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Oh, the horror! I got a 1-star review. What do I do?

You wake up, check your reviews, and with a dawning sense of horror, you see that dreaded 1-star review. Bam! It hits you in the gut Mohammad Ali style. You refresh the page thinking it’s a mistake, that you’re seeing it wrong. But, no. It doesn’t go away. You read it and the reviewer tells the world all the ways they hate your precious book.

Them’s the breaks, kid.

When you kick your book out into the world for readers to see, you have to accept the hard truth that not everyone will like what you’ve written. Some might love it. Some might think it’s okay. Others might just despise it. Call it trash or a waste of digital space. But guess what? That’s okay.

Take a deep breath. This is not the end of the world. It’s par for the course. You decided to put your lovely words out on display. Reviews are opinions, and everyone has one. You won’t always agree with the opinion. What one person hates another person might love. So it really isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a review.

Now what?

Well, that depends on your personality. A common piece of advice for writers is that you have to develop a thick skin. This is partly true. You need to learn not to take negative criticisms as a personal attack. It’s tough to hear that something you’ve put so much time into isn’t loved by everyone. The problem with a thick skin is that sometimes it can be taken too far. Constructive feedback can end up being ignored just as easily as negative feedback. You need to develop the ability to take criticism—both constructive and negative—without taking it personally.

Read the review again and carefully consider what the reviewer is saying. They took the time to read your book. Give them the courtesy of considering their opinion. Use what they said to help you improve your next book. I write twisted fairy tales. Some readers take exception with that. They want the original tale, unchanged, simply retold in new words. They don’t want a new setting. Or new characters. Or new anything really. They want the old, tried-and-true version of the fairy tale. It ruins the story for them if something is changed. But other readers crave a new, fresh look at a fairy tale. They want to see it twisted and torqued, so only the bare bones are recognizable.

Not every reader will like what you’ve written. So when those 1-star reviews come in, be grateful that someone took the time to read and leave a review.

A note of caution. Some writers will respond to negative reviews. Don’t. In the words of Elsa, let it go. Don’t make it personal. The reader has a right to their opinion of your story. Even if the reviewer is an obvious troll, don’t engage. If they are a troll, and it’s obvious that they haven’t read your book, report them. End of story. Don’t go any further than that.

A 1-star review isn’t a failure. It’s an opportunity. We tend to see failure as something negative. Something that makes us less. Failure is an opportunity for growth. It’s a chance to try something new. To take a different path. To make different choices. We need to celebrate our failures as much as we do our successes.

Keep Writing. Keep going. A 1-star review isn’t going to break you. Use it as motivation to keep working, keep improving. Because no matter how good you think you are, there is always room for improvement. The moment you stop striving to improve is the moment your writing stagnates. As wonderful as it is to get those 5-star reviews, those 1-star beauties give you the motivation to make the next work better.

Recently in a writing forum, we were discussing how people look at the reviews before they buy. What criteria do they use to judge the product? Many said that when they read reviews, they look specifically for the reviews that are 3 stars or less. Not because those reviews are necessarily bad, but those lower reviews tend to be more honest about what is in the book. Remember, what one person hates, another person might love.

Take heart. Don’t be discouraged by those lowly 1-stars. Chin up. Keep writing. Move forward and find ways to make your next project better than the last.

Happy Writing!

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