Guest Blog: How Writers Handle One-Star Reviews

The Story of One Lost Sheep


A favorite story of mine is of a shepherd who had a hundred sheep, but one had strayed from the flock. Was the shepherd happy that he had ninety-nine happy sheep? Of course, but he really obsessed over that one lost sheep. He wouldn’t stop looking for it until he found it and brought it home. Then he called his friends and neighbors and they greatly rejoiced over the returned sheep.

This is a Bible parable and it has a different meaning than the one I’m using it for, but I’ve been feeling like that shepherd lately when it comes to book reviews. I happened to notice a one-star rating on my book THE ALTERED I, MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR. I wasn’t too surprised to see the low rating. In fact I’d been wondering when that would actually happen. Not that I wanted it to, mind you, but I realize that not everyone is going to like everything, even if others do rave about it. But, I have to wonder why?  Was it something I did? Was the book not what they expected? Did they start it and realize without finishing that it just wasn’t their cup of tea? Is the reviewer even an adult? Or are they some random 13-year-old whose parent made them read the story against their will? It was a rating, without a review so I have no idea what the reasons behind the rating meant. And I most likely will never know.

I do respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this one-star rating really haunts me. Right away the first instinct is to contact that person, bring them back into my fold, so to speak. This is a terrible idea and I will tell you why.

What do you do if you get a bad review?

  • Nothing. Accept that this person felt free enough to express their feelings on the matter.
  • Act like a professional. Do not contact them no matter how strongly you feel and ask WHY?! Or tell them they are stupid.
  • That one-star makes you look legit. A lot of friends and family will leave you initial excellent reviews–granted you have nice family and friends. But it will look better for you in the long-run to garner reviews from people you don’t even know, even if these are not so glowing.
  • Learn from your mistakes, and write better.
  • Relish all your good reviews. Be grateful for all the wonderful five and four-star reviews you already have.
  • Obsessing over it won’t help. Even if your writing is solid, someone out there just won’t like it. I often think of this advice: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” – John Lydgate

True Story

The strangest thing could happen. The reviewer might change their mind and change the rating or written review. One of the biggest fans of THE ALTERED I–and no, it isn’t my mother–confided that the first time she read the book she didn’t really like it. But it lingered with her and she had to read it again. Since then she has gone on to buy multiple copies, given them out as gifts to friends and family and even suggested the book for her book club. The book club agreed to read it as part of their line-up for the year and they purchased multiple copies. How’s that for a surprise ending?

Please remember that the reviewer who gives a low rating doesn’t know that there is a flesh and blood person on the receiving end of that review. Try not to judge them too harshly. They wanted to share their opinion in a forum that allows them the freedom to do just that.

As writers it’s our job to develop a thick skin and keep writing. A bad review is heart breaking and confidence crushing, but it is part of the business of writing.


1395145_722318334464341_2129049087_nAuthor: April Voytko Kempler

Born in southern California, April Kempler currently resides in her adopted city of Reno, Nevada. April’s first book, THE ALTERED I, is a first-person narrative about the her father-in-law’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. April is an avid reader, and has more books than she will ever read in this lifetime.

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