Writer education: the first one-star review

Created by Melony Paradise.

Melony Paradise Sure. The laurel wreath is from pixabay so it’s CC0 with no worries of copyright blah blah blah lol. I did grab the stars from Amazon, not sure if that matters… But, feel free to use it however you wish.


I am writing this post in solidarity with another writer in one of my writing groups, who is feeling the ouch of the first 1* review.

He/she has received a lot of good advice – from ‘consider the source,’ to ‘what the heck do they know?’ Melony created a badge to be used, because we all told the writer that it is a step every writer has to go through, and it is a badge of honor to go through the process, and that you are NOT a REAL WRITER (TM) until someone has given you a 1* review, especially a nasty one (we’re skipping the little old lady of apocryphal fame who thought she had given the writer a nice Gold Star for her book).

Every writer gets these reviews, and I took notes on mine, intending to let them marinate and simmer a while before doing anything with them, as it isn’t nice to bite reviewers back, and it is considered whopping bad form to do so (for many reasons.) If you wait long enough, and don’t name names, you will accumulate more negative reviews, and you can let off a little steam without identifying anyone.

‘When you publish, you’re going to get negative reviews.’

Notes, April 7, 2015: write your own negative review – to be prepared!

This seems to be blindingly obvious truth. It doesn’t matter what you write, someone somewhere will take exception to something in it, from your title to your name to anything in your content.

I’m wondering whether it isn’t possible to immure yourself and toughen your spirit so that you are prepared to deal with this automatic gotcha, to put up Kevlar walls before you read your first review.

Come on: be creative. You’re a writer. If your imagination isn’t up to this, there are always one-star reviews on Amazon to give you examples.

I would stop short of wishing yourself physical or psychological harm, but that’s just me. You could get creative in that part, too, and find out if you’re selling yourself short, and should be writing thrillers or worse.

There are two main things to attack when writing a negative review about a book: the book – and the author.

I’m limiting this post to the book: if you find yourself wandering off into the part of the internet mentality where you get people whose manners wouldn’t pass muster, and who think that attacking an author for writing something they didn’t like, don’t post the results below (but you may do whatever you want with them otherwise, obviously).

Getting negative reviews written by readers – or non-readers:

Notes: GoodReads reviews, a while back.

Education continues apace here at chez Liebja.

My turn finally came up on a promotional thread at Goodreads (thanks, guys). Three people had enough interest to request a copy for review purposes. They are each supposed to read and then post a review within three weeks.

Two new reviews came in today. [redacted]

I’ve never expected to appeal to everyone – that would be foolish.

That point was illustrated very clearly today, when one review was a 4* review – a Goodreads member’s first review (thank you) which said the story had pulled her in. Thank you!

And the other was a 1* review.

Reacting to a new and different negative review

I’ve had one 2* review before – I was not that reader’s taste. And I was fine with that one, as I am with the new one. I am not to this reader’s taste, either (and no, I’m deliberately not providing a link – if you MUST see it, it’s easy enough to find).

But this one was curiously different. I’m still trying to figure out whether I understand it. Not the review – that’s clear enough. Reader didn’t like it – got it. Not her style. Got it.

But she did what the other one did on a smaller scale, and which I would never do. She made statements about me, rather than the book, and ascribed a status to me based on what I had written.

We call those ad hominem attacks: about the person, not the work.

What is a negative review?

You have to remember that the review is one person’s opinion, and they are entitled to their opinion.

You asked for their opinion. If in their opinion you are a terrible writer and your book is utter trash and needs a lot of work, it’s their opinion. That’s all.

It isn’t truth you need to hew to.

You aren’t going to go out and do penance because you’re so terrible.

It’s just a review.

Go look at popular writers’ bad reviews

Pick an author you really like, one whose books you look forward to and enjoy.

There will be negative reviews. You will disagree with them.

What I consider useful information is that a popular writer isn’t affected by the reviews (too much), and goes on to cash Amazon’s money anyway. Some popular writers have more negative reviews than positive ones!

Your reaction to the 5* author/book

Is “Yeah, right. Must be all from friends and relatives.”

Adjusted reaction to your first 1* review

So go back to work, happy and secure in the knowledge that you have the REAL WRITER’s (TM) credential – at least one negative review, preferably a 1* review – and have survived your Baptism of Fire. (You did survive, didn’t you?)



9 thoughts on “Writer education: the first one-star review

  1. acflory

    Hi 5, Alicia! Getting a 1* review is almost like a rite of passage, isn’t it? I received one a while back, and it hurt, but now I’m rather proud of it. We Are Writers! -hugs-


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I do. It is definitely the PUBLISHED writer’s rite of passage. My precious baby, and not everyone loves it and thinks it’s beautiful? How could they!

      Then you grow up.

      And sometimes, when you’re feeling mean, you ‘consider the source.’ Hehe.

      Mostly because you have some consideration for the feelings of others, and wouldn’t stomp on them like that if the situation were reversed – would you?

      And nothing takes away the FACT that you can write.


      1. acflory

        Good point. I was brought up believing a lady would never deliberately cause distress to anyone. The world has changed since then but I’ve always liked that definition.
        And yes, first there must be a BOOK. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Janna G. Noelle

    Uh, congratulations. Sort of. I think you’re right that the one-star review is a writerly milestone. They are inevitable. Even the greatest and best-selling authors get them. For as shitty as one-star reviews probably feel (no criticism ever feels good), you’re nonetheless in good company.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I thank you. Congratulations are indeed in order. If you get someone annoyed/angry enough to leave a 1* review (and it isn’t just a troll), you’re a writer. Period. That’s how you go to this person.

      If you are sure they’re wrong, too, why that’s just icing on the cake.


  3. joey

    I think this is just part of the experience. I mean, you take anything, any creation you love, which may be revered by the multitudes — some five-star restaurant’s paella, some movie that won awards, a song everyone knows and most people sing with — there’s always someone who doesn’t like it. There are people who don’t even like kittens or ice cream, so this is inevitable. And also, maybe they’re just haters 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      When someone writes a negative review, the person they’re writing it for is themselves. Maybe for being fooled enough to read the book. But they didn’t suddenly develop the civic-mindedness that requires they warn other readers. They’re angry at themselves for being fooled, for not doing their due diligence ahead of time well enough to avoid spending some of their most valuable time on something they now wish they hadn’t.

      I try to take my dislikes, examine them for any value, and learn that – and then not spend any more time on the experience that already robbed me of time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    At the risk of doing the same thing, using someone’s writing to presume I know something about the writer, I think it is possible to make some assumptions – I just don’t want to share them! Especially not in a mood where that person has just attacked me or my writing.

    I think writers can see both sides of the coin, and readers don’t always.


  5. Catana

    Ad hominem attacks are very common. In general, they assume things about the author that they can’t possibly know, and that rarely have anything to do with the reality of the author’s life or person. In effect, they’re saying “I didn’t like the book, so there must be something wrong with the author.”



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