The following may deserve a “Get A Life” response: I love to read book reviews. Now that Amazon has made it so convenient to access reviews, I take pleasure in reading them. I don’t read all the reviews, mostly those with one- and two-stars because those are the most entertaining. What prompted me to write this article today is one review in particular I just read - for a novel I will not name. My comments are not directed at the author’s writing (that is not my point here) but at the reviewer’s remarks. More accurately, they address one remark in particular.
First, let me say that the novel in question received numerous four- and five-star reviews (deserved or undeserved - again not my point.) Second, the one- and two-star reviews often reveal more about the reviewer than the novel being reviewed. The one-star review remark that energized me to write about it? This:
“I’ve downloaded a hundred books and never bothered to write a review but I HAD to for this one.”
This one remark seems to encapsulate what so many authors are tweeting and facebooking and linkeding and pinteresting about. It drew my attention NOT BECAUSE this particular person did not like the novel and wrote a one-star review but BECAUSE this particular person read (or at least downloaded) ninety-nine other books and “never bothered to write a review” for any one of those books that offered pleasant reading or compelling thought for that reader.
Voracious readers and book bloggers cannot write a review for every book they write. That is why they choose to write reviews for the books they do like. It is also fair to write an honest one-star review. But only writing a review when a novel so enrages the reader that it becomes a moral obligation to tell the world of the outrage? Wouldn’t that hurt the reader more than the author or the novel being reviewed?
Unless there are thousands of people out there like me who leaf through page after page of good reviews looking for the more entertaining comments, then the main benefit of writing a one-star review is for the reviewer to vent an emotional reaction to a story the reader found lacking. But how does that affect the sale of the book? The following BEST-SELLER books (none the focus of this post) received numerous one- and two-star reviews:
The Hunger Games - 8875 reviews - #11 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4.5-star rating)
No Easy Day - 478 reviews - #4 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4-star rating)
Twilight Book 1 - 5465 reviews - #834 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4-star rating)
Fifty Shades of Grey - 12,256 reviews - #2 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 3-star rating)
On the highway, a vehicle accident draws stares, cars slow and people gawk. When the traffic officer tells drivers, “Move on, there is nothing worth seeing here,” that only makes people look harder. After all, it is human nature to require proof of statements that tell us what to think or do. This same principle applies to one-star reviews. The reaction is “How can a novel be THAT BAD?” or “If this novel so incited the reviewer, I’ve got to check it out for myself.”
Good or bad, Word of Mouth and Reviews sell books.