One Star Reviews are None of Your Business & How to Beat Back the Temptation to Control the Narrative Surrounding Your Book
From a reader's point of view.
I was at the mall with my daughter the other day and she brought me by the store, LUSH. The moment I walked in my nose was assaulted by one thousand smells causing a tingly sensation like a sneeze trapped in my body. I picked up a lot of product and gave it a sniff test. I honestly did not enjoy any of the scents. My daughter was laughing at how much I hated all the soaps, lotions, elixirs, and body ‘butters’ and ‘sugars’.
“Obviously you’re not the target audience here, Mom.” she laughed. Clearly not. I’ll stick to my Cerave skincare line that doesn’t smell like anything except a light whiff of ‘clean’. My aversion didn’t change my daughter’s mind about LUSH at all, by the way. She’s a fan.
Now, imagine my daughter and I wandering around LUSH, me hating everything and my daughter laughing, and one of the founders comes up and says, “Well actually…” and then proceeds to dismiss my experience with how I was missing the point of LUSH. Maybe the co-founder would give me the backstory of the company. He would tell me how all the product is handmade. There are no preservatives. It’s essentially the best product on the market, better than whatever I’m currently using.
Blah-fucking-blah, right? Not only would I not give a single shit but dismissing my unbiased, honest narrative and trying to replace it with a carefully curated biased response is horseshit. This approach never works. Hear me. NEVER WORKS.
It would cause me to dislike LUSH even more than I originally did. It’s doubling down on my already negative experience.
“Clearly, Mrs. Hartmann, your nose is not refined or developed enough to enjoy the amazing quality and scents of LUSH products.”
[look at Pee Wee’s face]
That would be my reaction. First, I’m having a private conversation with my daughter which doesn’t involve anyone else. Second, my experience is valid because it’s mine. Third, I’m not your customer. My daughter loves LUSH, focus your efforts on making her happy and ignore people who are not interested. Why? Because the more LUSH caters to its fanbase, the more those people will share their positive experiences with others and possibly generate more enthusiastic customers. Trying to convince the percentage of people that don’t like LUSH is a waste of time because changing people’s minds is hard.
Now, apply all of this to negative reviews of books on Goodreads. A reader is sharing their experience with other readers and the author or publisher decides this is their business and steps in with a “Well actually…” (and it doesn’t matter if there isn’t a direct response on Goodreads, if there is a screenshot and commentary about it on social media, it’s the same. Also, stay out of readers’ DMs. I just watched a video on TikTok last night where a reader was complaining about an author who DMs them too much and you should see the comments. This author is losing more readers with bad behavior than they ever would from negative reviews of their book)
[look at Pee Wee again, please]
When an author or publisher is overly reactionary to reviews I can guarantee at least 2 reactions.
The reader that didn’t like your book now doesn’t like you either
Readers that did like your book, maybe don’t like your behavior now
Not exactly a win/win situation. I made this graphic anyone can save to their phone to help beat back the temptation to respond:
At the end of the day, protecting mental health is priority number one.
Priority number two is to create art for you and those who enjoy your work. Stay focused. Ignore everything else. If you see something that’s troubling, tell someone who will care, not strangers on the internet.