• Carol Tate

A 1-Star and a 5-Star Review, and the lesson learned

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

We have all heard it said that reviews are important, we send out messages to our followers about how much reviews mean to us, and I think it’s safe to say, we’re all hoping our followers read our book and then give us a raving five-star review, right?

But is that what we always need? As much as I love my friends and family, the reviews I’m really looking for are from complete strangers, people who don’t know me, people who are not invested in supporting me when they pick up my book to review. It might sound strange but think about it for a minute.

I have my family raving about me everywhere they can every chance they can, friends are recommending my books to book clubs and across their social media platforms, and I can find articles and shared posts in all corners of my little world. I want this, absolutely, they’ve driven some initial sales and created some interest up and down my little country down here in New Zealand. Perfect. I’m overwhelmed by their support and the sheer size of it, I never expected to be the centre of so much love and encouragement, it’s had me close to tears a few times.

However, the 1-star review I received taught me so much about my book and my writing, and it led to a very serious discussion with some fellow writers and a whole rebrand of my work. Why? Because I’m a bad writer? No, not at all, there is nothing wrong with my writing or the editing of my book, at least not for the right readers or me. But there was for this person, and her reasoning was valid for her, and that is the best part, she gave fellow readers and me a reason why she couldn’t finish the book. She didn’t just throw up a one-star and say she couldn’t finish it (and I had two ARC readers contact me and say just that, that they couldn’t finish the book, but gave no reason – that sucked, I was left confused and wondering why. I mean it really messed with my head), what this one-star reviewer did for me was huge.

And here is why. This is the review she left me:

1.0 out of 5 stars Take Down

November 7, 2019

Format: Paperback

This was a story line that I couldn't get in to. Even though the description said there was abuse, torture and sexual assault, it was a lot more than I felt the book needed. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. Maybe some people will like it, but it's not for me.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

I took her review on board, here I had targeted romantic suspense because that was what I’d intended to write after all. The book was a romance, but here's what I didn’t realize until this reviewer, and the first reviewer to point it out, even though she was not the first to read the book bear in mind; my book is not romantic suspense. What my book is, is a thriller with romantic elements. Even though the book contains a romance, what had happened during the writing was that I dove into deep dark places as I followed my heroine's journey, and the romance becomes only a part of the whole story.

Lily and Jason’s story became far more violent and twisted that I’d ever imagined it would be, but because I’m the writer, I didn’t notice the escalating level of violence, and crime, I was just writing the story as it came to me, as it unfolded across the numerous drafts. As the writer I saw deeper than the violence, I saw who Lily and Jason were and into the core of what made them who they were and how much they had to grow to overcome some seriously bad shit. The bad stuff was the outside challenges that I knew they would overcome; to me, that wasn’t the whole story. However, it is a very large chunk of it as it turns out.

After I rebranded my book as a thriller, which took a week and many hours to change everything on all the different platforms, something magic happened. I got a second review, and this review was just as good as the one star, and just as important too because this one again didn’t just say ‘I loved the book’ or some other simple exclamation of enjoyment. This one comes from another stranger, who took the time to read my book, digest it completely and leave a detailed review.

Here is the five-star review:

By TeacherDonna

Public Review

This book started with a bang and just kept the action and tense events coming! There was a lot of violence, so reader beware. There was a lot of betrayal, intense family dynamics, intense sex scenes, an incredible cast of characters, and lots of action to keep track of. I guess my most immediate reaction was that I have rarely read a book where the female character was so tough, so able to withstand pain, and so able to hide her emotions, It was hard to believe she could have an HEA with all the injuries and death all around her. I recommend this book to anyone who can deal with the violence to see beyond it to the depth of the story.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

As you can see, the remarketing of my book was indeed needed. What I had unintentionally done was put a thriller book into the category of romantic suspense where it didn’t belong. Not only did that mean readers who ignored the warning I’d put up regarding the violence read something they weren’t prepared for, and never should have attempted, but it also meant that the right readers for my book were not being targeted.

I’ve done three years of study in an Applied Writing Diploma, and I still made this mistake, and I’ll make more as I go along, because a career in writing is a career in a state of constant learning. This was my first book and because those that I’d given it to read had all looked deeper than the violence and seen the core of the story in which the violence was just a part of the story, a challenge that my beloved characters had to overcome, it had slipped our notice that my initial intended genre was not the right one for my book. Turns out I write a better thriller than I do romance.

This is why reader reviews are so important. Sure they might effect algorithms and chart ratings, but that’s not the real reason the reviews become vital at least not to me. Reviews help readers find the right books for them, and help authors, learn more about their writing and how they are doing. It might be nice if the only review on Amazon wasn’t the one star, but I don’t mind that review because it will intrigue those that should be reading the book and stop those that shouldn’t.

A review without reason is just a numbered star, a review with an explanation of what the reader did or did not like? That’s worth more than five stars to an author.

Until next time,


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