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Why One Star Reviews Mean Less Than Nothing

Posted by & filed under Personal Growth.

1starBy now, I’m sure you are familiar with Amazon.com’s highly popular reviewing system. You can rate a book anywhere from five stars all the way down to one star.

Today, I want to say a few things about the people who are the “turd” in every writer’s punchbowl—the one star review people.

You may know some of these people. Maybe you have a book they reviewed, causing you to lose sleep and worry that what soooo many others told you was GREAT actually sucks! Maybe you’ve been shocked by ridiculous comments made about one of your all-time favorite books.

Or maybe even—and God forbid this is true—you actually ARE a one-star person! If so, you neeeeed to read this more than anyone.

Due to the fact that I know and work with a large number of writers, I’ve become accustomed to having to talk them off the ledge after they read one star reviews of their books. I’ve done this so often that I’ve actually compiled for you a list of my thoughts on one star people. This is unfiltered and straight from my notepad.

The Psychology of the One Star Mind

  • 99.9% of one star reviews have absolutely nothing to do with the book itself. More than an argument, they proudly illustrate their utter lack of one, their lack of love, their lack of understanding, and their lack of knowledge.
  • Their “arguments” are often based on their religious beliefs that, more than anything else, convince me that it has been a looooong time since they have cracked the pages of ANY religious text. They profess a faith that is based in love, yet their reviews display no amount of it.
  • There is zero evidence that they have actually created anything that has added value to anyone else’s life. They are not an authority. They are simply taking advantage of a free platform that is free to use and open to all—the intelligent people AND the stupid people.
  • They are hiding behind the curtain of the Internet and would never say any of these things to your face.

How to Prevent Yourself from Becoming a One Star Person

Remember, when you write something down, you have documented your thoughts. You have documented your thinking, or lack thereof, for all to see. You have documented your stupidity, which can and will be used against you in the court of the Internet.

Examine yourself. Make sure that whatever you are doing is being done in the name of love. Remember, you are not in the book business, the product business, the review business, the blogging business…you are in the people business.

If what you are about to write does not help others, bring joy to them, give them the ability to improve their life…keep it to yourself!

A Final Thought for all One Star People Out There

To wrap things up, here is a memo for all one star people out there:

If we, the rest of society, were to give you a rating, you would be a minus or zero star. You are non-existent in terms of helpfulness to the part of the world that lives in reality. I can only assume you are still here in order to create carbon dioxide for the plants to use.

I do not have time to continue explaining your foolishness to people who have poured their heart and soul into creating something of value, and neither does anyone else. You are simply wasting the ink on the Internet.

Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

P.S.  Please note there are NO Star Reviews below.  Comments only.  Think twice before documenting yourself as a ONE Star thinker.

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  • Sunny

    Great post and definitely noteworthy for everyone, I’m not in the publishing business but whether its book reviews or anything else, as I’m sure is the case for most people, where there’s a review function there is bound to be a one-star review. I’ve always ignored them to be honest, even if I thought a product to be completely useless (which I haven’t) I’d probably leave a two star review because its more likely that like-minded (anti one-star) people would want actually read and make use of it.

    • GREAT point, Sunny! Not only are one star reviews generally useless, but they also hurt your credibility if you actually have a legitimate gripe about the product. YOU are definitely not a one star thinker :-)

  • I have a lot of writer friends who will enjoy this article as it hits their hot buttons – this is a bad situation a lot of smaller writers struggling with right now! :(

    • Awesome, Andi! I would loooove for you to send this on to as many writers as you know. They NEED to hear this so they can learn to ignore all these one star people.

  • Dennis Moffet

    Wow! Sounds like you’re upset…and with good reason. Unfortunately too many people just want to rant, stir up trouble or create some kind of chaos. Hence the ‘one-star’ people. It is helpful for me to note that these type of people do not need to account for the quality of my day. I choose how I feel and respond. They seem to lack any real compassion for others and do a poor job of selecting their words. My suggestion…don’t listen to them.

