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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Authors Sounding Off On 1-Star Reviews

So I’m a little behind on my Publishers Weekly newsletters—like say four months or so. Oops. But because I really do enjoy reading the Children’s Bookshelf emails, I’ve been perusing my backlist the past few days and I came across a YA hullabaloo I'd missed. I love a good hullabaloo.

Turns out, a couple months ago, a YA author—well, really her agent—got ticked off that someone on GoodReads gave a 1-star review to the author's novel, THE SELECTION. For some very misguided reason, the author and agent had a public conversation about this review on Twitter where the reviewer, Wendy Darling, was a compared to a female dog. Ouch.
You can read the review here. Then read all the craziness that occurs in the comments, including a transcript of the author and agent’s infamous Twitter conversation here
Just to prepare you, the Twitter transcript is in comment #268, and the comments go up to more than 1,500. Wow. People were MAD.
Anyway, the controversy got me thinking. As an author, it’s so tempting to want to defend your work, and the Internet now (unfortunately) gives you the avenue to do so. Someone trashed your book? Just hit ‘reply.’ It’s that simple. There’s no Letter to the Editor, no stamps, no post office, no days to cool-off. It’s immediate.



Same thing applies to the reviewer. Anyone with a book and an Internet connection is now a reviewer read by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That book didn’t hold your interest when you half paid attention while watching you kids fight at the pool? Give it one-star. You didn’t enjoy that fantasy novel, the first one you ever read because you usually prefer historical romances? Well, you give that book one star as well.
I think sometimes reviewers forget that authors are just people, with feelings, who spent years working on a manuscript, were beyond THRILLED to finally get it published after even more years of struggling, and then were heartbroken to see someone say, “I didn't find a single aspect of this story that I enjoyed.”
But, authors, you know how you solve this problem? Don’t read your GoodReads reviews! Or your Amazon reviews! Ever. Not even the good ones. It will only drive you insane, and it will only make your fingers itch to hit that ‘reply’ button. Nothing can be done about your book now. It is out in the word. Printed. Bound. Distributed. You can’t change a word. Literally. 
Let. It. Go.
However, I will say that in this instance, I give the reviewer a lot of credit for writing a very in-depth analysis explaining why she gave the book 1-star. She didn’t just slap up a rating up and call it a day. You can tell she spent time thinking about it.
This is more than I can say for the person who gave one of my books a 1-star review. After reading the controversy, I gave in and checked my own GoodReads status—I know, ignoring my own advice. And I saw that two people had given Amor and Summer Secrets a 1-star rating, neither offered an actual review or explanation.
Being curious, I decided to click-through to one reader’s profile and see what her other ratings looked like. You know what I found? She gave DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank 2-stars. Seriously. Two stars to one of the most respected books in the history of the world.
And that, my friends, is why you don’t get upset by online reviewers.


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