The joy of a one-star review

In 2011, I released a little ebook called Simple Rules for Effective Business Communication. After several years and several thousand downloads, I figured I should probably make a paperback (PoD – print on demand) and audiobook version, just for those who don’t like an ebook.

Ironically, despite the thousands of downloads over the years, the ebook didn’t seem to garner any reviews – at all. But I figured no reviews was better than bad reviews – if it was that awful people would start jumping online and criticising it, so it was probably worth the effort to create the PoD and audiobook versions, which I eventually did, releasing them in 2018.

And then, thanks to the PoD paperback, it finally happened – someone reviewed it on Amazon!

With one star. ๐Ÿ™

My heart jumped, and I was thinking, ‘OMG, what did I do so wrong?’ as I nervously clicked through, hoping that my reader or listener had left a comment as well. A one-star review without a comment isn’t much help!

Don’t judge a book by its stars

Thankfully, the review included a rather lengthy comment and as I read it I felt relieved. Why? Because the reviewer reiterated just about everything you could learn about the book from Amazon’s product page as his complaint.

He was surprised at and ridiculed the size and the page count, and yet these are clear on Amazon’s product page – 4 x 6 inches, and 32 pages. And I make no effort to lie about the book in the description, even referring to it as a ‘booklet’, and specifying that it’s ‘short and to the point’.

When stating the bleeding obvious isn’t enough

Yet Mr Reviewer seemed to miss all this, admitting that he ‘ordered the book with measured expectations, given the low price’. So much for my and Amazon’s efforts to communicate honestly and simply to our potential buyers!

His only remotely applicable comment on the content was that it was ‘Very very basic content, appropriate for English language learners, I would suppose.’ I can’t really complain about that – although it’s not really designed for English language learners, it might open up a new market for me. Bonus! ๐Ÿ™‚

The irony is that, at the start of the book, I talk about communication being about getting your message across. (And you can even read that bit on the Kindle preview – see below.) It’s not just saying stuff, it’s making sure that the message I’m sending (this is a quick, to-the-point summary, not a boring-arse text-book) is what’s received by the person on the other side. Clearly, both Amazon and I failed on that point!

I suppose if someone doesn’t want to pay any attention to the information around them, I can’t help much with that. So in a way, my reviewer’s comment says more about him than it does about the book, that he doesn’t look too deeply at things, and takes chances despite the warnings (e.g. the low price had him suspicious, yet he forked over his hard-earned without further investigation, anyway).

So what’s the point of this post?

That a one-star review can actually be better than no reviews.

My reviewer may open up a new market for me with this book by suggesting that it’s suitable for English language learners. He’s also spelled out – quite clearly – that it’s a small book, which might make it attractive to those who aren’t looking for a 100,000 word tome on the subject. If they’re in the ‘just give me the facts’ zone, then this is perfect for them!

So despite my initial fear and disappointment, it’s actually okay.

But his focus point does leave me wondering … does size really matter that much? ๐Ÿ˜‰

4 Replies to “The joy of a one-star review”

  1. I relate hard to this! One of my only book reviews was a one-star saying (among a few valid points, to be fair) that the book was “too Australian” – this was a factor mentioned not once, but twice in the description (and again in my author bio). Bit of a hair-tear moment when someone’s wanting to read your book but can’t even be bothered to read your sales description! But you’re right – if your book can be marketed to ESL readers then you’ve done well with the “simple communication” aspect.

    1. How dare you write from your own perspective, lol! But yes, it is frustrating when you make the effort to be transparent and it’s all opaque to the buyer. I just know I’m a little more careful about how I spend my money. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I totally agree that a detailed โ€˜badโ€™ review is perhaps not the disaster it first looks. I had one that told me all about how my writing style didnโ€™t suit them and that I should have s look at a famous lesbian fantasy fiction writer for some tips. This reviewer did me quite a favour by firstly telling potential readers what I was not (a fantasy writer), and what I was (a dystopian sci fi or spec fic writer), and also showed potential readers that people who werenโ€™t friends and family were buying my book. A diverse range of reviews from โ€˜realโ€™ readers is gold for a new author.

    1. So true, on so many points, J-L! What a great ‘bad’ review – nothing like a little free ‘clarifying’ marketing, is there? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      If I’m looking to buy a book (other product, or even to book accommodation) online, I read a few of the best reviews, but I also read a lot of the worst reviews. They are often more informative than the good reviews, and can help reveal things I might not otherwise have known about the product. And, for the reasons you’ve just illustrated, they also often help propel me towards buying the item in question on those grounds. So it’s not about the stars, but the comments. The stars just help you find the comments!

      That last point you make, about a diverse range of reviews, is also really important. There’s nothing worse than seeing 10 five-star reviews on a brand new book by a brand new author in the first week of release – when you know damn well that half those people won’t have had time to even read the book! It just reeks of a lack of authenticity, and so I rarely buy unless I can preview the book myself and that preview reveals a writing style etc., that I think I’ll like.

      The hard thing to swallow for all authors is the fact that probably only one in a hundred people leaves a review, so you have to encourage an awful lot of folk to try what you’re selling before you start getting open, honest (and hopefully encouraging) feedback on it. If you want to be an author, you have to play the long game, don’t you?

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