The Value of Reviews

By on September 11, 2014 . Category Column

Whether your book is already out there or still in the production stages, the idea of getting reviews—namely, how to get a bunch of five-star reviews—has probably already crossed your mind.

Rather than tell you the super special secrets to getting ONLY five-star reviews (Spoiler Alert: There are none), I’m going to impart a little writerly wisdom.

First off, if you write a good book, you will get five-star reviews. If you market it well, you might even get a lot.

But you’re also going to get some one-star reviews, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s good.

There are two reasons why getting one- and two-star reviews won’t ruin your life, and here’s why:


First: Negative Reviews Ward Off the Wrong Readers

Not everything you write is going to appeal to everyone. That’s just a fact. When someone poorly rates your book, it will ensure that others with similar tastes and opinions will steer clear, and that will mean that eventually, you will have more positive reviews than negative.

And don’t worry about it scaring off readers who’d enjoy your work—someone who likes the elements and styles of your book will still be interested. In fact, the negative reviews might even serve as an endorsement to the right person. I’ve bought books after reading a negative review when I decided the reviewer’s opinion didn’t apply to me, or even that I liked the things they were criticizing.


Second: Three-Star Reviews Are Where Books Go To Die

Want your book to succeed? You’re going to be all about one- and five-star reviews, then.

See, the reviews in the extremes show a strong amount of feeling toward the book. They either really loved it or really hated it. You’ll notice most one-star reviews are pretty passionate. That kind of energy is good for your book—you want that, because it means you’re getting people riled up. They’ll talk about it. They’ll advertise for you. Even if someone reads it out of curiosity to see how bad it is, if they love it, you’ve gained a new reader! (And if they also hated it, then maybe they’ll also talk it up and keep on spreading the word.)

Even two- and four-star reviews show a certain amount of commitment to the book’s future. They might not be as fired up as an edge-of-the-spectrum reviewer, but that’s still a good amount of emotional investment behind your book

What you don’t want are a bunch of three-star reviews. That is the worst. What three-star reviews signify is that the reader wasn’t moved. At all. They didn’t hate it, sure, but they didn’t love it, either. They were apathetic toward it. It’s surprising they could even muster up the energy to leave a review at all, because apparently, they think your book is “meh”.

Everyone will get a few three-star reviews, because there are always those people who just can’t commit to anything fully, but if you’re getting a lot of them, know that your book is lacking some oomph. That’s something you’ll want to keep an eye on.

If you’ve done your work in the past, you’ll have a network of writers and people in the writing community. These individuals will be there to read your book before it’s even released, and after they’ve helped you polish it up, they’ll almost certainly be willing to leave you some positive reviews, and that’s always a nice way to get the ball rolling!

A final word on reviews: Don’t let them get under your skin. Learn from them. Grow from them. Appreciate them (yes, even the “bad” ones). But don’t let them leave your ego too inflated…or too devastated. A review says infinitely more about the person who wrote it than what or who they wrote it about. It’s just one person’s opinion, and for all you know they’re upset because their dog ran away or their spouse cheated on them. As long as you’re continuously improving your craft, you’ve got nothing to worry about!


What scares you most about getting reader reviews?


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