Wednesday, August 1, 2012

IWSG and the bigoted one star review

August 1st just happens to fall on a Wednesday this month. So, here's my "Insecure Writer's Support Group" post which is from the desk of Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can find his blog HERE.

Late in the month of April, I got hit with a one-star review for my book on the Apple iTunes/iBooks application/website. Since that time, I've been hit with three others, but they didn't offend me. This particular one did. And I stewed about it for weeks. I wrote Apple an angry email, and they did take it down because they agreed with me that it crossed the line into bigotry.

Why am I printing it here? Maybe it's cathartic. In the least, I have no doubt that they support Chick-Fil-A.
This book had so much potential and a fabulous storyline that could easily make it a 5-star read.

But the author chose to corrupt this work with abominable lifestyle for his main character. I'm not against the homosexual...but I abhor their lifestyle. Had I a clue the book would pursue and entwine this theme within the plot, I surely would not have bought it.

That said, it's a crying shame because this could have been a winner at the bookstores. There are some really good ideas in this work that make you think. (That's something that people don't do much of today).

What really "queered" it for me at the end was when the author injected some of his warped ideas of his own biblical theory that are so ridiculous and without ANY resemblance to actual scripture that it borders on blasphemy. Stick with the science and the fiction, but leave the holy scriptures to folks that read, believe, and practice them (We need a lot more practice too! Many of us have a lot to learn as well.)

Don't let this deter you for writing something else that can be exceptional. I see the talent there. Don't squander it with these distractions.

But if you don't, I'll gladly pass on your next installment, Mr. author.
The attitude in this review is the kind of attitude that I face all too often. And it makes me an aggressive atheist instead of a passive one. It turns me into an angry person. I feel like I've been bullied yet again by someone that thinks that the way THEY live is the RIGHT way to live. This review was judgmental, condescending, and outright rude.

But it also had another effect. After my anger faded I felt insecure, the same way that I felt in high school and in college.
If I learned anything, it's an affirmation that I shouldn't care what other people think of me. And in the end, getting a one-star review is a validation of a different kind (even if it comes from a natural born bigot). It means that I'm a real author who is taken seriously by someone who I have never met, even if I do think they're an asshole.

How will you handle your one-star review?


  1. You can't please everyone. Personally, I wouldn't want to please people who think the way this reviewer obviously does. One star hurts, but it hurts worse to knowingly compromise your vision for your work.

    Given some of the themes I've written about (the main character in one of my books is gay), I'm destined for a couple of one star reviews. I hope I handle it well, but I'll probably have some insecurity too.

    Good luck.

  2. It astonishes me that people still think it is okay to write that kind of review. Words have slightly failed me here, but I agree with what L.G Keltner said. Compromising your vision is much worse than a one star review. Write they way YOU want to write - it's your story. :)

  3. I think it's fair enough if someone doesn't feel comfortable with certain themes in a book, we all have our own hang-ups, but the "advice" this person offers you in this comment is astonishing. Patronising, condescending and smug all in one — quite the achievement.


  4. It was rather attacking the author, not so much the work. I'm glad the review was taken down.

    Getting a One Star review will happen occasionally, especially from persons unknown. I like your attitude Mike, that at leaast the reviewer is taking your writing seriously.

    And of course you will care what your reader thinks of you; you wrote a novel to appeal to readers, and their opinions can hurt. But I hope you focus on the positive feedback, and just know that you really can't please everyone.

    Keep writing your heart Michael.


  5. Stuff like this makes me so mad it's hard to comment. Getting a one star review is hard enough without having it filled with bigotry and senseless hate. I know it's easier said then done, but try not to let this person's narrow mindedness have that much power over you that you become insecure and even more angry. Don't give them that much power.

  6. A review shouldn't be that personal. It reads more like he was sending you a letter than writing a review.
    The more people who read your book outside of your circle of influence, the more chances you'll have of one star reviews of people who disagree with you or just weren't your target audience. Don't lose faith in yourself because of it. Shrug it off and keep writing!

  7. That review was definitely full of attitude and a soapbox. I only agree with the opinions that Slipstream has a fabulous storyline and that you indeed have a lot of talent. I'm glad Apple took down what looks like a "hate letter."

  8. Print that review out and frame it. Seriously.
    You pissed off a bigot -- good work! And, as you said, he took you seriously enough to take the time to write such a bullshit patronising review.

