I recently published my first book and after a couple weeks of solid reviews I received my first 1 Star review on Amazon. Gasp . . . My immediate response was to get defensive. In my mind I started forming my counter-arguments to this hideous blemish on my book review record. Clearly this reviewer had missed the point and this injustice needed to be rectified. Did the reviewer really need to attack me personally. I briefly wondered if I should appeal Amazon to have the review removed and the reviewer permanently banned from the site.
After a few moments of reflection on why this made me angry, another revelation came to me; I shouldn’t fear the one star review. It didn’t have to irk me at all. In fact, I might take encouragement from the 1 star review because it just as well might be a sign of something positive about the work. If we stand for something or write something or say something and everyone agrees with us – what does that say about the things we stand for, write about and say? It probably means we have contributed something safe, politically correct and uninspiring.
I am not bragging that my particular book is bold, honest or inspiring. What I am saying is that a 1 star review is not a signal that it isn’t any of those things either. In fact, a one star review (or multiple one star reviews) may be a much better sign than only positive reviews that a person has taken a stance and shared something risky. You don’t make a difference by sharing something everyone already knows and agrees with. You don’t do work you can be really proud of by making sure it doesn’t offend anyone or is so uncontroversial that nobody even notices it.
The next time you get a 1 star review, or the equivalent in your domain of work, don’t take it too harshly. Smile to yourself knowing this might be the best sign that you are headed in the right direction.