I checked out my book’s page on Amazon.com yesterday. Book reviews can provide me with valuable feedback, and I always like to see how the book is being received by readers. I was excited to see that I had gotten a new review—until I read it….
It was so rude that I had to laugh a little, and I invite you to read it. Just look for the only one–star book review on the list. The author casually refers to my 180 pages of blood, sweat and tears composed over a two-year period as “junk”, and sarcastically marvels at my ability to say so little in so many words. Hurtful stuff, man. In the words of Thomas Hobbes, this guy’s review is nasty, brutish and short.
Now, everyone is entitled to his opinion, however offensively expressed, and I’m certainly not the only one to get slammed on Amazon:
Roughly 4% of reviewers of Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times bestseller Outliersgave him one star (along with moronic comments like “I got nearly halfway done then had to throw it away. I think it lowered my IQ.”)
What Color is your Parachute? is regarded by most as the Bible of career guides. It’s sold more than 10 million copies so far and has been translated into 20 languages. Yet 5% of its reviews for the 2014 edition are one star. (E.g. “This book sucked…”)
Speaking of Bibles, even the New International Version of The Holy Bible itself (!) counts 6% of its reviews as one star. (My favorite comment… “Not impressed.” May God strike you downJ!)
From the percentages above, it seems like there’s a fixed proportion of bad book reviews that every author ought to expect. My one star review percentage is about 4%, so guess I’m firmly within normal range. And misery likes company. But none of this changes the fact that one snarky reviewer spitting some venom can make every potential customer of mine think twice about buying my book.
I know, I know… I hear what you’re saying: “Suck it up, Beaudry. You can’t please everyone.” Sage advice; and I should be better at smiling in the face of rejection, given how many years I’ve spent in sales and how often I coach international students to persist and overcome. Bad book reviews are part of the package once you start publishing.
But rejection always hurts, and I suppose that I write this post more as a realization of how vulnerable I am—and we all are—to anyone with a pen and a lack of manners. Unfortunately, it’s always easier to destroy than to build. But in the long run, building is always worth the effort.
(I promise to write a more career search-oriented article in the next post!)