The Phoenix Project

Blog Post by D.M.Cain

Why I’m proud of my 1* review Blog Post by D.M.Cain

To an author, a negative review can be soul-destroying. You have poured your heart into hours and hours of writing and editing something that, at times, feels like your baby – you treasure it and love it, and want to hold it high and shout your pride from the highest mountain. So when a reader dismisses it as ‘rubbish’ or slates your use of language, it can be hard to take.

This week, my debut novel ‘The Phoenix Project’ got its first 1* review:

1.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going. Dark and definitely not to my taste …, 22 July 2014
Amazon Customer (Cochrane, Alberta Canada) – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Heavy going.
Dark and definitely not to my taste.
The basic premise made little or no sense to me.

Did I sulk and cry and decide to never write another word? No, I smiled and heaved a sigh of relief.

This little solitary star does not mean I am a useless writer. It means I didn’t appeal to that reader. But more than that, it means I’m being taken seriously as a proper author. This isn’t a requested review, it hasn’t been paid for, it isn’t a friend or family member doing me a favour – this is a 100% honest member of the public who took the time to read my book. So it wasn’t for them – that’s fine. There has never been a book in the history of literature that hasn’t been disliked by somebody. I want reviewers to be honest and I appreciate it when they give me points to work on. I know that I am already a significantly better writer than I was this time last year – because of the reviews and advice I have received. I have taken comments on board and altered my style in just this last twelve months. It also means that, at this moment, I am a far worse author than I will be in one or two years’ time. So, I need this feedback from readers to help me to get to that level more quickly.

The Phoenix Project is not an easy read, I know that. When I set out to write such a bleak and emotional story, I wanted to affect my readers. I wanted them to have a strong reaction to my work – even if that reaction is negative. A 1* review is as powerful a response as a 5* review and, in my opinion, is better than a dispassionate 3* review.

I also believe that 1* reviews tell potential readers as much as 5* reviews do. When I’m looking for a new book to read, I often take a glance at a few five star reviews, but then I head straight to the 1* column. Why? Because the things people hated about a book will tell me what I need to know.

Take these two reviews of Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’:,/p>

5* review – The hunger games series are some of the best books I’ve read for a long time, couldn’t put them down!!

1* review – Should have been called ‘The Boring Games…’ It was juvenile and seemed to be gladiator meets big brother.

Here, the five star review tells potential readers nothing – just that that particular reader liked it. However, the one star review actually tells a lot about the book – it tells us people fight to the death while they are watched on TV screens (a bit like The Phoenix Project!) Based on these two reviews, I would still buy this book as the 1* review told me what I needed to know.

That’s the way I am viewing my own 1* review. Take a look again:

This review tells my potential readers 2 things:

  • It is a dark and heavy-going book with emotional and disturbing material (Thanks reviewer – that’s exactly what I was going for and want my readers to know before they pick this book up)
  • That the story line didn’t make much sense to him (Which is fine – I appreciate that this is a dystopian sci-fi and this genre always takes a stretch of the imagination. Maybe he isn’t used to reading dystopian novels. But I bet there will be people who read his review and decide to pick the book up for this very reason – to see if the plot will make sense to them.)

To me, getting 1* reviews isn’t always comfortable, but it can tell us a lot about our book and ourselves as a writer. So, fellow authors, when you get negative feedback, hold your head up high and take whatever positives you can from it.

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