Review Plague ~ A Disease more Viral than Ebola

Written By: Jackie Weger - Nov• 14•14

“If I’m ever short of money, at least I know I can write this badly and still sell books to make extra cash. ” [11 readers agreed].

Jackie Weger

Jackie Weger

Those few word transmit the review plague. Every indie author is at risk of becoming infected and only the wisest avoid becoming a susceptible host. Not a day goes by that a review rant by an indie author somewhere does not land in my mailbox or my Google+ feed. My word! I recently ticked one of  those links and  discovered a 1000 word rant.  The indie author was incensed that a reader posted a one star review. Bless me, but the the blog was smokin’ hot. Moreover, all of the author’s pals were full of empathy and posted their own grievances in no less than 47 comments.  The reader had  posted a mild one star review that said: “The book isn’t what I thought it would be. ”

The author complained, “Why didn’t he read the #%$#@# blurb? Can’t people read any more? ”

Hey! If the cover sells a book or it was free or discounted, readers download the things. That is what we want them to do. That’s a sale!

Here is something else. When I was a newbie and Eating Stupid for Breakfast I put one of my titles in Literary Fiction, Family & Relationships. It started gathering a few one and two star reviews. One said: “Nothing is happening. It never does.” Well, golly, I write sweet, character-driven stories.

19 One & Two Star Reviews

19 One & Two Star Reviews

A relationship happened.  The book was in promotion and #1 in Kindle Store> Kindle eBooks> Literature & Fiction> Literary Fiction> Gay & Lesbian. Oops. That poor reader read the whole blamed book waiting for that grand passionate moment that never materialized. The reader had a legitimate complaint. My Fault. I went at once into Amazon and moved the book into a different category. Does it still pull low starred reviews. Yep. Got one sitting on it right now: “Meh, not for me.” And another two star: The reviewer complained that the mother character in the book didn’t provide her children with Gameboys and other electronic toys. She complained that the author must be from another century because she didn’t know anything about computers. Tell you what: She nailed me. I use my computer as a glorified typewriter and little else. How about these reviews, plucked randomly off of books on Amazon:

“If you want to pull your hair out in frustration, gnash your teeth and have your eyes roll to the back of your head in disbelief, then this book is for you. ” [67 readers agreed].

 “Wretched, Dreadful and Boring, I’ve never felt compelled to write a review. This book changed my mind.” [22 readers agreed].

“UGH!!!! Do I have to finish this book????!!! So bad. Can’t even describe this. There are no words.” [20+ readers agreed].


Here is what I know. People like to be spoon-fed information. They don’t like to read instructions. A book description in its own way is an instruction for a reader. Some will glance at the price, find it FREE and download it. Another may glance at the cover, a sentence or two in the  blurb, and download it. And the book will not be the kinds of story they are in the mood for or were hoping to read.

20 One & Two Star Reviews

20 One & Two Star Reviews


I have a ghost in one of my titles, but it is in no way a paranormal. Readers see ‘ghost’, download it and  dislike it. I do the very same thing. So, it is not fair that we expect a reader to do more than we would and often do. This happens, too: I have five star and 3 star reviews on my titles that ain’t for my books. Avid readers get confused. Muddled minds happen to the best of us.

Listen up. Amazon created the world of digital reviews. Yes it did, to help bring attention to ebooks, because Amazon needed authors,  readers and buyers for Kindle, a new innovation in the book universe. Prompting  readers to write reviews brings traffic to Amazon, where it tempts us to buy every dang product on the site. Everytime I finish a book on my Kindle Fire, Amazon messages me to write a review. Yep.  Early on writers leaped into the digital universe and often published unedited, badly formatted and terribly covered books.  Next, a raft of promoters arrived on the scene and  began demanding ebooks with 10 or more reviews with at least 4.0/5.0 review rank in order to accept a submission.  Reviews are getting better because ebook are getting better. They are beta read and edited and professionally formatted and covered. Indie authors are learning… We are maturing. So is our industry. Reviews are a tool. I liken reviews to a pair of pliers. You don’t eat them, you don’t sleep with them and you don’t hug ’em.  And you dang sure don’t blame the pliers when a rusted nut breaks off.  There is absolutely nothing you can take to avoid this plague. Your only immunity is intelligence. Lacking that–tolerance.

Reviews are lagniappe, a little something extra, a gift.

