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Vampires Don’t Sparkle and Other Things You Can Learn from the One-Star Review

I wasn’t going to post anything today. I planned to mind my own writerly business, take the weekend off, clean my house, and enjoy a break from the computer screen. At the same time, I have a pet nonfiction book that I’m trying to keep alive while juggling a full plate of work. So, even as I cleaned the house and minded my own business, my brain was busy dreaming up things I could research. Bad Brain, no cookie! Which is how I wound up browsing Amazon.com for titles that are similar to the book I want to write.

One thing led to another, and pretty soon I had this whole post forming in my head. So, here we are.

One book I ran across had 38 five-star reviews on Amazon.com. At first, this caused barely a ripple in my train of thought. Okay, some people read this book and liked it. No biggie. Move along, nothing to see here.

Then I saw that the same book had ten single-star reviews. Wait a minute, some people read this book and disliked it enough to tell others. Ooh, train wreck!  Jackpot!

Okay, I know that sounds mean. Remember, this is the same brain that houses Hyde.  Bear with me.

When researching the competition, bad reviews often tell me more than the good ones. The good reviews might tell me all sorts of things the author did right, but the bad ones tell me the pitfalls I need to avoid.

This is true for fiction and nonfiction. For example, a bad review of a vampire novel might point out that certain deviations from the traditional lore (i.e. sparkly-ness) are not okay with some readers. If you are targeting that audience, you’ll need to keep that tidbit in mind.

Here’s what those one-star reviews taught me about the market for MY book.

  • The tone of the book in question was too cutesy for adults and didn’t match reader expectations.
  • Readers considered some of the information ‘fluff” and a waste of time.
  • It didn’t contain enough variety in the sections.
  • Some readers felt it was marketed toward the wrong audience.
  • The book didn’t offer anything that the readers couldn’t find, in better versions, elsewhere. (And those reviewers were kind enough to list those books for me. Am I going to check those versions? Yeppers. You better believe it.)

Take a look at the competition. See what you can learn from the good AND the bad reviews.

Now, I must go run the vacuum and put the brain back in its jar.

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2 comments on “Vampires Don’t Sparkle and Other Things You Can Learn from the One-Star Review

  1. Wow, that’s a great way to look at those 1-star reviews. I read lots of books that got ‘bad’ reviews. Reading and what a person likes is so subjective. But the good and the bad gives a full view of the work, the readers and perception. Thanks for posting even though you were supposed to be taking a break 😀

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