    For every book out there with strong LGBT characters, bigotry takes another hit. That's not a crap review -- that's a battle scar.

  9. One-star reviews suck but they're inevitable. I ignore them as best I can. A main character in one of my books is gay and I've gotten some lukewarm reviews on it, leaving me wondering if he's the real reason behind them. There will always be bigots but our writing is chipping away at them. :)

  10. Wow. I think the Chick-Fil-A thing has somehow empowered bigots this week. Very annoying. It's like we're in the 80's again.

  11. One star reviews are terrible, especially the ones that say nothing. BUT, this one is just beyond wrong. I'm so sorry. Don't let it discourage you. Slipstream is an awesome book!

  12. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I had to deal with a one star. My only published work out now only had a handful of reviews as it is - and almost all of them are from people I'm at least.

    Still, I'd think it would hurt. That it attacks my beliefs and my person as being wrong would make it even worse. Its hard to be gracious when your treated that way.

    1. I think I had a half formed thought there. I meant to say my reviews are from people I'm at least aquatinted with online. So I don't have total strangers giving me reviews - so I'd be surprised if any of those were that harsh.

  13. Once you write about anything that is in any way controversial, expect reactions like that, but you know what? The reader recognizes your skill so I'm thinking that in everything there's something to be grateful for.

    For me, a one-star rating is like a blot of my writing, something that says I don't know what I'm doing. I still think that, however, I also know that people are entitled to their own opinion and some can't help showing their level of bigotry/thought/education by the way their review is written.

    That said, I know you're tough. Hang in there.

  14. Unfortunately there are a lot of such people out there, and most of them are the highly religious ones. Richard Morgan had some similar reactions to having homosexual sex scenes in his fantasy novels, but I still think they sold very well.

  15. Wait, what lifestyle? That you play video games and go to work and read and write and go to movies and watch more TV than any single person should? Man, I wish I had time to play video games. And go to all the movies you go see that I have to wait for dvd to see. I suppose that means I envy your lifestyle.

    There are some lifestyles that I dislike, but those are generally cultural differences. Like when we used to live next door to this huge family of Mexicans and on the weekends what they liked to do was sit out in their driveway (which was connected to ours) and play their car stereos really, really loudly. ALL DAY LONG. That was a cultural lifestyle thing I didn't like, but they were NICE people, and I liked them. I just didn't like the music at 7am on Saturday morning.
    And, living in the Bay area, I know and am acquainted with many homosexuals, and I've never known any of them that had any lifestyle that differentiated them from me.

    You know, the lifestyle I really don't like is the lifestyle that chooses ignorance. Having grown up in the South, I've known a lot of that.

  16. That review says more about the person than it does about your book. Your book sounds awesome (I'm downloading it right now) and honestly, if ignorant people want to be ignorant then it's their loss!

  17. One star reviews are fine so long as they come from a place of not liking the writing. When they attack an author, then presume to judge, it is crossing many lines. I love your attitude and the strength you showed printing that here. You have inspired me to handle my one star reviews in a better manner. I usually stress and get angry.

    You are a class act writer and pillar of the blogosphere.

  18. I'm glad they removed that review, and I have a feeling that guy really shouldn't read the sequel if he feels that way.

    *hugs* You are who you are, and you write what you want to write. If a person disagrees and would rather give a great book a 1-star because of it, then they're not worth your time.

  19. Wow, that's not a review! It's simply, as you said, bigotry. I wish, now that more and more people are self-publishing and hundreds of reviews are going up every day, there could be more classes, online or otherwise, in how to write a good review. People ought to read the London Review of Books or the NYTimes book review section - we can't all write reviews like that, but shouldn't we try to learn from the best, instead of spewing random opinions?

  20. I still haven't read your novel (almost there), but this review has me very excited to get to it. Sure the one star sucks and it is a personal attack, but there's some high praise in there too from a complete stranger. And since the stuff he mentions won't bother me, I should enjoy the novel very much. :))

  21. My theory these days is that if you don't have a 1 or 2 star review yet, not enough people have read your book..because even best sellers get 1 star reviews. Go look at your favorite book on Amazon and Goodreads and read the 1 star reviews.

    Yet, again...I hate 1 or 2 star It's easy for the big name authors to ignore them, but not us little people. Yet we still have to. *hugs*

  22. I'm so sorry to read that, Michael. Unfortunately, it does not surprise me. My husband and I got into a heated debate with family members on this very subject. They, of course, quoted the bible, which they refused to believe was affected by time, by perception and interpretation, and by political influence.

