Mar

27

2014

Should I Respond to a One-Star Review?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

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Have you ever received a one-star review? Or do you dread the day that might happen? Or perhaps you are hoping to be published so you can get a review. Any review. When you start receiving reviews, some of them might not be as stellar as you had hoped. So what, if anything, should you do?

Good, Bad, Indifferent?

When I look at reviews of sites such as Amazon, I think it’s healthy to see a range of reviews from five stars to one star rather than all fives. Why? Because a reasonable mix of reviews indicates that strangers are reading your book. Any author can find a few friends to post five star reviews, but a mixed reaction shows that a book is being marketed to a variety of readers. It’s nice not to receive any one-star reviews and keep your mix in the five to three range, but a few lower reviews mixed in with positive comments shouldn’t mark the end of your career.

That doesn’t mean one-star reviews take you to a happy place, though. Instead, you may feel angry, defensive, offended, surprised, and perhaps tearful. No matter what, don’t let your fingers hit the keyboard to respond publicly to any review when you are feeling these emotions. Call a friend and gripe, cry to your spouse, play catch with your dog, but never post any comments until you are calm. In fact, this applies to any form of posting comments online.

A Gracious Response

The idea for this topic occurred to me when I spoke with one of my authors, Angie Breidenbach. Angie has a positive outlook on life and she wasn’t upset by her one-star review on her book, A Healing Heart

Instead, she posted a gracious response that even gained her at least one more reader:

Thank you for your review. The character reactions are actually based on the study of people I know in real life. And to be honest, Mara is based on my own journey back from being angry with God. So I suppose it’s simply a case of whether you’ve ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone you love, or not. I wish you a delightful and joyous life – one that never has to face these dilemmas. May yours be a peace-filled, happy journey :)

That’s not to say that a well-mannered response will always be successful, though. We’ve all met the person who just won’t like us or our books no matter what we do or how we write. So how to decide?

Not All One-Star Reviews Are Equal

Some reviewers will state what they disliked about the book in an honest way. The nicer ones will also say what they did like about the book as well. Chances are, as the author, you won’t agree with a negative review. Very few people would be able to respond without appearing defensive or argumentative. Approach responding with extreme caution. Or better yet, don’t offer a retort at all.

Other reviewers are looking for a safe way to vent their own anger and frustration and may attack you and your beliefs personally. There is no reason to respond to them. By virtue of name-calling, the person has lost the argument.

In the Christian publishing world, we have a problem peculiar to us in that some people will read our books and then become mad that they portray a Christian message. These readers didn’t properly review the promotional material around your book before deciding to purchase. That is on the reader, not you, as an author. No need to respond to these reviews.

I’ve seen many one-star reviews commenting that the electronic format was poor so they rate the book one star for that reason. Sadly, this will bring down a book’s average but the author’s only safe response is to alert the publisher to the problem.

Still other reviewers will rank a competing book with a one-star and then try to convince readers to buy their books instead. Usually they’ll get called on this unethical practice by other reviewers. No need to comment on such a transparent ploy.

Remember, You Have a Team

If a reviewer has made an unjustifiable attack on your work and you really feel you need to make a correction, I still recommend not responding in any way until you speak with your agent and/or editor. For example, if a reviewer says your book misstates facts, defending the integrity of your research may be in order. But by all means, consult the team of publishing professionals behind you before engaging in any public defense or explanation.

Your Obligations

Yes, you are obligated to your readers in that you must deliver the best quality work you can at all times. This shows you care about your reader and her time. But you are not obligated to respond to your reviews at all. Many authors make a firm practice not to read their reviews. The flip side of reviews is that too many glowing ones may make you feel overconfident. Sort of like the old Hollywood expression about the star who believes his own publicity. 

Whether you keep up with your reviews or not, don’t take any of them too seriously. Better to spend your time writing your next wonderful book.

Your Turn

Do one-star reviews keep you from buying a book?

Have you been disappointed in a book with glowing reviews?

What book or books do think have really lived up to their reviews?

Have you ever written a one-star review?

Mar

26

2014

Chapters: How Long is Too Long?

by Karen Ball I’ve had a number of people ask me lately how long their chapters should be. My answer has been: “As long as they need to be.” Now, it would be nice if I could give folks the “industry-standard” answer: “Chapters should be no less than xx and no longer than xxx,” but the truth is there isn’t…

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Mar

25

2014

Don’t Just Do It

by Dan Balow I don’t like the word “just”. Don’t get me wrong, “just” is a fine word, especially when used in a triple-word space in Scrabble.  It has all sorts of good uses and meanings…even used to fill time when we are thinking, along with the other great words and phrases of our culture, such as “like”, ”um”, “I…

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Mar

24

2014

When You are on the Bench

by Steve Laube The NCAA Basketball Tournament is upon us with lots of drama accompanying March Madness. As you watch a game, of any team sport, the focus is on the players in the contest. The camera follows the stars and their every move. What you rarely do is watch the bench or the players on the sidelines. I find…

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Mar

21

2014

Fun Fridays – March 21, 2014

Enjoy this song once again, but this time with an amazing mimic singing with multiple voices. Put a smile on your face today!

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Mar

20

2014

God’s Timing

by Tamela Hancock Murray Since he is a wise businessman himself, my husband almost never calls me when I’m at a conference. He knows how hectic business travel can be. But on a recent trip, he had asked me to call him when I reached the venue. Excited and pulled into a meeting immediately upon my arrival, I forgot to…

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Mar

19

2014

Open Your Eyes! There is Creativity Everywhere

by Karen Ball If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll have seen my recent pictures of the flowers that have been blooming like crazy in my yard. It happened so fast! One day the ground seemed dead and unyielding, the next green shoots popped up, and then… WHAM! Flowers and flowering shrubs and trees burst forth with colors and buds…

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Mar

18

2014

How to Be A Reader’s Favorite Author

by Dan Balow Last week in this space, I wrote about how you could become a publisher’s favorite author (other than selling millions of books).  Today, we’ll go a little different direction and talk about what you would need to do to become a favorite author to your readers. A key difference between how you relate to a publisher and…

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Mar

17

2014

Hug a Librarian

by Steve Laube It all began in elementary school. I discovered our city’s public library with the help of my mom. I soon began walking there regularly after school. While there, in what seemed to be a massive building, I would explore the rows and rows of books. Plucking one off the shelf here and there and skimming pages. And…

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Mar

14

2014

Fun Fridays – March 14, 2014

Two of my favorite musical things: Acapella vocals and solo Cello.
Pentatonix is an incredible group.

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