One of the inescapable truths about literature is that there is no such thing as a universally loved book. Even the most lauded work you have ever read has its detractors. In other words, one person’s masterpiece is another person’s trash. This being the case, every author knows that sooner rather than later their books will receive bad reviews, and yesterday I received my first ever 1 star review on Goodreads for The Exercise Of Vital Powers. I have since been inspired to write how I’ve chosen to deal with this unwelcome development.
I actually find it easy to accept that my book isn’t for everyone, so I’m not one of those authors who regards a bad review as a personal slight. However, I initially had a negative reaction to the aforementioned review, and for about thirty seconds (maybe even a full minute) I was really annoyed with the review and the reviewer, which meant I had to fight the urge to write a response criticising both. Fortunately, the content of the review was funny to me so I found myself laughing at it instead.
The reviewer admitted to only reading fifty percent of the story, yet this was sufficient for her to reach the conclusion that everything was about sex, and the conflict revolved around sex…all the time. Given that there is no sex in the book whatsoever, I’m not entirely sure on what basis the one star rating was awarded. I suspect the reader’s dislike for the protagonist might be responsible for it despite her review’s fixation on the non-existent sex.
While no writer likes poor reviews, I am of the view that the proverbial cloud does sometimes have a silver lining, so I genuinely believe there are actual benefits to be derived from negative opinions about a book. The principal benefit of bad reviews is that they discourage unsuitable readers from wasting time on books that are not for them. In this particular case, a prospective reader who shares the tastes and sensibilities of the reviewer in question will now know that The Exercise Of Vital Powers is not a good fit. Another potential benefit of a negative review is that it likely means one less negative review in the future, assuming the reader never picks up any more books by the same author. I certainly think it’s safe to conclude that a reader who gives my book 1 star won’t be reading the sequel (fingers crossed).
In light of the idiom, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, I will be utilising this terrible review for promotional/marketing purposes on social media for the next week or two. This decision was actually inspired by a discussion on Reddit earlier in the month, when someone asked whether 3 star reviews on Goodreads should be viewed as a negative. One of the participating authors was of the belief that they are negative on the grounds that a book cannot be marketed/promoted on the back of a three star review. Being someone who frequently disagrees with the “conventional wisdom” that exists in traditional publishing, I’m going to get a kick out of proving this line of thinking wrong.
Hopefully, the reader who provided the bad review won’t see how I end up using it or she might think I’m making fun of her. 😄
Thanks for reading,