    Robert, I would like to help you and give you 7.5 stars!!! Great book and love your passion! Thanks for making Andy who he is! :)

    • Dennis, it’s my hope that no one who reads this pays a one star person any attention ever again. And thank-YOU for the kind words!! You should email Amazon and ask if they can add in a 7.5 star feature for you. Ha! :-)

  • Great article, Robert. I rarely look at 1-star reviews for the reasons you stated, mainly they never have anything to do with the actual content of the book. The other end of the spectrum is also undesirable, IMHO. I have a problem with the 5-star reviews from the “my friend wrote a book” type of reviewers. I know there’s an entire “game” authors play to get as many reviews as possible, but the law or reciprocity, on average, means it’s difficult for people to give objective reviews in exchange for something of value. What the world needs is more 2, 3 and 4 star reviews that address the actual content, writing and usefulness of a book for its intended purpose. Thanks again!

    • Very true, Kevin. We can ALL benefit from more honesty and integrity in reviews. Both authors AND readers. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Jeauxdy

    The Uni Star is usually the outlier. They become more relevant if accompanied by many other Single sparklers and accompanied by the 2 Star variety as well. Clumped together, they “may” give you some direction to what you are considering. With that, it’s very infrequent that a single negative review or even a couple of them regarding an item sways me. In closing, the “power” of the 1 star flame thrower can set the artist world in a tailspin. I very rarely agree with the well known critic and his/her movie reviewer or book reviewer comments. The trailer I see or read usually dictates what I choose to consume along with some word of mouth…..if indeed there is any available. If not, I roll the dice and more often than not, am certainly happy with the product and promote it quite readily. The immeasurable hours people work on projects is always a foyer of respect as i walk through their journey they have offered. Good read Robert D. Met you about 15 years ago at some functions with Andy. I appreciate your candor.

    • Woooow, great insight! Loooove this: “The immeasureable hours people work on projects is always a foyer of respect as I walk through their journey they have offered.” Nice to be reintroduced again after 15 years!

  • Robert, OVATION! My standing ovation for you! Thank you for having action behind your words in both your book and you recent podcast with EntreLeadership. Keep it up!

    While we may not be able to change the one-star people in our lives, we can embrace them. As long as we have detractors, we know we are moving in the right direction, speaking love and truth.

    • Glad you heard the podcast today, Scott! Thanks for the insight. You’re right…detractors just come with the territory of success.

  • Certainly “gotta” wonder about the motive for the 1-Star people. I often wonder if jealousy is their motive and since they don’t have the gumption to do something they shoot at others who do. I also appreciated your mention of those who review based on their “biblical” knowledge, as though they are the doctrinal police. Good article Robert. BTW: are you just a tad bit upset? LOL

    • Just a TINY bit upset, Bill :-) Really, I’m just tired of seeing so many talented people dragged down by the opinions of a handful of fools. And you are RIGHT ON with “doctrinal police.” That’s great!

  • Jon Acuff doesn’t remember the 5 Stars he received for his book. He only remembers the one 1 Star he received.

    • LOVE that post from Jon, Larry. I think he called it “critic’s math.”

  • Joshua

    Haha! Peace to you, Robert. Whenever you are doing something of great worth, something that matters and will help change people’s lives, their will always be naysayers. There will always be those who simply must seek to take away. Remember that the enemy comes to lie, steal and destroy. But Jesus has come that we have life to the full.

    Remember the words of your dear friend Andy, “I do not care about opinion gossip or the idle chatter of monkeys!” You are a man of great action and influence! In the short week I have read your book and blogs it has brought great insight and clarity which has blessed me beyond measure because I have been foggy in the mire of mediocre results in my business.

    I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hope to author a book that will impact lives. You and Andy are some of the greatest role models a young man like me could have.

    Praise God for who He is! You are standing on The Rock
    Peace, joy and continued success,

    • Ha, that’s so great that you quoted Andy! Maybe I need to read his stuff a little more often :-)

      So glad you’ve found some value here. What’s your book about?

      • Joshua

        I call it “The Life You Are Meant For.”

        I was born with a bad stutter, in a broken home, became overweight depressed and addicted by an early age and walked down a prodigal road at effect in my victim mindset. Jesus captured me through a thriving Church community. I became healthy, more successful and fullfilled. Yet many unrealized patterns persisted as we see with so many lives. ( ie the 1 star people) :). But as I engaged in my spiritual and personal development journey by learning God’s Word, life principles through books like The Travelers Gift and many others, a framework began to emerge.

