Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Few Words about One-Star Reviews

I have two new releases this month and they’re both doing pretty good – a big thank you to all my readers! Hellfire is # 20 on Bookstrand’s Top 100 and Kade and the Captives is # 5 on Silver’s Top 10. Kade is doing okay on Amazon as well, but two readers left two completely different reviews – a five-star and a one-star. Both reviewers have followed the series and have valid reasons for their ratings. I can’t argue with that. I’ve always believed that you can’t please everyone. People have widely different tastes. You have to write the story the way it unfolds in your head and hope like hell that you please the majority of your readers.
Then I went to Goodreads to leave a five-star review for a book I recently read and enjoyed. I noticed a wide disparity of ratings and being curious now, I looked a few to see if there were comments along with them. Most of them didn’t have any so I looked at a few of the reviewers’ pages to see what genres they read most. I was thinking the low ratings could be for books outside of their usual preferences.

I found a reviewer, who shall remain nameless, who’d read over 400 books from paranormal to YA to classics to cookbooks. It appeared that 90% of them were one-star reviews with no comments. Could this person have made that many bad choices? Or is something else going on here?
And aren’t reviews supposed to be about the content? I’ve seen one-star reviews given based on the condition of the book (mail-order) or the price.  

Is it okay to use a review as a protest tool? Are people giving ratings to books they haven’t read? What do you think?

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Rachel Firasek said...

Gale, great post! I wish goodreads would change their policy and not let you leave a rating without posting some kind of comment. I've seen similar reviewers ping every book with a one. I wish there was some moderation and those folks were put on a probation period. There is no way that 400 books/products qualified for a 1 with no comment left. JMO.

Oh, and congrats on the great rankings!

Liz said...

nice observations. GoodReads is notorious for "fake" ratings I think.

Lorelei Confer said...

Gale your post really got me thinking. Why leave any kind of review without positive constructive criticism for the writer for future uses?

BTW, Congrats on your great sales and rankings.

jennifer willows said...

I think that reviews are just that, and anything associated with said book is up for review. People should base them on content, but any issue with the entire reading experience can be dissected... missing covers, format issues, download problems even if the book is fantastic when they received it. I saw one reviewer give one star because of a missing cover only... she even said the book was Hood. So for my books I'm just going to take everything with a grain of salt LOL...

Michele Zurlo said...

Gale- Congratulations on your well-deserved successes. Interestingly, Tymber Dalton recently blogged about this topic as well. It seems people are sometimes kicked off Goodreads for going through and leaving lots of low ratings. Some people do it just because they don't like the topic or genre, not because they've actually read the book. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I've had reviewers leave negative and positive reviews for the same title as well. If someone doesn't like a book, it's certainly good for them to explain why. I like to know if there are huge flaws in the plot, character, etc, so I can address that in future titles. On Goodreads (or wherever), I don't like to leave bad reviews, so I just don't rate anything unless I liked it. Often, I forget to leave any kind of review whatsoever...

Rachel- you have a good point. Saying something would be helpful to other readers. However, I'm guilty of just rating and not leaving comments for the majority of what I read. I'm not sure I would leave so many ratings if I had to comment on them all. Sometimes I don't rate them until months after I've read them.

Calisa Rhose said...

Great post, Gale. I don't review a book I haven't read, though I have ranked a few based on the blurb/excerpt and how much those make me want to read it. But, I also mention that those are what I'm basing my opinion on and that I will return after reading said book with a proper review of the actual content. I never rank without commenting. That's just plain rude and chickenshit. If you're worried what people will think of you for a ranking on something- then don't do it.

Hales said...

Great topic and I agree with what's said before. Reviewers rate low for multiple reasons from the price of the book vs the length of the read. We authors have no say in how pricing goes or what it's based off of and like stated above formatting and other issues.

Gail so glad you're doing so fanastic!

Tammy Dennings Maggy said...

