One Star Reviews

It was bound to happen eventually. It happens to every writer who puts themselves out there.  No one is immune.  Not even F. Scott Fitzgerald whose novel, The Great Gatsby, has received a total of 116 one star reviews. Stephen King is known the world over as a writer worth reading. Yet his novel, The Stand, considered by some to be one of the best post apocalyptic stories ever written, has gotten 53 one star reviews.

Every writer gets them. Everyone. And I’m pleased to announce that I just had my one star review cherry popped. You can check it out at the link below if you’re so inclined.

Does it bother me? Not in the least, and I only mention it to make a point. If one wishes to be a writer, singer, painter, dancer, actor, or anyone who puts themselves out in the public eye, you need a thick skin. Because not everyone is going to like you’re latest masterpiece.

But I as a writer do take one thing from this one star review. The reviewer, for all their loathing, did finish the story. Even though they didn’t like it, they admitted to reading to the end.

How a writer responds to a one star, or a bad review, can become the stuff of legend in this day of instant communication coupled with the anonymity of the Internet.

I'm personally aware of a writer who uses sock puppets to attack anyone who dares impinge upon the quality of his work. I discovered this when the author in question reviewed my work in a couple of different places. In one place he posted the review under his sock puppet, while in another place he posted the exact same review, word for word, under his real name.

Upon closer examination I discovered that the writer had reviewed his own work in addition to attacking anyone who dared give his work less than four stars. In case you’re wondering his work was self-published.

J.A. Konrath recently put up a tongue in cheek post about bad reviews. It’s worth  a look just for the chuckle it’ll give you. It can be found here.

At the other end of the spectrum is the spectacle of Jacqueline Howett and her response to the review of her book The Greek Seaman at Big Al’s Books and Pals. Which can be found here:

Talk about a career killer.

Over reacting to bad reviews is not restricted to those who self-publish.

Anne Rice is well known for her Vampire Chronicles that have sold millions of books worldwide. When Blood Canticle was released many of the readers who had been waiting for the book were less than thrilled and responded with negative reviews. 109 one star reviews out of a total of 406 reviews on Amazon. Anne responded, not so nicely.

Her full response is available here:

While researching this post I discovered that self-published authors are more inclined to get into a fight with reviewers than those who have followed the traditional route. Sadly this leads many people to frown on self-publishing as a whole. And reviewers will refuse to review self published works for fear of being confronted.

I’m no expert but I personally believe it may be because those who have followed the traditional route have endured rejection by editors in the past, yet continued to submit, thereby thickening their skin, and preparing them for bad reviews.

While those who self-publish may not have experienced  rejection at all until they are reviewed by the general public who is known to not pull any punches when it comes to letting others know how they feel about a product they’ve paid for.

Does this mean I frown on self-publishing? Absolutely not. I’m just making an observation based on my research.

I’ve self-published in the past and will continue to do so. But at the same time I’m pursuing traditional publishing with my short stories, and I’m experiencing rejection. It is my hope I can reach a wider audience for my longer work by having my short work appear in a variety of magazines and anthologies.

As a writer how does a negative review make you feel?

If the book or story you read was bad, do you post a negative review?

If not, why?


  1. Great post. I've started writing again after quite a long break again last year and took the traditional route right from the beginning. It's your personal choice which way to go - I somehow need the feeling that an editor seems to like my stuff well enough to publish it in his antho or magazine, be it e-zine or print. That's when you start dealing with rejections. My rule of thumb is - if more than four editors reject your story, it's highly probable, that it IS crap. Happened twice and looking back I've got to say the editors were right. Other stories didn't fit with one editor was looking for, but got me a nice email back with a contract from another one. The first thing I've learned was - the editors actually are the good guys. They want to read good stuff, they want to get excited by something they read and share it with others. They are not frustrated little bitter fucks out there to get you. A rejection from the Necon flash fiction contest made me work harder. I just got stubborn and planned not to rest till I break that market. A year later I don't think a negative review would get me riled up. You cannot please everyone. You sit down and write the story you want to read and hope that others will like it, too. Just don't count on it. Differ between reviews that just state 'Owww, dat was shite, mate." and those that are intelligently written and might offer advice you might use next time. And always, ALWAYS make sure that there is enough booze in the fridge before you read your reviews, just in case.
    Best, Max

    1. Thanks for stopping by Max. My goal is to crack Cemetery Dance. I do have to disagree a bit on your four editors comment. If the four rejections are form rejections, then yeah, time to revisit that story. But if they are personal rejections, ie: not what I'm looking for at this time, or nicely done but doesn't fit. Sometimes its tough to place a piece. I do agree editors are not the bad guys. About the booze, always.