Every author wants five star reviews. This is a given. As human beings we want everyone to love and adore our work, even when we know that is impossible. Everyone has different tastes in books. I like non-fiction history, you like a spicy romance. You want to escape into another world; I want to better understand the one we are already in. Different tastes make the world go round.
Indeed, critical reviews help authors by offering substance, feedback, and credibility. No author with more than five or six reviews has a perfect five star average; someone will always find something imperfect about your work. This is how it should be. Your work should receive a mix of reviews.
With one exception: the one star review.
On books, there is absolutely no reason for a one star review. Why? Because all book retailers offer book SAMPLING — try it before you buy it. The purpose is obvious: if you like the sample, odds are really good you will like the book and buy it. If you do not like the sample, odds are equally good that you will move on and not bother to purchase the book. Sampling helps match books with readers who like and appreciate them so that there is SOMETHING the reader likes before purchase.
If you like a book before you buy it, odds are good you will still like something about the book after you read it. Yes, there are plenty of examples of books not living up to their promise by the end — those are the ones who receive two star and three star reviews. But a one star review is different: it means there is no redeeming quality to the book. If this is the case, why did the reader download it after reading the sample in the first place?
To this, only one logical answer resonates: the person did not read the sample before download. Why not? In my experience this happens with free books. A person who pays nothing for a book risks nothing by downloading it (this is often why authors often their books for free). The flip side to this is that the person who pays nothing invests nothing in the same book; there’s no value to it because no money is actually paid.
When we pay money for something, we value it. It matters to us. We are careful about our choices. We make sure before we buy something that it is something we (or any person we give it to) really want and expect to enjoy. The more something costs us, the more careful we are to evaluate whether or not we really want it in the first place. With books, we take our time and read the samples. We research. We investigate. Then and only then do we spend the money and buy.
Every single one star review I ever received came from people who received my book as a gift in some way — a winner in a giveaway, a special sale promotion, or a permafree book. In paying nothing, the reader invested nothing. By investing nothing the reader had no inhibitions about trashing my book and hurting its review average with that one star.
That is, if s/he read it at all; I have reviews where it is clear all the person did was skim the sample, then write the review based on a few paragraphs and feign to have read the entire thing. These too were negative reviews whose content did not match with anything mentioned in reviews written by those who read the books.
Why do people do this? Give me your thoughts! Let’s talk about our experiences dealing with negative reviews! Post your comment here or tweet to https://twitter.com/laurelworlds.