Great topic, Gale! I have found the same thing with Goodreads. I have one reader who only rates the books after she's read them, but rarely leaves comments. I asked her about it and she said she didn't have a lot of time to leave comments, but tries to give what she feels the story deserves. I wish more people on Goodreads and other sites would do the same.

Another person rated my book a 5 star and then marked it "to be read." Okay, but I hope he/she goes back and rates it again after they read it. I would like to know what they think whether I agree with them or not. It helps me learn and grow as a writer, or just develop a thick skin! LOL

There seems to be another problem on Amazon. Readers are complaining that their reviews are getting pushed down the list if it's not a rating that "the author likes." By clicking that the review was not helpful, it "buries it" down the list. So it appears that rankings, ratings and reviews can be manipulated all the way around.

Gale Stanley said...

Thanks for the congrats and for the great comments and insight. I'm guilty for not leaving comments with all my ratings. There's just not enough hours in the day. And I usually only rate books I liked. I used to review for a magazine and online. Believe me, I know how a bad book reads and I always provided details of what, in my opinion, was wrong. There's no way those 400+ books were all one-star reads. I have to admit I agonize over Goodreads ratings. I figured there were bogus ratings but I didn't realize they were so well-known for them. I think I'll be taking them with a grain of salt from now on.
I'm going to look up Tymber's blog...

Maeve Greyson said...

Excellent post! I believe you're right, Gale. Unfortunately, I think there are many reviews posted with an entirely different agenda in mind other than telling folks whether or not you enjoyed a book. I understand completely if my stories might not fit with someone's tastes or preferences and they should have every right to say so. But, like you, I've seen many reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon and it looked like the individual only posted the review for the sole purpose of taking the author down. Very sad. *shakes head*

Gale Stanley said...

Hi Maeve! It seems to be widespread. Fortunately, I think readers also consider blurbs, and excerpts, along with reviews and they like to form their own opinions. I know I do, with movies as well.

Anonymous said...

I've often been one starred the first day of release. I have had the same person one star everyone of my books.

It takes all kinds to make a world and as we all know, trolls abound on the net who love to make others lives miserable. That says more about them than the author they are rating down.

One of my Siren releases was one starred the morning of the release. There was no way that the rater had time to read it in that short period. I questioned it with a fellow Siren author and they remarked that this person on Goodreads was known for rating down Siren books the day of release. I find that odd and sad at the same time.

There is also a lot of hate within the e author romance and erotica community. Often this crap is coming from our own.

Gale Stanley said...

It is sad and especially if it's another writer. I think readers are becoming more aware of this and are making choices based on more than reviews.

S.A. Garcia said...

Hi Gale!

The whole one star review thing at Goodreads is irritating. I do agree, if someone hates my book, go ahead, trigger the death star, but at least tell me why. Leaving one star sans a review is lazy and suspicious.

Thanks for letting me vent!

Gale Stanley said...

Hi S.A. Thanks for coming by. It sounds like this has happened to a lot of us at one time or another. It's frustrating and venting helps.

Christine Ashworth said...

Great post, Gale. I have a problem with one star reviews, too. At first, when I toyed with the idea of reviewing my peers' work, I thought how I could point out egregious writing errors from authors who should know better.

Then I sat in on a presentation by the lovely Laura Bradford, an agent who spoke to us about (among other things) her time at the Antarctic, and how, since there were a small number of people living/working/sleeping in close quarters and there was no where to escape to, everyone had to "be a good steward of the community" in order to survive.

I believe we in the writing business should also be "good stewards" of our community, and that includes thoughtful reviews - not hurtful ones. Bad behavior will count against you in any business, but I believe especially in ours.

Gale Stanley said...

Well said. I received a lot of support when I started out and I always try to do the same for other authors.

Destiny Blaine said...

Hey Gale,

Super post. One-star and two-star reviews only prove you've arrived.

Typically the one star reviews/ratings show up when my books are climbing the charts. Recently, one of my pen names climbed quickly at Amazon. A pointless one-star review showed up and it temporarily halted the climb. We sent out a round of promos with a book excerpt and the climb began once again. Readers are smart enough to see these things for what they are--an attempt to sabotage an author.

