Cartoon image of hands holding tablet and hitting one star review

Book reviews and ratings, on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, are essential to authors wanting to publicise their work. They help readers decide what books to read next. But the chances are that, sooner or later, someone is going to dislike a book and say so in a review. Even the best-loved authors have their fair share of one-star ratings.

I reminded myself of this a while ago, after getting my first one-star rating for a book I’d written. It was accompanied by a “this book is boring” review. To cheer myself on, I looked up the reviews for books written by some of my favourite, highly rated, authors. Here’s a selection of some of their one-star reviews:

  • “Not worth reading even though mercifully short.”
  • “Completely boring. Reads like a Wikipedia entry.” (That was for Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, the story of the sinking of the Lusitania.)

Some people don’t seem to realise they can stop reading if they’re not enjoying a book:

  • “The best part of the book is the last page. Because it’s finally over.”
  • “Can’t understands the readers that gave it 5 stars. May be they are insomniacs.”

Others are into irony:

  • “As cliche as this sounds, the book was so predictable.”

Confusingly, some reviewers gave a book a great review, then gave it a one star rating. At least one was honest about why:

  • “Very good to excellent. Hit the wrong star, rats!”

Others obviously don’t expect anyone to take their review seriously:

  • “This is the last time I buy a book based on the amazon ratings.”

And my favourite:

  • “It was very boring. My wife liked it.”

How to write a useful review

If you do want to write a review, it doesn’t have to be long and complicated. Unless you’re the first person to review the book, there’s no need to give a detailed summary. Just a few sentences about what sort of book it is (the genre) and what it’s about is fine. Say what you liked about it and why, then what you didn’t like, and why. Finally suggest why other people might want to read it. Will it appeal to readers of certain types of books, or fans of a particular author who writes similar books?

And be kind – remember it’s the book you’re reviewing, not the author, so avoid personal comments.

Hit the wrong star? Rats!
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