I just got a 1- or 2-star review! What do I do now?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The May 6 question of “Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?” is one I can answer that in two simple sentences: Not really. It’s just a matter of starting because I can write anywhere.

As a result, I decided to write instead about 1- and 2-star reviews. I do look forward to reading about my fellow writers’ rituals, though.

I just got a 1- or 2-star review! What do I do now?

As writers, we want reviews. We love reviews when they’re great. But, when they’re not, how are we supposed to feel?

I belong to a dozen or so writing forums and groups on Facebook and Twitter. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone groan and moan because they just got a 1-star review, I could retire happily, never to write again.

Why is it that we love 4- & 5-star reviews, but absolutely hate the 1- and 2-star reviews? Two reasons.

First, it feels like a grade, like when we were in school. We forget that a 3 is average and that most of us are probably average.

Second, we feel like we’re being judged. And, no one likes being judged. For any reason. Well, except if we’ve entered a contest.

We all like to believe we’re better than average and that someone else’s opinion of us doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter, then why do we allow ourselves to get upset?

Here’s the thing. Those numbers simply represent someone’s opinion. Nothing more. It doesn’t mean your book is good or bad. It means they either liked it or they didn’t.

How many books have you read that you didn’t like? Did you recommend them? Of course not. Likewise, how many books have you loved and raved about to others?

I don’t like everything I read. Can I really expect someone else to love everything they read?

That’s all that those numbers represent, nothing more. Someone’s opinion. It doesn’t make your book good or bad. A masterpiece versus a dud. It’s just an opinion. ONE OPINION.

If you get a pile of 4s and 5s, hey, lucky you! You found your audience. Is there an occasional 1 or 2? Lucky you! Someone was trying you out as a new author because they were told by someone they know or because they were enticed by all the 4s and 5s but discovered the book wasn’t to their liking. And, they wanted everyone to know it.

An example. I hated Fifty Shades of Grey. I was one opinion in an immense sea of “love it!” Did my opinion make a difference? Not one bit. Would my opinion have made a difference if I had been the first one to post a review? Not a bit. There would have been enough others following me to overcome my low ranking. Word-of-mouth advertising sold that book. It wasn’t the reviews. It was people talking to other people. The same thing happened with Gone With the Wind, Bridges of Madison County, The Martian, and others.

It’s all about perspective.

Getting all 1s and 2s? Now, that’s a problem. Not with them. The problem is with your book. It’s probably ladened with errors, has plot holes, or has character issues. Did you have it proofed? Did you use beta readers to help you uncover those plot or character problems? If not, unpublish it, fix the problems, get a new ISBN, a new cover, and sell it as a 2nd edition, stating that previous issues have been addressed.

It’s not the end of the world to get the occasional 1- or 2-star review. It is a problem, though, if as a writer you think it’s a problem. And generally, it is the new writer who wails about these first 1- and 2-star reviews. Experienced writers ignore them.

Step back, look at the big picture, stop giving each review an all-or-nothing power, and keep writing. Look at the overall ratings, instead. If most of them are healthy, then you’re good.

If the problem is you only have a few reviews, then your job is to get more. Give your book away to reviewers. Find a reviewing website or two. At the back of each of my books, I talk about reviews and how they’re important to writers, showing them how they can quickly write a review.

Your goal is to find your audience. Your ultimate goal is to write a book that creates word-of-mouth advertising because those are the books that fly off the shelf and become the book-to-movie stories. Nothing sells books faster or better than word-of-mouth.


Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Check us out!  http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
This entry was posted in #IWSG, Publishing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I just got a 1- or 2-star review! What do I do now?

  1. nancygideon says:

    I try not to mind a 1 or 2 star review as long as it’s an honest opinion of the content or offers valuable insight into why it didn’t make a higher mark. What I bothers me is meanness or irrelevance (“I didn’t like the cover” or “I don’t like heroes with blond hair.”) Those aren’t useful, helpful or necessary or unfairly lower the work’s standing.


  2. Diana Stout says:

    I totally agree, Nancy. Which is why it’s easy to disregard those nasty and irrelevant reviews posted for anyone’s book(s). Thanks for stopping by!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. soniadogra says:

    Thank you! This is honest and braces me up. I’ve been given 1 or 2 for some of my stories. But mostly I’ve taken it in the spirit of growth and betterment. It’s worked too. But as you said, I believe that until there’s something truly amiss every book should find its readers.


  4. Diane Burton says:

    Another question to ask is why do we obsess over that 1 or 2 star reviews rather than on the 4s & 5s? I’m grateful for every 4 and 5. For my own reading, if a book doesn’t grab me, I don’t finish it (unless it’s for my book group–sometimes even then). I’d rather not give a low review. Instead, I don’t give any. I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s dream. Stay safe, Diana.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s