Thursday, 3 October 2013

Criers, Criers Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink – How to deal with those pesky one star reviews by Derek Duggan

You’ve spent the last year writing your novel. You went on to peer review sites and discussed it with other writers. They pointed out some minor flaws so you’ve fixed them. They gave you support when your manuscript was rejected by all the major publishing houses and they even went as far to say that it was their [the publishing houses] loss and that they would rue the day they rejected you and your masterpiece. You have been equally supportive to those writers and you’re beginning to suspect that commissioning editors must spend the vast majority of their time ruing all the rejections they send out when they see self-published novel after self-published novel top the Amazon charts and make millions for their authors. You think that they [the commissioning editors] must all be double jointed at both the hip and the knee because such a large part of their job is kicking themselves.

And so, with the full support of your online writers’ community, you decide to go for it and publish the fantastic book yourself. Everything goes well – the cover looks great – or, if you’re a Frosties fan, it looks grrrrrreat. You pause only to wonder what happened to Tony the Tiger’s television career and then you publish.

All your mates from the site are quick to stick up reviews saying how wonderful your book is and as the five star review count hits seven you can almost hear those commissioning editors lacing up their extra heavy boots. A couple of people you know from real life also buy the book and you’ve asked them, if they wouldn’t mind terribly, to post a review (if they’ve enjoyed it – ha-ha). These people, who have to look you in the eye every day, do so and your five star review count reaches double figures.

And then it happens. Someone you don’t know has put up a one star. You go back to your peer group and everyone agrees – this reviewer is either a troll or just plain rude. Apart from anything else they haven’t even given a detailed analysis of the book saying where they thought it fell down. They’ve said things like – ‘All those five star reviews must be from the author’s family…’ How bloody dare he/she say something like that? Everyone knows that if you review a book on a site you must spend at least a week writing and rewriting it so that you can explain in detail what you thought. And, to point out just how stupid the person is that wrote this review, there are two spelling mistakes in their thirty word critique, and they’ve left out some commas (the calling card of the ignorant wanker).

You feel victimised and annoyed and everyone agrees with you.

But hang on – here’s the thing. This person is not a writer. They are simply a customer. They have just bought the book to read. They don’t care that you spent a year writing it and going on to peer review sites etc. They just know that they spent their money on something they didn’t enjoy and they feel like telling people about it. That’s fair enough, right? But, you cry, they shouldn’t be rude. They should explain in beautiful prose what exactly it was that upset them and take some time through close reference and indeed cross reference with other works to explain how the author would have been able to please them. They really should, shouldn’t they? (Boo-hoo).

Uhmmmm, no. They can if they want, but they’re under no obligation to do so. As for being rude, well, that’s just the way people are. People double park, throw litter in the street, answer their mobile phones while talking to you, eat with their mouths open – I mean, the list is endless. These are the same people that buy things.

Think of it like this – your boiler packs in. You call a plumber out. You’re not very impressed with him and although he does the job you’re not satisfied. You decide to leave a review of his services on a plumber review website.  Compare these two -

1.       Piping Plumbers Ltd

Our boiler ceased to function correctly recently so I looked online for a good plumber to come in and fix it for us. I found Piping Plumbers. They had twelve five star reviews so I thought I’d give them a go.

Unfortunately I was not as impressed with the service as the other reviewers. I have long been an admirer of good pipe work, as in the masterful work in the local Garden Centre where the exposed section of the copper piping has been beautifully soldered and aligned perfectly to give a sense of confidence in the functionality of the system. Piping Plumbers soldering left a lot to be desired as the globules of solder were clearly visible on the joints and this drew my attention away from the hot water that I needed to do the washing-up. I always feel, that to truly lose yourself in the hot water coming from the tap you have to make sure that your attention isn’t continually drawn to those small globes of silver, beaded around the joint. His pipe alignment was also slightly off so as the intake pipe and the outflow pipe were not exactly parallel, (out by three full millimetres according to my tape measure) meaning that the sense of continuity was disrupted throughout and I could never truly relax into the water usage.

There was also a lot of detritus left region of the boiler after he vacated the premises which I felt could have been tidied up somewhat as this made me feel like he hadn’t really thought about how the hot water user would respond to this.

The tune he whistled relentlessly while doing the job seemed out of place and, far from sounding cheerful, actually put me on edge the entire time he was there. He was streets away from the tuneful whistlings of the forest workers of Norway who have spent a long time honing their craft before whistling on the job.

I understand that this is the plumber’s first attempt at boiler instillation on his own and so I suggest he might like to take a look at the pipes in the public toilets in Cheswick or the public swimming baths in Ealing and I think he’ll find some useful pointers.


2.       Piping Plumbers Ltd

Rough as fuck. Left the place in a mess. Never stopped fucking whistling. All those five star reviews must be from family. Don’t waste your money.

Which one seems more likely?

So, if you get a one star, suck it up.

Glad I could help.


  1. Enjoyed. Good. Recommended. Laughed. Thumbs up.

  2. Been sucking a long time. I enjoyed this! Two stars aren't fun either.

  3. Yes, the bad reviews hurt (like hell!) but sometimes they do give constructive info too - stuff you can use in the next book. So they can be useful (as long as they don't outweigh the good reviews!)