Another dead giveaway that someone is paying too much attention to what you’re doing is when you see the continual "DNF" on Goodreads. One guy follows one of my pen names closely. He was actually listed on a fellow author’s top friends list at MySpace a couple of years ago.

At this point, he has about six DNF books for one of my pen names. So I ask the question—does anyone believe he’s actually purchasing these books?

If I tried two books from ANY author and was incapable of finishing them, they’d never sell me on one of their books again. I don’t have time to give that many chances. In this poor fellow’s case, he’s just miserable and has nothing better to do than to try to shoot down a few authors with his DNF ratings—over and over again.

Don't pay attention to the reviews when they're ones and twos. It's an obvious effort for someone to manipulate ratings, reviews, book sales, and bestselling status. For the most part, that's the way it has always been in the e-book industry. AND trust me, talent-wise? Few publishers have one or two-star books climbing their bestseller lists and that's a fact.


Gale Stanley said...

Thanks Destiny! You make me feel a lot better. I've seen that too - low rankings from the same person over and over again. Why would they keep coming back? I heard this stuff goes on but didn't realize it was so wide-spread until I saw that reviewer's page on Goodreads- over 400 one-star ratings. Nobody makes that many bad choices.

Lexi said...

Hey Gale,

This is a very good post and good replies going both ways. As a reader I take the ratings and reviews that I give very seriously. My average ratings are three and four stars 98% of the time and I read 600 to 700 books per year on average. I have heard about the person who was recently kicked off of goodreads for their one star campaign and I have also heard about religious groups who target the m/m and ménage genres on Amazon and give false ratings for books they have never purchased.

I find this hugely depressing because as a reader/reviewer my ratings are devalued. Now I am not saying that I have never given a rating of one or two stars because I have. I have given very, very few ones of the thousands of books that I have read. I have to really, really, really dislike it to give it one rating. One ratings for me- if the story deeply offended me. I try to, though I fail at it sometimes, to put down a good comment when giving a bad review. One time this year I gave a one star rating and no review because I couldn't find, if not a nice at least a neutral comment to put in the rating to temper what had offended me. I felt that if I went ahead and wrote the review that I would have been a negative harpie and I didn’t like that so I stayed silent on my opinion.

Two ratings aren’t all bad. I don’t give out many twos either and when I heard that people in the reading community regarded twos poorly I started adding more comments. Twos for me are just Okay. They are the stories that either went overboard on angst or I was bored through the whole thing. There is nothing mean or malicious in my two ratings. I like books with conflict and very little angst. If you take out the one and raise the other, I am bored and the read is just okay for me.

I am a goodreads member and I have seen some of the cat fighting going on – both ways – readers verbally attaching reviews, readers verbally attacking authors, authors verbally attacking reads, and even authors attaching authors. It is sad and disheartening and I stay out of it. It makes me mindful of what I say. I ignore friend requests from someone who has acted inappropriately. Unfriended or quit following reviews of people for the same reasons. Malicious comments to my reviews are deleted. I have only had to do that once and the comments weren’t even directed at me but the six month old author comments on one of my threads. I reported the person to GR and then deleted his comments form my thread. The m/m community is not huge and when conflicts like this pops up, it hides those of us in the community that are honest.

Ratings are personal and are given for personal reasons that very from person to person. Most readers recognize this and will still purchase a book even if they see someone rated it a two because we know ‘if it doesn’t work for you may work for me’.

*hugs all around*

Gale Stanley said...

Hi Lexie, thanks for responding. I value your opinion because I read your reviews and I know you provide good feedback.
I would never argue with a reviewer because I believe everyone deserves their opinion. And there's really no point in arguing with someone who posts a bad review just to attack the writer. Most likely they haven't even read the book.
I used to review for RT Book Reviews Magazine and I always found something positive to say, even in two star reviews. (I never gave a 1 star) Books have always been a huge part of my life and it makes me sad to see what's going on. Thanks again. Have a great weekend!