        Zig Ziglar called it the wheel of life. I call it the 7 Pillars. We must be physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, socially, vocationally, spiritually healthy to live the life we are meant for.

        Many people are healthy in physically, but are train wrecks when it comes to their emotions. Or very spiritual but always broke. In God’s Word, it says we must “acknowledge Him in ALL YOUR WAYS, and He will make straight your path. Proverbs 3 :5-6

        Part one of the book shares my journey from death to life. Part two is the principles and wisdom I have learned from Gods word, others, and life experience as it applies to “ALL our ways” or all the areas of life.
        My vision is that he will make straight the paths of all those who read it. The abundant life Jesus came to give us. John 10:10 ” The life we are meant for :)

        I’d love to hear your thoughts if this would be a a project that would add value to people’s lives. I feel like its all been said before but I also feel like no one has put it all together in such a way as the perspective my path has given me…

  • I pulled my old cheerleading outfit out of the back of the closet for this one! (I keep it because, why? Because I think there will one day be a shortage of cheerleaders for the local high school assembly and I’ll be able to answer the S.O.S??? But I’ve digressed again, haven’t I?”) Yes, that’s me here in Louisiana doing toe jumps for this stellar one star post (please don’t miss the cleverness of those last four words– this stuff just comes to me!) I’m going to need to rest now. Later, Robert… :)))))

    • Pull out the pom-poms, sister!! Thanks for reading, and get some rest :-)

  • Awesome, Robert! 5-Stars*****

    • Rocky!! Thanks so much :-)

  • I received a 1-star review of my book, So You’re Not Wonder Woman, because it’s a Christian book and the reader wasn’t a Christian. She got the book for free, too! The great thing is the review was pulled for some reason. I have to admit I’ve posted a 1-star review before. Once because I found the content so objectionable and another time because the book was slopped together with absolutely no editing. I was quite surprised to get feedback from the readers of the first book who either attacked me or thanked me for the review. The author of the second unedited book apologized and pledged to have it edited.

    • Ugh…giving a free book one star just seems wrong!

      It sounds like you were gracious in your one star reviews, so that definitely makes you an exception to the rule, Melanie :-) Thanks for your thoughts!

      • I of course have no scientific evidence for this, but I’ll wager most drive-by-one-starrings, (which is not the kind Melanie did – I think hers were justified) are by folks who have never produced a book and have no appreciation for the work involved.

  • This One-Star Philosophy extends to more than books, for sure! Some people use reviews and surveys to harp on minutiae or extrapolate a review into a cultural diatribe. It’s most frustrating that most folks who think this way derive great pleasure from “helping the business/writer/individual improve”.

    Let’s decide to be Five-Star Personalities, who seek out the positive in our colleagues and improve them by encouragement rather than nasty back-biting One-Star Attitudes.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Justin! Some people just love the sound of their own voice.

      • I’ve been guilty numerous times of over valuing my own opinion! When it becomes a habit, it becomes an addiction. An addiction to self. This is dangerous in more ways than one.

  • femmeflashpoint

    If I can’t write a review saying how awesome something was to read, I simply pass on the review. Never know. Maybe their next piece will be better. I’d rather build up than tear down another writer. If the work is bad enough to bypass writing a review on, I can always send an email, and state quietly, and KINDLY, why I declined giving it a public review. Seems to me practicing the golden rule works in most any situation. I intend to continue employing it.

    Great blog post. I enjoyed it and happy this subject was addressed. :)

    • Thanks! Love that you care enough to actually send an email. I’d be willing to bet that the person would be 100 times more likely to listen to that criticism than a one star review.

    • Storm Chase

      I do exactly the same thing. For one thing, I don’t believe that any of us can really offer a decisive yeah or nay. Just look at how some of the best or most popular books were rejected dozens of times. http://www.goodreads.com/StormChase

  • I think I’ll give One Star two stars. I’d give them less, but I’m not that kind of guy. ;)

  • Preach it brother! I have to deal with such folk in the App Store too.

