Lately, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of readers being discouraged from posting 1-star reviews. They are told to leave well enough alone. Perhaps they didn’t like the book, but others do, and they should not damage the author’s reputation or ability to sell by posting a negative review simply because the reader was not a member of the intended audience. Even worse, those posting negative reviews may be accused of harassment, bullying, or of being an internet troll.
However, 1-star reviews are critical for the health of the publishing market!
Self and independent publishing has exploded in the last few years, revolutionizing the publishing industry. Stories that were once considered unmarketable because they didn’t fit into traditional genres can now find a niche in the reading community. Authors can bypass the competitive submissions rigmarole and reduce the number of times that their royalties are split. It is wonderful and good! However, the rigorous vetting process provided by traditional publishers has been removed. That means that anybody can publish anything, regardless of quality and, frankly, the market has since been flooded with sub-par material.
Once an author has completed the story, s/he must morph from artist to business person. That means s/he must make his or her book good enough to sell. If the author has not produced a quality product through grammar and content editing, formatting, cover design, etc., then a potential reader needs to be informed of these problems before purchasing. A book is a product, just like a shirt in a clothing store. If the seams are going to separate or the fabric shrink after one wear, the consumer should know about it. Books are simply consumer goods and a consumer should never be forced to spend money on a product that is riddled with grammatical errors, typos, and plot holes because someone was afraid to point out the problems and potentially hurt the author’s feelings.
Most of the time, 1-star reviews demonstrate a difference of opinion, nothing more. Authors should never be afraid of or offended by that, regardless of how it stings. 1-star reviews now provide the filter that traditional publishing used to create, by weeding out the underwhelming books and saving the consumer time and money. If we want access to good reading material, then ALL stories must be accurately reviewed, whether good or bad.
Post those single stars, readers. It will help all of us find the best books!