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Dealing with the Dreaded One-Star Amazon Review

Imagine this scenario; you check your latest title for reviews and see there’s a new one! How exciting! You click on it ready to read how awesome they think your writing is, how brilliant your characters are, and how they can’t wait to read your next book. But your excitement turns to dread when you see one star staring back at you. One! Now you feel like you have been punched in the gut. What to do?

Take a deep breath and remember it's just one person’s opinion. Try this for an experiment, find a book you deeply love and read the negative reviews. My fiancé did this with two of her all-time favorite books and was surprised by how many reviewers truly disliked the stories.

Tougher to deal with are reviews which point out legitimate flaws with your actual writing. Perhaps there is a plot failure or lack of character development. First of all, congratulations on being able to acknowledge your flaws, you are on your way to becoming a better writer! Maybe it’s time to hire a good editor or join a writing group. I know someone who was told that they began too many sentences with she/he. Although it was hard to hear at the time, she was eventually grateful for the feedback because her writing has improved ten-fold. It’s far better to get feedback in a small group rather than a very public platform such as Amazon.

But what to do if you get a bad review that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your writing? In fact, it has nothing to do the story at all? I’m talking about a reviewer complaining about a printing error or something else out of your control and gave you—the author—a negative review for it.

Here’s an actual legitimate one-star review:

I am quite disappointed. . . the writing seems like an endless assemblage of statements presented as facts, with little background or support. I'd rather each chapter contained one well-supported, fully-developed statement, then wade through this barrage. Really, it just descends into meaninglessness after a few pages.

This is a fair review. The reader has expressed why he or she gave it the one star.

For the same title, here’s another one-star review, which clearly has nothing to do with the actual story:

Pages 109 to 139 double printed and [is] illegible. Was so excited to give this book to my son. . .Alas must return and reorder. What a disservice to the incredible BRILLIANT author!

What does this review have to do with the story? The plot, characters, or editing? Nothing. This review should have been posted to the printer’s website, not on the book review page. The author didn’t print the copy which the reader received, yet he or she is getting a one-star rating which in turn can impact their overall ranking.

Other one-star reviews I’ve seen in abundance include: “Amazon sent me the wrong title,” “USPS lost my package,” “Book arrived with no cover,” and “The book is missing pages,” All of these mishaps were (I hope) just something that fell between the cracks and not done maliciously.

With all the technology Amazon uses from verifying purchases to ranking millions of authors, why can’t they block such reviews? Why do they allow such a disservice to their authors—who make them money!? It achieves nothing except to make Amazon and the author look bad.

If you have received such a one-star review, you can reach out to Amazon, but history shows that will likely get you nowhere fast.

To all the reviewers, please direct your complaints where appropriate. If there’s a printing error, take it up with the printer. Don’t take it out on the author who has nothing do to do with it. I’m sure (or at least hope) you don’t give a gas station a bad review because the car manufacture improperly installed the timing belt.

To all the authors out there, keep writing and pay no heed to the one-star reviews that are out of your control. Your audience is intelligent enough to know the difference between a legitimate review vs. a complaint about service.

To all the reviewers, please, don’t post a bad review for reasons out of the authors control as they most likely have no way of fixing the problem. Instead contact customer support where they can actually resolve the matter. Amazon has great customer service and will replace any damaged book and/or fix any issue such a wrong title sent.

Read the book? Just as the writer has the freedom to express themselves as they see fit you the reader have every right to articulate your reaction. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Just keep it respectable because there is a real person behind that book.

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