A book is not entitled  to sales, nor is it entitled to reviews. Sales happen when we promote our books and get them in front of readers. Appreciate your readers. Whatever you do, DO NOT gather a bevy of your fans and friends to go on Amazon and tick those one and two and three star reviews as unhelpful. Reviewers don’t like that. This happened a few weeks ago. An author dismayed with a review did just that to a three star review. The annoyed reviewer went in ticked the book a One Star and commenced to detail every flaw in the book. And said why.

To gather organic reviews from readers who enjoy your book, put this golden gem right after THE END:

Thank you for taking time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review.  Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated.  Thank you again. [author name]. 

For more on Reviews by a TOP 1000 Amazon and Goodreads Reviewer, Julie Whiteley, go Here. Read about the Good, the Bad & the Ugly.





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  1. This article is perfect. Also, folks, do not go to Facebook with your complaints either. I see it all the time. An author will actually post the review or a portion of it and then their minions tear apart the reviewer and review in front of the world. Not too encouraging to a reviewer who only did what you asked them to.. write an honest review.( Some of these examples are terrible and reviewers don’t need to be so sarcastic to get their point across, but these are just ordinary people who are telling you in plain English what their experience was) One reader left a review for a romance novel and said- “This book is not really a romance novel because all they did was date and stuff”. LOLOL! Good grief. What I think authors do is waste precious energy on the negative. Why not tick all those positive reviews as being helpful? Why not post a positive review on Facebook and brag about that instead? Why not write a blog post featuring dedicated reviewers or thanking people for all the support and for buying your book? You are absolutely correct that reviews are a tool. The author needs them, Amazon needs them, and the consumer needs them. The real and honest reviews will come in time and that request at the end of your book is what will put them there. This is such a wonderful article and so true. I appreciate an author writing this and reminding folks to keep it all in perspective. I’ve been guilty of buying freebies without researching the book to death first, especially if I’m using my phone or tablet, or I’m just in a hurry and want to grab the book before the deal ends. That’s just the way consumers are. Chance are you will end up with far more positives than negatives in the long run.
    I really, really, really appreciate the points made here and again, I thank you all for letting me hang out with you.

  2. KJD says:

    Can’t agree enough with the sentiments expressed in this blog, Jackie and Julie.

    Reviews tell authors that our books are being read, not just uploaded. For ‘ordinary’ readers to take time to read AND review our books is extraordinary. Bask in the positive ones, learn from the negative ones, and move on.


  3. Amy Vansant says:

    It definitely takes a while to stop fearing the bad review. I was sick when I got my first 3 star review. It ruined my streak of 4-5! Then I got another who said it wasn’t “dark enough.” Then I got another that said it was “too dark.” Wait, what? That’s when it hit me – you can’t be everything to everyone. Some people just won’t like what you wrote. Some will be angry you used one “f” word in the whole book. Some will think your moral compass is off (compared to theirs). Some will think they’re too smart for your work, some won’t be terribly bright – just like any cross-section of the population.

    In the end, I thought about how I look at reviews. If a book has 50 1 star reviews and 50 5 star reviews and a smattering in between, I can be pretty sure the 5 stars are his/her friends and the 1’s are the real people. OR I can be sure the book is polarizing one way or the other. (a well written book with an abortion in it, for example, might get a cluster of 1 star reviews from people fervently anti-abortion, while pro choice readers would vote on other merits).

    I had one friend who had nothing but 4-5 star reviews ASK me to give her book a 3 star because she didn’t think her book looked “real.”

    So now I take what advice I find useful in lower reviews and move on. One lady who gave me a three even emailed me to let me know she reviewed me. She gave me a 3. I thanked her and told her I hoped I could do better for her next time. She said she really enjoyed the book and couldn’t wait for the next. She’s just stingy with her stars. 🙂

    • KJD says:

      About the ‘I’m stingy with my stars’ comment. There’s statistical tool used to even out people’s propensity for giving lower (or higher) than average reviews – it’s related to the normative bell curve, outliers, and something called ‘standard deviation’. We use it all the time in data analysis, especially in ‘repeat measures’ tests when large datasets are involved.

      This type of analysis won’t work here of course, but just thought I’d mention it.

      The upshot is, when dealing with peoples’ subjective scores, all bets are off. Take the positives, learn from the negatives and roll with the punches. 🙂

  4. Amy Vansant says:

    Oh, and great piece Jackie – I meant to write that first and got all in a snit about reviews. 🙂

  5. Mary Smith says:

    Excellent, article, Jackie. If I receive a four or five star review I always say thank you in the comments but ignore the two star ones. After the R&R promo I received about 10 five and four star reviews then up popped a two star. I had a wee peek at how she rated others and she is one very hard to please reviewer who seems to enjoy being out of step with other reviewers.

