way to make yourself look like an absolutely amateurish hack is to throw a public hissy fit in reply (which I’m sure Haley didn’t do, but a lot of authors would). The best way to look like a total PRO is to sit back, take a deep breath, and respond like a cool-headed mature adult…no matter how bad the flame. “I’m sorry you didn’t like the novel but thank you for giving me a try.” Number one, you totally piss off the person who was trying to ruin your day/week/life. Number two, you look like a pro and a grownup! And the direct antithesis of the spoiled, egotistical, thin-skinned writer. You might even change a few minds who see the flame and the response and think, “Wow, if s/he’s that mature maybe their novel is worth a try after all!”

  1. People seem to want to either love things unconditionally or hate them absolutely anymore. I’ve been lucky with reviews of my own book so far, but sometimes I wonder if it’s only because people are scared to say what they really think. Some people (fortunately not on Amazon) have told me things like, “I had no idea what you were talking about and I didn’t read past the third chapter,” so I know it’s not just my own genius. In any case, I’m with you: I tend to reserve my 5-star reviews for the next William Faulkner and my 1-star reviews for Nazi propaganda (and at the other extreme, it’s gotten to where I feel bad leaving someone a 4-star review, which in my mind is pretty darned good). People who leave one-star reviews…it’s kind of more of a review of themselves than anything else. IMHO. I’m looking at it as a rite of passage I will eventually have to go through. Good luck, and good on you for taking it in stride.

  2. Pingback: Waiting to see my first one-star review | The Feth Element

  3. I’d argue that by writing ‘to much sex talk’, they’ve not only shown themselves up immensely, they’ve also inadvertently done you a favour Haley! As newcomers to your page will no doubt find themselves clicking on that review (especially as it’s the only one) and when they do, not only will they probably ignore it (given the typos), they’ll be intrigued given the sex talk (hopefully – I certainly would).

    I get that it must suck though. In fact, it’s something I’m absolutely dreading myself. But as you say, you can’t please everyone. And a) at least they bought your book and b) you have so many positive reviews anyway.

    Speaking of reviews, I think I’m able to leave one now. Not sure what was up with my account before.

  4. I was criticised for not being the dead American author Catherine Marshall, who wrote religious books!! Is it my fault people can’t check publication dates – and guess from the blurb it’s unlikely to be the same author?!

    Don’t let it get to you Haley. It’s occupational hazard, that’s all. 🙂

  5. Some of the best advice I ever received was to look at the Amazon reviews of any great literature piece “A Farewell To Arms” or “Moby Dick” and yes you will find plenty of scathing and moronic reviews of the classics.

  6. Oh pshaw. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it may even be a good thing.

    I got a one-star review awhile back, and it didn’t look like a credible one. I’m not sure the person even read the book. They seemed to like to give bad reviews to everythign they bought on Amazon. My publisher suggested I complain about it to Amazon – they didn’t, after all, have anything intelligent to say, like why they didn’t like it – but I left it there because a whole whack of five-star and four-star reviews screams, “I’M SELF-PUBLISHED, AND ALL THESE GREAT REVIEWS CAME FROM FRIENDS/FAMILY/COLLEAGUES I BEGGED, BROWBEAT AND BULLIED TO DO ME THIS FAVOUR.”

    I hate to say this, but a whole whack of five-star reviews now means, “THIS BOOK PROBABLY SUCKS” to me.

    Really good/popular books get a mix of reviews. No book is ever going to please anyone. My uncle *hated* The Da Vinci Code. If he’d rated it on Amazon, Dan Brown would probably…have laughed all the way to the bank 🙂 Me? Personally? I *hated* Anna Karenina. I hate it so much I tell people how badly it sucks so they won’t have to waste part of their lives on reading it like I did. And that’s considered a classic novel. So sue me. I hated hated hated it. And not because I had to read it for a college lit class (there were several others I had to read that semester that I loved. Charlotte Bronte, you totally rock!!!) I gave I think a three-star review to a Toni Morrison novel (award-winning author, although i don’t think this book was one of them) because I just didn’t like it that much.

    The really good/popular books look far more credible with mixed reviews – hopefully not 50/50, that’s a bad sign, and hopefully not more hating it than not – that’s a *really* bad sign. But a few bad reviews mixed in with good ones is just fine, IMO.

    I myself have been trying to build up my credibility as a book reviewer on Amazon, so I take it much more seriously than I did. I don’t hand out 5-star reviews anymore to help a friend. You want a 5-star review from me? You’d better be Ernest-Fucking-Hemingway. You want a one-star review? It had better be a bad, bad, bad novel. You have to really piss me off. I can’t remember if I’ve *ever* left a one-star review anywhere because my low standards are as low as my high standards are high. If you’re my friend, I’ll probably just warn you that I’d rather not review your book because I’d have to give it a low rating for blah-blah-blah reasons.

    So chin up, Haley, I promise you this isn’t the end of the world. You must be a REAL author, because you got a one-star review amongst some otherwise good reviews 🙂

  7. I don’t think it will do your sales any harm. With all those misspellings of the word ‘too’, any one can see their review doesn’t hold much credibility. Most people will go with the majority when selecting a book: if they are mostly 4 and 5 stars then they know the few 1 stars are people being a bit ‘arsey’. I enjoyed it very much-so when’s your next book?

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