Stars in Our Eyes

My daughter in 1990

Yesterday was launch day for BOOKED, the first book in the Sugar Mill Marketplace series. Yay!

The early reviews are positive and make me very, very happy, because it’s scary to put a book out into the world!

Until the world at large sees it, you don’t truly know if you’ve done what you set out to do.

That said, reviews aren’t for the author. They’re for readers. Once the book is out of an author’s hands, it’s communal property and people get to have ideas about it, which is terrifying and exhilarating.

And the 5-star rating system? I was flabbergasted when I found out people used those stars for their own purposes. I had no idea! People told me they clicked the 1-star to remind them they already read the book. Or because they wanted to read it. Or they considered one-star the best rating. They were just as flabbergasted when I told them that’s not how those stars work.

There’s also a distinct difference between “bad” reviews and “negative” reviews.

A negative review points out the problems a reader had with the book. Too long, too short, typos, not funny, too sad, I figured out the plot. All of these (and more) are perfectly valid issues to discuss.

A bad review, on the other hand, is completely unfair, but often hilarious. One star because I ordered the wrong book. One star because the book arrived with a creased cover. One star because I didn’t like the font. Okay, I made up that last one, but you believed it for a minute, didn’t you?

These reviews from my author friends are funny because any reader who uses reviews to decide what to read will not be swayed against your book if they read one of these. They will think they’re funny too.

• “My dragon steampunk book got a one star because it had too much steampunk.”
• “This reads like a short story, about my 20,000-word novella.”
• “My urban fantasy was one starred for having a dragon in it. (I’m considering doing a FB ad using the quote.)”

This reminded me of my very favorite lemons-to-lemonade review moment.

A restaurant in Ireland did that very thing and people flocked to try the salad. I heard she also had t-shirts made with that image and can’t keep them in stock. That renews my faith in humanity.

Here are some one-star reviews that also make me laugh.

• Wolf of Wall Street: “No wolves. One star.”
• Great Gatsby: “My favorite thing about this book? It was short.”
• Wuthering Heights: “Vile people are mean to one another.”
• Emma: “It’s great if you’re into that old 1800s kind of speech.”
• The Runaway Bunny: “Terribly disturbing.”
• Gone Girl: “I was disappointed. Definitely not a happy ending.”
• Old Man and the Sea: “Worst book ever. Just throw the fish back in.”

Regardless, an author can never, ever engage with a reviewer. Not even to say thank you. Which is easy for me because I rarely read my reviews. I have a personal motto about reviews, whether positive or negative—Never read them; you might start believing them.

The only downside to a funny bad review is that it drags down an author’s star-rating. Not the be-all, end-all to a career, of course, but with high ratings come certain professional perks like higher ad placement, and “if you like so-and-so, you’ll like Becky Clark,” and the like.

I’m also reminded of a writing contest I judged. Unpublished writers entered the contest and as part of the fee, received in return a written critique of their three chapters. I read one person’s entry and was blown away. It was perfect. Literally. Everything about it was perfect. I gave it a high score, and sent off my glowing praise, about a paragraph long. I immediately got it back from the contest coordinator telling me I had to write some constructive criticism, since that’s what the writer had paid for. I argued there was nothing I could tell this writer, but the coordinator insisted that I had to write a full page of critique. I did, but I felt like the Peanuts gang writing their 100-word book report on Peter Rabbit.


And they were very, very, very, very, very, very
Happy to be home

The end

…94, 95. The very, very, very end

Don’t get me wrong. I relish every review I get. Each review is tangible evidence that a reader read my book and cared enough about it (or me) to want to discuss it in public.

For a writer, there’s nothing better than that. And if it’s tied up with a 5-star bow? Well, that’s something that will always feel like winning the lottery, the glittery sash, the belt buckle, and the blanket of 554 red roses all at once.

So I want to offer a huge THANK YOU to everyone who ever reviewed or rated one of my books. Even the person who long ago said about my 99-cent “healthy living” digital book … “a waste of e-ink.” It still makes me laugh.  

Do you write reviews? Why or why not? Do you read book reviews? Do they sway you in any way? Have you seen (or received) any funny reviews?

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