The One Star Club
Today I’ve been thinking about reviews. Specifically, reviews of my books, but that led to thinking about the freedom we take for granted here in the USA — the freedom to say what we think without fear of being thrown in jail or worse. Basically, we can give our opinion anywhere, any time, about any topic — within reason. I doubt many of us would stand up in a church and shout out objections to what was being said because we’d probably be ushered out pretty quickly, but mostly — especially in print — we can express what we think. Lots of people may disagree with our opinions, and they are also free to express that. This is the way of our world. And now, thanks to the internet, our world has expanded to include all kinds of people in other countries who have instant access to what we think and say and do. Although sometimes all these voices can make a person long for the old days when we only had newspapers and limited communication possibilities, what’s happening today is a good thing. We may not like what others say, but at least we know they’re saying it. And perhaps we can learn something.
So instead of being upset by a less-than-wonderful review of a book, I now believe I need to consider the reviewer’s opinion and whether or not she’s made a valid point. I wasn’t always so relaxed about this topic. But several years back, I attended a writer’s conference where one of the major speakers was a top Amazon official. He addressed the subject of one star reviews. He told us we shouldn’t get upset over them, even though no one likes to get one star on a book. We all want five stars! But he pointed out that if your book only gets glowing five star reviews, the Amazon people become suspicious that everyone reviewing your books is a friend of yours. He told us a one-star review, rather than being something you’d like to see banished from your book’s page, legitimizes your reviews. Thing is, not everyone likes the same things. The world would be a pretty boring place if that were true. And remember, even Shakespeare got bad reviews early on. So did Stephen King. Everyone gets a bad review occasionally. We need to learn to wear our one-star reviews like a badge of honor and smile when we say, “I’m now a member of the One Star Club!”
A review is only one person’s opinion. What one person likes may be another person’s poison. And right now, in the throes of the last weeks of a (should we say nasty?) national election, maybe we all need to keep that in mind.