Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let Go of the Lone Star Review

By Dani Collins, @DaniCollinsBook

No one likes bad reviews, especially the one-star kind. 

It's even worse when a bad review is based on something that isn't related to the novel--like bad service from the bookseller or shipping company. Dani Collins is here today so share some thoughts on dealing with one-star reviews and how you can learn to let go and let them be.

Dani spent twenty-five years dreaming of writing full time and finally made her first sale to Harlequin Mills & Boon in May of 2012. She’s still dreaming of making Romance Author her day job, but for now she writes around work, family, and enough exercise to keep her out of traction. For more information about Dani, you can visit her website at, listen to her interview with Nice Girls Reading Naughty Books, or watch her interview on GFTV.

Take it away Dani...

I got a one-star review on Goodreads one day—on ALL of my books. From the same reader.

That’s weird, right? I mean, everyone can hate one book. Do they usually read the rest of that author’s work that day? And hate all of them? Surely at some point you stop the insanity.

Now, I did read somewhere—and I wish I could find it to back up this urban myth, but my half-hearted googling didn’t produce results. I read a while back that some readers on Goodreads have a system whereby they tag books with one star if they want to read them. This is how my February book, that isn’t even available yet, could get a one star review.

Did I mention this reader took the trouble to tag the same books in several iterations? Like the Large Print version and the Australian version? She left the Portugese version alone, but tagged an anthology I wrote with a dozen other writers that didn’t deserve to be hated.

Tell me this wasn’t time out of her day that could have been spent on other pursuits.

Which is not the point I’m trying to make. I’m putting this oddity behind me because reviews are just one of those kooky things we can’t control when we choose to publish.

In fact—and I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again—writing is yours, it’s your bliss, you can do whatever you want with your writing. If you choose to publish, you are entering an alternate universe. Prepare for things not to make sense.

Thus we can have a puzzle as mentioned above. That’s why I didn’t try very hard to chase the mythical ‘explanation for one-star reviews.’ It’s not something I could change even if I found out why people do it.

Learning to let go of those things we can’t control is a lesson every writer should work to master, just like dialogue and punctuation and when to use naval vs. navel. (Romance writers, especially, should learn the last one.)

Fine, you say. But how do you just, ‘Let go?’

1. Recognize that you’re offering a product, not a puppy

The second you hand your book to a publisher, you give up control in a big way. The first choice you lose is whether they will buy it. Release date, how the book will look, the cover, the back cover copy…. These are all things you might have input on, but probably not much. Publishers buy books. They don’t adopt them.

2. Accept that publishers are invested in the book’s success

I don’t choose the titles of my Harlequin books. Two have come back with question marks on them. That made me scratch my head, but I reason that Harlequin is pretty serious about their marketing. They wouldn’t deliberately sabotage sales with something as small as a question mark so it must be a strategy.

3. Do It Yourself

Some will quickly chime in here that lack of control is the reason so many authors are going indie. It allows the author maximum control and I agree. They still can’t control how readers will respond to their books, however, so while it’s one strategy for avoiding some of the anxiety of publishing, it’s not the whole answer.

4. Adjust your expectations

Are you actually upset because you had a different expectation? Had you built something in your mind that was based purely on wishful thinking? Was it going to be so perfect if this came out the same month as that conference you are going to and you could do a signing? What’s the real source of your disappointment or anger?

5. Assess the damage

I have it on good authority that bad reviews sell books. When readers see a criticism, they’re more inclined to pick up a book and judge for themselves. Think about your own reaction when you’re reading those reviews on Amazon. The written ones have more weight that stars-only, right? So how much does a ‘yuck’ review impact your own decision to buy?

6. Turn the weakness into a strength

The infamous three-armed heroine cover has made the rounds for years, getting incredible exposure. I just used my one-star review to kick off this blog post. Find a way to turn your frown upside down.

7. Laugh

I’m pretty tough. I had so many rejections for so many years, I’m just thrilled people are reading my books, even if they’re hating them. I had one bad review, however, where the reader said, ‘But I downloaded it for free so I can’t complain too much.’ Just laugh. Seriously.

8. Quit

Publishing, that is. If you really enjoy writing, write. If you want to publish, accept that there will be things about this job that you can’t control. It is a job, by the way, and people get downsized every day.

There are other strategies, like drinking, to get over the things we can’t change, but that really opens up a can of other problems so I don’t recommend it. And I’m not saying you’re never allowed to feel disappointment or exasperation. Or something stronger. Those are healthy reactions to adversity. You just have to be able to move past those negative emotions so you can write the next book.

That’s my real, #1 piece of advice for letting go. Write another book. Because that transports us to a planet where we get to control everything.

About More Than A Convenient Marriage?

It started with a signature…

Rich, powerful and with a beautiful wife to boot, it seems like Greek shipping magnate Gideon Vozaras has it all. But little does the world know his perfect life is all a fa├žade…

After years of disguising her pain behind a flawless smile, untouchable heiress Adara Vozaras has reached a breaking point. Her marriage, once held together by an undeniable passion, has become nothing more than a convenience.

But Gideon can't afford the public scrutiny that a divorce would bring and if there's one thing his harsh past has taught him, it's how to fight dirty to keep what's his...

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  1. That sounds to me like someone got offended by something you said or did (even if you did nothing wrong, some people are weird), and set out for revenge. I've read before of such revenge-1-star-ratings across all of an author's books. It's just not plausible that someone read every single book of yours and saw them all as one star. They would have stopped after the second or third at the most.

    If there's a mechanism to report this person to Goodreads (and Amazon if it occurs there), I would do that, then forget about it.

  2. Hi R.E.

    That's kind of what I thought. And since I sent in this post, Goodreads has removed the one-star wonder. I didn't ask them to do it, so obviously they monitor for certain things. That's really good to know.


  3. How strange that people would use a 1-star rating "system" for books they want to read. Why not just click that big shiny "want to read" button?!

    I haven't published yet, but I have no doubt that when I do (even self-pubbing) I will get at least a few 1-star reviews, some of which will have nothing to do with the book itself.

    1. Hi Trisha,

      I know. It was quite a ToDo on the romance writer loops so I think Goodreads has made an effort to educate the users on how these things impact the writers.

      I personally have a hard time giving anyone less than a five. Writing is hard! Publishing is hard. 'A' for effort every time, right? And if it appears the writer put no real effort in, then okay. Maybe a two or three. :)

  4. Oh, this is such great advice. I'm preparing to indie publish, so I'm toughening up my skin :)