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
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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