  6. Great article, Jackie. I agree wholeheartedly with Amy Vansant, every book isn’t for everyone – some people don’t realize that until they’ve read the book. I had one person go across the board and give me a 1 star on all my books – all unverified purchases – and even left a comment on someone else’s book about how bad of an author I am! You roll with the punches, you learn what you can from them and you do better next time. Sure you want everyone to like your book, but that is an unrealistic goal.

  7. Laurie Boris says:

    Excellent post, Jackie, thank you. It is tough to roll with those punches (and have the discipline to take that deep breath in private) but we have to do it. You can’t please everyone; you never will. And there are people who hate puppies and chocolate. It’s something to keep reminding myself.

  8. Cogent post, Jackie. Your article is filled with the same kind of “balance” authors should rely upon when reading reviews of our books. Not everyone will like what we write–and readers will have their personal reasons, one way or the other. Maybe it’s their expectations; maybe it’s how they relate to the genders. Maybe it’s their perspectives on life. In any case, our job as authors is to present the best work we can. If negative comments ring true, then it’s time to consider a revision. Keep in mind, however, that there’s a big difference between “flaws” and “pet peeves.” Oh, and then, zip your lips!

  9. Great post, Jackie! And still, no matter how many times you see it, as an author, you’ll still get upset when you see a poor review. But take heart, authors, it does get easier. I’m no stranger to one-star reviews, and believe me, when I get a one-star review, it comes with an almost attack. I swear I bring out the fire in some readers. But, I’ve learned to read between the lines, and I know that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. It simply can’t be done!

    I’ve heard this quote a few different ways, but one of my favorites was from a preacher in a fictional book when a new guy in town said, “Everyone loves you…”

    The preacher quickly remarked, “If everyone loves you, someone is lying!”

    In my opinion, one-star reviews actually lend credibility to books. If I see a book with nothing but five-stars, even if they’re all real, I can’t help but wonder. But often, a one-star review will actually make me download a book. The reader might point out something that she hated that I happen to love, like a too-good-to-be-true, take-control man and a fairy tale ending. One reader may hate that, but I read for an escape and happen to love it. Cheers!

  10. Great post, Jackie. And I had to laugh with some of the quotes. What are people like? Sometimes, they express their discontent with such passion that it almost feels like this has been the highlight of an otherwise, quite miserable day for them. The gusto they apply to it is unreal sometimes. Anyway, reviews teach us if anything, a simple fact of life: that you can’t please everybody. So, our job is to write the way we want, following our instinct. And as long as we ‘put on the tin’ exactly what the contents are, it can’t possibly be our fault when they get the wrong idea…

  11. Mike Markel says:

    Excellent advice, as usual, Jackie. We should be tolerant and accepting. What should I do, however, with the 5 star review I got for The Broken Saint that praised my depiction of New Orleans? The book is set in Montana, and the title character is LDS, not an injured professional football player.

  12. Yep, this is wisdom. Even bitching to your friends about a review can get you in trouble. I did once about one that I thought was unfair (it claimed the book had bad grammar or was missing pages or something) and some of my friends promptly jumped all over that reviewer. But that looks bad and really doesn’t help at all.

    On the other hand, it can be fun going back to unfair reviews months later and discovering that readers you don’t know are arguing with the reviewer. My favorite review ever got on my case for taking the Lord’s name in vain, which my character certainly did (and thank goodness this woman stopped reading when she did). Recently I discovered that quite a few readers had taken issue with her reasoning. It was an entertaining discovery.

    • I’ve never challenged another reviewer. These types of pet peeves are not worth getting into a discussion over. I just roll my eyes and move on. But, it is funny when I read a review about a dark serial killer thriller where someone’s throat was slashed or they were stabbed repeatedly, but the reviewer was upset about foul language. What? All that murder and violence and language is what offended you? Wow!

  13. You’ve hit several nails right on the head, Jackie. Well done! I completely agree.

    That said, I have, on rare occasions, thanked a reader for a review, but other than that, the only time I ever contacted a reader about a review was when Amazon pulled the first half of a random sentence from the review and posted it as the headline. The sentence was something along the line of, “I really don’t like boring, confusing books, but this is definitely not one of those!” Of course, Amazon posted the headline as “I really don’t like boring, confusing books.”

