I like one-star reviews.
Whenever I’m thinking of buying a book, I always read the one-star reviews first. Praise is fine, but you can really discern the merit of a book by who hates it most. When the reviews expose the haters as unintelligible, barely literate morons, I’ll usually buy the book. After all, if dummies hate it, it’s probably a smart, challenging, interesting piece of work.
I like one-star reviews on my own books as well. Not too many, you understand, but some. Books with all five-star reviews look like they’ve been love-bombed by friends, family, and, all too often, paid shills. But some less-than-stellar, or even all-out-venomous reviews help tip the average down just enough to make the overall reaction to a book seem reasonable and balanced.
Plus, I especially love it when the one-star review helps market the book. Cries of “very disturbing” as one GoodReads user recently said of Petty Crimes and Vindictive Criminals may warn off those of delicate sensibilities, while drawing in others as a selling point.
I don’t like one-star reviews when they’re dropped on a book that has no other reviews to act as a counterbalance. That’s what just happened with my Longshot Comics series of (dare I say legendary) graphic novels. Someone clearly didn’t care for the gimmick of the books, probably didn’t bother to read them once they saw they were not standard comic-book fare with the sort of artwork one would normally expect, and one-starred the whole trilogy. No reviews, just single stars.
That doesn’t do much damage to the first book. The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers has been advocated by many fans for nearly thirty years now. People reading the new Amazon editions have been leaving their reviews on Book One, so that ratio is reasonable. Unfortunately, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers and the all-new The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers have not been branded by their own star ratings. Not until now.
One displeased reader, with no comment, has condemned these two books to ratio hell. This person was only the second one to rate Book Two, and the sole person to date to have rated Book Three. It’s probably my own fault for not badgering my readers to leave reviews, but I don’t like to do that, and I want to avoid any perception from Amazon that I’m fishing for compliments. They don’t like authors to do that. There can be terrible consequences.
I can, however, encourage honest reviews from readers. Reviews help raise the profile of Amazon books, and they apparently tickle the fancy of the mysterious algorithm god that decides what gets suggested to shoppers.
If you’ve read my books, and have any sort of opinion, please go to Amazon and express it. Reviews are nice, but even the small effort of clicking on a star rating will help enormously. I hope to see the Longshot Comics feedback repaired to something a little less biased against epic minimalism in future. You can make all the difference.