A 1-Star and a 5-Star Review, and the lesson learned

Originally published 24/11/2019

We have all heard it said that reviews are important, we send out messages to our followers about how much reviews mean to us, and I think it’s safe to say, we’re all hoping our followers read our book and then give us a raving five-star review, right?

But is that what we always need? As much as I love my friends and family, the reviews I’m really looking for are from complete strangers, people who don’t know me, people who are not biased in any way. It might sound strange but consider it for a minute.

I have friends and family raving about me everywhere, whenever they can, book clubs, social media, friends, and workplaces. I want this, absolutely, word of mouth is a powerful tool; they’ve driven initial sales and created interest. Perfect, I love them for it. I’m overwhelmed by their support and the sheer size of it, it’s had me close to tears a few times.

However, the 1-star review I received taught me so much, and it led to a very serious discussion and a whole rebrand of my work. Why? Because I’m a bad writer? No, not at all, there is nothing wrong with my writing or the editing of my book, at least not for the right readers. But there was for this person, and her reasoning was valid for her, and that is the best part, she provided a reason why she couldn’t finish the book. She didn’t just throw up a one-star and say she couldn’t finish it, what this one-star reviewer did for me was huge and I’m grateful.

This is the review she left me:

1.0 out of 5 stars Take Down

This was a story line that I couldn’t get in to. Even though the description said there was abuse, torture and sexual assault, it was a lot more than I felt the book needed. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. Maybe some people will like it, but it’s not for me.

I took her review on board, I had targeted romantic suspense because that was what I’d intended to write. What I didn’t realize until this reviewer, even though she was not the first to read the book bear in mind; my book is not romantic suspense. What my book is, is a thriller with romantic elements. Even though the book contains a romance, what had happened during the writing was that I dove into deep dark thriller writing as I followed my heroine’s journey.

Lily and Jason’s story became far more violent and twisted that I’d ever imagined it would be, but because I’m the writer, I didn’t notice the escalating level of violence, and crime, I was just writing the story, as it unfolded across the numerous drafts. As the writer I saw deeper than the violence, I saw who Lily and Jason were and into the core of what made them who they were and how much they had to grow to overcome some seriously bad shit. The bad stuff was the outside challenges that I knew they would overcome; to me, that wasn’t the whole story. However, it is a very large chunk of it as it turns out.

After I rebranded my book as a thriller, which took a week and many hours, magic happened. I got a second review, and this review was just as good as the one star, and just as important too because this one again didn’t just say ‘I loved the book’ or some other simple exclamation of enjoyment. This one comes from another stranger, who took the time to read my book, digest it completely and leave a detailed review.

Here is the five-star review:

By TeacherDonna
Public Review

This book started with a bang and just kept the action and tense events coming! There was a lot of violence, so reader beware. There was a lot of betrayal, intense family dynamics, intense sex scenes, an incredible cast of characters, and lots of action to keep track of. I guess my most immediate reaction was that I have rarely read a book where the female character was so tough, so able to withstand pain, and so able to hide her emotions, It was hard to believe she could have an HEA with all the injuries and death all around her. I recommend this book to anyone who can deal with the violence to see beyond it to the depth of the story.

As you can see, the remarketing of my book was indeed needed. What I had unintentionally done was put a thriller book into the category of romantic suspense where it didn’t belong. Not only did that mean readers who ignored the warning I’d put up regarding the violence read something they weren’t prepared for, and never should have attempted, but it also meant that the right readers for my book were not being targeted. These two reviews showed just how important reviews are and it had nothing to do with ratings.

This was my first book and because all my beta readers saw deeper than the violence to the core of the story, it had slipped our notice that my initial intended genre was not the right one for my book. Turns out I write a better thriller than I do romance. Oh well, onward with the thrillers.

This is why reader reviews are important, the feedback that helps writers grow and know their audience. Sure they might effect algorithms and chart ratings, but that’s not the real reason the reviews become vital at least not to me. Reviews help readers find the right books for them, and help authors, learn more about their writing and how they are doing. It might be nice if the only review on Amazon wasn’t the one star, but I don’t mind that review because it will intrigue those that should be reading the book and stop those that shouldn’t.

A review without reason is just a numbered star, a review with an explanation of what the reader did or did not like? That’s worth more than five stars to an author.

Until next time,

Carol

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