    After thinking about it for awhile, I realized the reviewer may not have known that the headline did not accurately reflect his review (which was a 4-star). As it turned out, that was the case. I asked him if he would consider writing his own headline for the review, and happily for me, he very kindly did so.

    I wavered back and forth before contacting him, because I honestly feel reviews belong to the reader and I have no business sticking my nose in. In this case, though, I felt Amazon had not truthfully represented the review, and the reader agreed.

    • I didn’t know AZ did that!! I have forgotten to leave a header before and AZ will not allow the review to go live until the reviewer writes one. I usually take a line from the review and use it as a header too, but I have never had AZ chose one for me. That’s crazy! I don’t blame you for touching base about that.

  14. You betcha’ Jackie. Regarding readers who ignore the blurbs etc, well,there’s no cure for stupid, and for those who leave ignorant, hurtful or inaccurate comments in a review, well, let’s not lower our own standards to match theirs by retaliating and responding in kind. Best to let it go and move on as best we can, in my opinion.

  15. Dale Furse says:

    Loads of gudd stuff in the article. Thanks, Jackie. And reviews, all reviews, are the reviewers’ opinions and all reviewers have rights to see, read and/or feel however they want.

    Reviews on wrong books are prob easily caught by book buyers, but it’s a bit sad for the real book not to have gotten them on the book page.

  16. Dale Furse says:

    Ah, I can’t edit my reply. Please excuse the ‘gudd’ it obviously should be good. Too early for me on a Sunday. 🙂

  17. Marsha Roberts says:

    Terrific article Jackie and I agree completely.
    My favorite 1 Star “review” (because she even says she only read 3 pages!) was as follows (and I quote, including the lack of caps at the beginning of sentences), “perhaps i didn’t read enough before ordering, or realize that ‘parable’ was a hint, but the G-d references were too much for me. i stopped reading about 3 pages in & deleted it.” She couldn’t even spell out the word God! And you would have thought (as she said) that the word “parable” would have been a clue.
    At first I was stunned, wrote Amazon and asked them how someone could leave a review when they admit they didn’t read it.
    Then I got to thinking about who my audience is and how that if they read that review, it might actually encourage them to buy my book. I decided then that I wouldn’t let any other reviews bother me, and they haven’t.
    We’ve got too much work to do in selling our books to let something like that slow us down.
    Thanks again, Jackie and onward ALL!

    • Marsha, that’s very upsetting. My guess is that she didn’t omit the “o” in God, but rather meant to join a “swear word.” I don’t mind negative reviews, particularly if those reviews are constructive. Even it they’re not, I don’t think that there’s any excuse for rudeness.

  18. Sarah Lane says:

    Hi Jackie, great article, as usual. I’d add that you’ve also got to roll with those one star reviews that read, “I didn’t finish it yet” or “I didn’t read it at all.” The above advice stands–just leave reviews alone because they’re just opinions and everyone is entitled to one. I learned firsthand how it feels, as a reader, to get negative feedback on a review. I left a one-star review for a mainstream published nonfiction book. My review was instantly attacked by two or three of the authors staunch supporters, demanding that I give my credentials and discrediting my review as misinformed. That experience taught me better than anything else could the dangers of responding to a negative review. I will never buy another book from that author, not ever, not even if he paid me.

  19. Rosie Dean says:

    Excellent post.

    To put things in perspective, I have seen some of my favourite, big name authors still receive critical, one-star reviews. I don’t understand their reasoning but they’re entitled to their opinion.

    Without wishing to upset anyone, I don’t like the music of The Beatles – sorry, but I don’t. It doesn’t make me right or wrong, it just puts me at odds with millions of their fans.

    Criticism goes with the territory of putting creative work out there, be it writing, visual arts or music. The beauty is, we are all at liberty to do so.

    Thanks, Jackie, for a stimulating read.

  20. Just joined, so I’m just seeing this post and had to share a weird Amazon review experience. Two of my books received reviews by “Grammy,” who then went on to praise the book (e.g., “Loved the content. Loved the writing. Reardon is a champion on the topic of gay youth. Want to read more.”) In both instances someone else left a comment to the effect of, “Whaaaaat?” I always read, note, and move past negative comments, but Grammy stuck in my mind.

  21. Rosie Dean says:

    Thorough, common sense delivered again, Jackie.

    I consider reviews as cherry on the icing. I’m delighted for anyone to buy and read my book. Posting a review takes effort from them and is valuable to me, whatever is posted. We can learn from the lower rated ones, even if it is only that you can’t please all the people all the time.

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