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1-star Reviews on Amazon

This will be a rant about something I haven't seen anyone else talk about yet. Though if you have seen someone with a similar opinion to mine, please send me a link.


Disclaimer: I don't do 1-star reviews. I DNF or I rate 2 stars or above. This is personal - I just have no need to rate 1-star. But I have nothing against others rating books 1 star. Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites have no problem with 1-star ratings and reviews - otherwise they wouldn't give consumers the option. But by all means you can Flag and Report reviews to the website's staff, so they can moderate.



I was reading LiveJournal last night, and came across a post by a male author (let's call him J), who I follow because I usually like his opinions (even though I have no interest in his books).


J's post was all about 1-star reviews on Amazon for another male author's (let's call him C) latest release. J studied the 1-star reviews, and came to three major conclusions:


-Some complained about the homosexuality

-Some complained about Disney selling out (or something like that - I didn't understand)

-Some complained about the first-person, present-tense


Even though I don't personally agree with the complaints (I certainly don't agree with homophobia!), readers are free to rate and review as the website allows them. If the reviews are really not acceptable, see above about Flagging.


J may have written the longest post about this book's 1-star reviews, but I saw a few others on Twitter mention them, too.


I don't read C's books, I have no interest in the 'verse/fandom this book is part of, so why am I complaining about people complaining about people complaining?


Because pretty much every book with big enough circulation numbers (such as from the Big Five, instead of self-published where the readership may be not as numerous) gets 1-star reviews. Look up your favourite books. Look up your meh books. Look up your DNF books. I'm guessing pretty much all of them have 1-star reviews. Does every book that receives 1-star reviews get defended by those in publishing? No.


It's very telling when publishing decides whose book they defend against 1-star reviews. C is a media darling in the SFF community. He's the kind of author where you've heard his name, even if you can't recall any of his books' titles. Because he as a person is more popular than his books. Writers fawn over his advice. He calls himself an "ally", which should be a warning sign - because only marginalised people can decide whether someone is an ally or not. People can advocate, but they don't get to call themselves "allies" because they're not objective enough about themself to decide. So if someone calls themself an "ally", they're self-congratulating without being a true ally.


C's blog is mega-popular. He has a history/habit of barging in uninvited, especially when women are discussing things. Something happen in the romance community? C barges in to tell everyone who's right. Because women can't possibly form their own conclusions without him telling them what's what?


His excuse? His readers ask him to weigh in, so he does. Without considering if he has any jurisdiction, or whom he's speaking over and stepping on.


He seems well aware of his own white, male, cishet privilege, yet time and time again abuses that privilege instead of stepping back and away and letting others speak. His apologies seem false, because he repeats the same mistakes. He sealions.


C's book does not need defending. He, personally, does not need defending, because his career will be fine. All the 1-star reviews in the world will not harm his career. He will be fine because of his many privileges. And because he's the kind of person who seems to care about social justice, while at the same time speaking over and stepping on the marginalised people who need to be heard - so white people can signal-boost his views and ignore actual People Of Colour.


Those defending C's book will say that speaking out against the 1-stars is speaking out against homophobia. Fair enough. But why are they silent when other books are 1-starred for similar reasons? Because the authors of those other books are not C.


The message people in publishing are sending right now is very clear: By all means, post reviews on bookseller sites, but only if they agree. Which means no 1-star reviews when it comes to Internet darlings.


And let's be honest: Publishing treats perusers of Amazon reviews as if we're stupid, as if we can't tell which reviews will affect our purchase or not. They think we'll just blindly believe and agree with reviews written by people we don't know. They have no idea that trust and knowledge of a reviewer is really what helps us make reading/purchasing decisions.


Publishing needs to stop treating potential consumers as if we're too stupid to think for ourselves, or do our own research. Readers are so much smarter than those in power give us credit for. Publishing prefers us to be dim, so they can pretend to care for misled readers, when all publishing cares about is making money off us. Readers are here to be used, and often abused.


So what's publishing really getting angry about: That a privileged SFF darling is getting 1-star reviews, or that potential consumers could blindly agree with those 1-star reviews without further researching?

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