    Wish I was closer to give you a hug. You deserve it after having to put up with that review. Glad it has been removed.

  23. I think anyone who reads that review will dismiss it for what it is.

    The good news is that it makes the book sound like something I WOULD read so, in essence, it's a good review for the audience you want to reach.

  24. When I get a one-star review I'll probably yell at them on Amazon, even though I know I shouldn't. I haven't gotten any reviews on "Where You Belong" in months, maybe even a year, which kind of sucks but then if I get any reviews it'll probably be some idiot giving it one-star because they didn't like the subject matter so maybe I'm better off.

  25. Sorry to hear about your one star but if it make you feel any better I've noticed that even Pulitzer Prize winning books get from 10-20% 1 stars. I think it's because to be great you have to take risks and most people don't take the time to look past the cover.

  26. I like that you have a gay character. Don't let the bigots stop you from writing what you write. The world needs more voices from different points of view.

    Celebrate breaking ground and being different. Not everyone is as narrow minded as that. I think it's terrible that such hatred and bigotry is perpetrated in the name of religion.

    Glad Apple took that one down.

  27. I don't think I'd ever read reviews... they would make me feel like a Bambi in front of a hunter ....

  28. Sorry about your one star review and the attitude of the one that wrote it.

    I plan on celebrating my first one star review. Of course, that celebration might look like me hiding under my desk, crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry's, but it's my party and I can cry into my ice cream if I want to...

  29. I've heard it said that you haven't really "arrived" until you've been criticized in print. Evidently, you, my friend, have arrived. This person is a narrow-minded individual with an ax to grind. In spite of his bias against people different from himself, he couldn't refrain from saying a few good things about your story. Try and focus on those.

  30. I can see where your anger, and then insecurity stemmed from! Don't stop your writing, and don't sway it due to crap like this - because I'll be there queueing up for your next book, eager for more- it's been one of the highlights of my recent reading

  31. I'm always amazed that someone could write such a review and then claim your book made him 'think.' Obviously thinking isn't one of that reviewer's habits or perhaps abilities.

  32. Ah yes, that would sting.

    However, such reviews are helpful. People who agree with this "reviewer" will stay away, as they should. Not every book is for everyone, and those who are easily offended by such work should stick to what won't offend them.

    In the end, you just have to ignore the bigots. I think it must be limiting to live in such a narrow worldview. It's their own little hell. One of their own creation. Don't let them trap you in there with them.

  33. I'm so sorry this happened and you had to see that hate on your book, and deal with it all the time. People can be so awful. Keep on "queering" it up, my friend.

  34. Okay... I'm pissed! Like really, really pissed! Really - just too mad for words right now because that kind of talk and attitude is SHIT!

    Obviously, you're incredibly talented. Don't let the narrow-minded get you down.


  35. Wow. That's all I can say is...Wow. Unbelievably ignorant and judgmental. There are many of us who grew up on scripture, who know it well, who have strong faith, yet we believe in the inalienable right for each of us to live the way we want to live and be exactly who we want to be. But really, that's beside the point. A reader shouldn't judge a work of fiction on his personal belief system and rate it as such. I mean, I dislike when authors bring their brand of faith into their books without warning, but I'm not gonna judge the story based on that and I won't judge that author by that either. As for the actual 1-star review, I empathize. With my launch date so near, I worry about that happening. For me, it'll likely be about all the violence my book contains, especially against women, but it's my story and f*@# whoever judges me because of it. I have the right to tell my story exactly how I wanna tell it. And you do, too.

  36. All I can say is that there are all kind of writers.

  37. What a bigoted jerk! And contrary to his holier-than-thou attitude, I know a whole lotta religious people who think homosexuals are God-made and just fine, thank you very much. Clearly his one-star review was just an excuse to slam you in public and deliver a sermon, especially since he fails to describe Slipstream's plot, theme, or the many characters. And one star when he concedes that the book was otherwise a "winner" and has a "fabulous storyline"?

    Good for you, Michael, for getting Apple to delete this stranger's hateful little turd. I also hope you have a catharsis by posting the smelly turd here. I figure that when I get my first bad review (and the second and third, etc.), I'll get busy trying to cast a good old-fashioned deadly Irish curse on the reviewer. So all in all, you're taking this better than I would.

