I read an article last week (well, the majority of an article) on top-selling Amazon titles with huge numbers of poor reviews. The article stemmed from the paid reviews scandal headed by John Locke and his ilk, but it got me thinking. Do negative reviews hurt sales? I know when I see a poor review hit for one of my books, I read it thoroughly (while I unscrew the top to the MD 20/20), trying to see something I can improve upon for a future work, or if the dude who left the review was just having a bad day. But I also wonder in the back of my mind if that review could impact future sales. (And then out comes the second bottle of the Mad Dog.)
There are many (myself included) who will start by reading the one-star reviews of a book before deciding to purchase. If they are isolated, unrelated complaints, fine; but if there is a trend, or similar issue, then the book itself might not make the TBR list. One of the most controversial and talked-about best sellers recently has been the 50 Shades series, so I decided to take a peek at the one-stars for the first in the series. You know, to see if they’d hurt sales.
Two hours and a cramp from laughing later, I couldn’t take it anymore. The reviews are scathing, and probably better written than the book itself. And darned if they aren’t downright hilarious. There are currently over FOUR THOUSAND one-star reviews of that first book…and here are some of my favorite snippets (no, I didn’t read all 4,000…I would be undergoing emergency spleen replacement surgery right now):
“I feel stupid for reading this book and wish I had spent that ten bucks on socks.”
“If crap had an a$$hole, this would be shooting out of it”
“I want to give this book to someone I hate and tell them it’s awesome. That’s how bad it is.”
“Take Stephenie Meyer’s ham-handed, awkward writing and turn down the “quality” dial about four – maybe five – notches.”
“There’s no plot. I have never actually experienced a book with no plot.”
“My inner-goddess turned fifty shades of crap as I bit my lip and rolled my eyes.”
“Try to imagine of the smell of a large crate full of month-old eggs in the dumpster behind a questionable greasy spoon diner on a muggy, sticky August morning. With a dead skunk on top. And garbage juice dripping onto the pavement. And a drunk guy urinating onto the whole thing. Now imagine rolling in that dumpster. Naked. That’s how this book made me feel.”
“And yes, you don’t drive through Portland to get to Seattle from Vancouver.”
“The redundancy is infuriating. It’s a wonder Ana didn’t gnaw her own lips right off her face or Christians hair didn’t fall out from constantly running his fingers through it.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey is not the first book I’ve thrown across the room – it’s the second – but it is the first book I also kicked after it hit the floor.”
“Ms. Steele and Mr. Grey. Aren’t those clever last names? What were the chances?”
“James has accomplished the unthinkable: making Stephanie Meyer’s writing look worthy of the Pulitzer by comparison”
“Zero stars. I rather read iTunes user agreements.”
And my all-time favorite:
Feel free to list your fave in the comments section…or hey, to keep me in perpetual cramps, some one-stars from The Casual Vacancy…there seem to be a few. Like outnumbering the five-stars by almost 50%.
I don’t think Ms. James is worried about the one-star reviews; right now, the 50 Shades books occupy the 5th, 6th, and 8th spots in Amazon’s overall Best Sellers for Kindle. So I doubt she’s pulled herself away from making sure to ward off the coming autumn chill by stocking up on royalties invoices and hundred dollar bills for kindling (no Kindle pun intended, but it worked, didn’t it?).
Before anyone rises up and defends popular literature *cough* by saying I’m making fun of the books themselves and how dare I, I’m not. None of these are my reviews; just the ones that others wrote that caught my eye. I’m simply passing on the good word. And wondering if reviews mean anything at all, sales-wise, in the long run.
Oh, and the wife read all three 50 Shades books, and said to me…aloud… “Is this all you have to do to get published??” I think she holds me in less esteem now…