    • Hadn’t even thought about apps, Scott! Any stories you’d like to share? :-)

      • Oh, don’t get me started Robert! Here are some classics:

        1. Despite the description I provide of the what the app does and does not do, someone buys it and is unhappy because it doesn’t do what I said it wouldn’t. This earns me a one-star rating and comments about how much the app (nasty verb deleted).
        2. Someone buys the app and has trouble figuring out how to do something. Instead of contacting us for support, AND DESPITE the 4 and 5 star reviews from others claiming how well the app works, the person leaves comment “DON’T BUY THIS APP – IT DOESN’T WORK AT ALL” along with a big fat one-star rating.

        There are many more, but I’m going to stop now. Unlike Amazon, Apple provides no arbitration process to expunge unfair one-stars either.

        • Wooowwwww, that IS bad, Scott! Very frustrating when people can’t simply read instructions before they decide to go off the deep end.

  • amyfosseen

    I used to write for a blog that only posted reviews for books we really liked–we were the Pollyannas of the reviewers and in the end, kind of vilified for it by other bloggers who made their success through snarky reviews. I live by Thumper’s momma’s words: if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

  • Elizabeth Darcy Jones

    An Amazon reviewer was sent my poetry book, to review, for free. Some of it is in rhyme – not his thing, but that’s not a crime. Yet his one star review was written in verse – damning the book as twee and causing me to curse like crazy. But because I am not lazy (sensitive? yes) I wrote him a personal e-mail back, and made him think. It took a while – I sent him tea as well which made him smile. And he could see how effective the book must be as he’d written his one star review in rhyme to me!

    We now have a connection. He apologised, agreed he needed to be more measured and not get carried away with slamming something that ‘wasn’t his cup of tea anyway’… although he’s started writing poetry again!!! One reformed One-Star Reviewer!

    He gave me some tears and a sleepless night – and reminded me that I can be independent of the good or other opinions of others. I also do a ‘twee’ check so I may be I’ll write better. For that I’m grateful. Keep the real one stars coming – provided you have actually read the book…

  • DS

    I’m glad people can have some common sense here. No one enjoys getting kicked. No one creates something and wants to be told its garbage. I appreciate the fact that this post can help people handle a 1 Star. When reading reviews, I’ve often felt or experienced what’s been covered in your post and comments. In the end – don’t take it personally, chances are it’s not really about you or your creation.

  • Rob

    “If what you are about to write does not help others, bring joy to them, give them the ability to improve their life…keep it to yourself!”

    Occasionally there are some valid one star reviews that do help others if a book doesn’t live up to its promises. I don’t think authors should get a free pass to put out garbage and label it great. Having said that, I agree with you that 99% are not helpful and are either defending their beliefs or in some case just being hurtful for fun. Many of these admit that they have never actually read the book being reviewed.

  • Rob

    I’m confused a little….you say:

    “If what you are about to write does not help others, bring joy to them, give them the ability to
    improve their life…keep it to yourself!”

    but then:

    “If we, the rest of society, were to give you a rating, you would be a minus or zero star. You are non-existent in terms of helpfulness to the part of the world that lives in reality. I can only assume you are still here in order to create carbon dioxide for the plants to use.”

    How does this mesh with your other comment:
    “Examine yourself. Make sure that whatever you are doing is being done in the name of love.”

    I guess I just labelled myself a one star thinker because I don’t totally agree with you, but it seems to me you are stooping to their level by throwing out insults to people you don’t know. I understand your anger and it is probably justified. I enjoyed your book and some of your posts, and I’m sorry but this seems petty. Feel free to slam me in your next post, I think I will unsubscribe.

    • Hey Rob! Thanks for your thoughts.

      First of all, I definitely would NOT label you a one star thinker simply for disagreeing with me. As a matter of fact, I looooove disagreement…it often leads to great ideas. This post was written and meant to be viewed from 10,000 feet.

      I see what you’re saying, but the part you quoted about one star people was mostly said in jest. I didn’t write it for one star people (since I truly don’t think there are any who read this blog). I wrote it to encourage those who have been dragged down by one star reviews.

      I am personally presented with a lot of proposals that are in the One Star category and it is our job to up the standard and make it more meaningful to more people.

      If you were to read 100+ One Star reviews and examine more closely where these people are coming from, I believe you will see that their comments generally do not add value or helpful critique. It is from overall small thinkers that are more self-absorbed than they are thinking about serving others.