  38. Dude, there are 1 star reviews and then there's hate speech, and that's what that review was, for sure. I'm sorry you had to deal with that.

    What will I do with my first 1 star-er...? I think I keep a bottle of rum in my closet...
    Some Dark Romantic

  39. When it comes to reviews I would consider the source. "Reviews" from Amazon and the like are not normally done by professionals and you can get all sorts of criteria for basing evaluations of a work. They all have to be read taking into consideration the intelligence of the arguments and the technical aspects of the presentation itself.

    I almost always go to the one star reviews first and am rarely swayed by their arguments. Usually they are a hoot due to their absurdity and they rarely have much legitimate substance.

    The reviews that bother me the most are the professional ones like I see in the L.A.Times for example that often will use the review as a platform to diss another ideology or group of thinkers.

    Everyone is entitled to a viewpoint about what they believe and all sides should be respectful in their disagreement--this might lead to more constructive dialogue.

    Tossing It Out

  40. I heard the best thing to do with one star reviews is ignore them. Every response moves them up in the search engines and gives them more supposed credibility. This is why I think book reviews should mention LGBT content (if it's a major theme), so those who disagree strongly with the morality won't mistakenly read a book they'll end up giving a terrible review. You don't won't those customers.

  41. I'm sorry to hear about the review. Glad they took it down--it obviously doesn't have much bearing on the book itself.

    I'm not sure how I'd handle a one-star review. Probably retreat into a hole for a little while, then step back and try to analyze it for what it actually seemed to be: a legitimate critique or bigotry.

  42. I will probably drink heavily for an evening and then try to move on. This is interesting after your bully post. It sucks. Slipstream is a great book and I'm looking forward to the second one. Great art is loved and hated; it incites passion and debate from both sides of the spectrum. What's bad is when no one cares.

  43. This is horrible. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Good for you for writing what's in your heart.

  44. I don't worry about bad reviews. You can;t please everyone. These jokers are out to make a name for themselves at someone else's expense.

    So let the baby have his bottle and move on.

  45. It's not so much you shouldn't care what people think of you - you just shouldn't care what idiots think of you. Save your attention for the opinions of people you respect.

  46. On the bright side he/she had good things to say about your writing and ideas. A lot of us draw on religious ref and mythology but as long it doesn't get preachy, it's ok.
    They just chose a book they couldn't be objective about...the loss is theirs.

  47. Wow, what an asshole! That's...seriously so stupid. And I'm sorry, what kind of person reads scifi and then complains about the sex in it? It's like s/he never read scifi before!

  48. Oh, Michael,

    My face burned crimson when I read your post. HOW DARE THEY?!!!!! Who died and made the, King of the universe?

    I have NO tolerance for bullies, bigots, or elitetests.

    I am sorry you had to endure such a hateful review. What irked me more than anything was the condescending way he spoke to you and us for that matter.

    As a reader, I took offense. If I was reading this review I'd be furious. Knowing it happened to such an honest, talented, and hardworking author only angers me more.

    I"m glad you were able to have it ejected. No author needs this review haunting them.

    I have not been in the position of a bad review yet, since none of my writing has been published. I have been very lucky with my CP's and blogger friends ... they all seem to enjoy my writing. Thankfully.

    But when the time comes, I hope that I will handle with my head high and if it is constructive, then I hope I will try to improve the next time. HOWEVER if it's bull, I will be furious!!!!! LOL.

    I am proud at how you handled this, Michael... Well done.

  49. Wow, I'm beyond words. I'm so sorry you had to experience that. Reviews that attack your work are hard enough to deal with, let alone those that seem to attack you personally. I like what one of the commenters above said (can't seem to find the comment now) - this is a battlescar in the war against bigotry.

    Keep being proud of your work, Michael. I admire your attitude. :-)

  50. Gotta run, your book is going on my kindle and I'll bet it's a fabulous read.
    Any hey, aren't you glad you're not related to the bigot!

  51. That's a pretty gross review and sad that you have to put up with that shit on a regular basis. Perhaps you should make your next character a poor black, elderly, handicapped, Tibetan lesbian. See what Mr. Author has to say about that.

  52. One star reviews are never fun but I don't think this one would bother me that much because it says far more about the reviewer than it does about your book.

    It's sad that people like this exist, but I agree with another commenter who pointed out that these types of reviews might actually be helpful because they will steer other bigoted people away from your book, helping you to avoid more negative reviews.