      This concept may also be a little challenging if you have not been on the receiving end of a One Star. Producing as much product (books, audio, video) as we do, I am constantly going through the One Star thought process with the team. It is continually going through the second version (v2) over and over to make it better.

      Just know I sincerely appreciate your comments. I do know that not everyone wants to know the “truth” or wants to change. This post is for those that do—for those who want to be coachable.

      • Rob

        Thanks for your thoughtful response. I do understand the anger, I have gotten upset when people unfairly rate one of my favorite books a one star, and I didn’t have any personal stake in those so I can imagine it would be hard not to take it personally. I used to try to “debate” the one star reviewers, but it was a waste of time. Anyway, sorry I jumped in so quickly with a judgmental attitude. I did appreciate the overall message and can definitely see your point.

        • Noooo worries! Loved the discussion. Thank-YOU for reaching out :-)

  • RoryPeebles

    Thanks Robert D. for saying boldly and so well what needs to be said about these reviews!

  • Gene Brett

    Hello Robert…Mother always exhorted me and my four siblings to
    “say something nice or say nothing at all”… so here we go! The Blog is right-on and while your book, “20,000 DAYS AND COUNTING”, may not have changed my life it has changed the way I live….This is day 27,900 for me and of those precious days God has given me, I have wasted many. I pray that God will grant me the wisdom, courage, strength and stamina to waste no more.

    Thank you Father for giving Robert D the wisdom, courage, strength and stamina for doing what he does.
    In the name and power of Jesus, Amen

  • Alicia M. Smith

    What a refreshing post, Robert. Not because it’s a particularly happy subject, but because it’s honest and bold. And to tell you the truth, the more I think about it, the more I feel sorry for those that post reviews with this mentality – it must be exhausting living with such a mindset. God help them…

    Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for the words of wisdom!

  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

  • Great post, Robert! These one-star people can creep into any area of business or life. This serves as a great reminder to take measure of your critic before you consider their feedback.
    By the way, this post inspired me to write my FIRST EVER Amazon review. You can see my published thoughts on 20,000 Days and Counting there. Spoiler Alert: I’m not a one-star person. : )

  • Davina

    I love your passion Robert D! I laughed outloud about being a turd in a punch bowl. That’s a great visual for me – I do NOT want to be the floating turd in the punch bowl of life! The Bible does tell us to use our words to edify one another. Dear God, please help me to be the encourager that Robert D is to everyone he touches!!

  • Guest

    I love your passion Robert D! I laughed outloud about being a turd in a punch bowl. That’s a great visual for me – I do NOT want to be the floating turd in the punch bowl of life! The Bible does tell us to use our words to edify one another. Dear God, please help me to be the encourager that Robert D is to everyone he touches!!

  • Linda

    I do read the reviews on everything from kitchen knives to books. What I usually do is discard the most glowing and the one star. I figure a family member could have left the best and a truly unhappy person probably left the worst. The truth is usually in the middle.

  • Shelley Hess

    ROBERT!! I’m catching up from travels and so JUST read this!!!

    Oh, Brother,THANK YOU SO MUCH for that TRUTH, STRAIGHT UP, about “One Star Thinking”!

    Lord, please deliver me from one star thinking AND one star acting! I don’t have so much as one molecule or micron of space in my life for any of it, from myself or anyone else! Thanks for that brilliant reminder.

    This one’s worthy of an ENCORE!! I will always appreciate the reminder, both from the bottom looking up, AND from the top, looking down!

  • Linda

    At the risk of getting everyone rilled up–what good are reviews if you are not going to give your opinion? I agree if you have a real problem with a book or person, don’t do it in public. I do read reviews and take other points of view into account. One or two bad reviews will not stop me if the majority of people are positive. If I read a review and the person goes off on a rant of some kind, I dimiss it entirely. I guess what I am saying is why have reviews if it is just to stroke the person or item? By the way–I have never left a negative review.

  • Small Biz Owner

    This is applicable to all star reviews everywhere. Never trust a review of a business or product. Go look these people in the eye and touch the product to decide for yourself if they merit your business. Bad reviews are ALWAYS one side of a story and blanketed by irrelevant emotion. The internet is just a kleenex for narcissists, fools and wimps.

  • Yvonne

    But Robert D. How do you really feel? :)
    Excellent points!