Ten stages of grief over the one-star review — The Year of the Office

I had to come into the office today. If for no other reason…to climb the stairs and work off the four cookies and half-bag of white cheddar popcorn I ate last night while sobbing and watching Project Runway.

Okay. I wasn’t really sobbing. But there were a few tears. Why? I’ll tell you why…

I’m a hack. That’s right. A hack. I got it. I got the dreaded <begin echo chamber> ONE-STAR REVIEW.

“Oh,” I can hear you saying, “don’t worry about that. Nobody pays any attention to those reviews.”

I beg to differ. There’s nothing worse out there than a book with only one review. And it was, I cannot stress this enough: ONE STAR! The book was sitting there like a dud. A turd. A one-star pile of poo.

My life was over.

They say you aren’t supposed to respond to negative reviews. Some even argue you aren’t supposed to respond to positive reviews. Reviews are for readers, not authors. Authors have been honed, sharpened, roughed-up against the fires of criticism. We’re tough old bastards. You can’t get to us.

Bugger that.

Here is, laid out before you, exactly what it feels like when you prick us. This is all true. Every bit of it happened to me. I would not lie.

1. Confusion sets in. Cue: Genesis. There must be some misunderstanding. There must be some kind of mistake. I worked on this book for hours. And you hate it? I’ll sit here refreshing the book’s Amazon page for several hours, waiting for you to realizing you accidentally one-starred that book when you meant to five-star it. Okay, okay, clearly not five stars based on your comments. But….three? Maybe? Nothing’s happening. You mean…seriously?

Like. What gives? Did you read my book? MY book? Are you sure? Maybe you want to sleep on it? I’ll check again in the morning.

2. Humiliation. You realize you’re clearly not as brilliant as certain people keep saying you are. You’re George Costanza, having mistakenly let Elaine Benes take your IQ test for you. And now look at you. ONE STAR! One star, Jerry. A one-star review.

How are you going to outside again? People will KNOW!

3. You start to bargain with your skeptical reviewer. I mean…look at all the funny! Look at the cuteness! What about all the fab writing skills? Don’t you see what I did there with the main dude? Behold the award-winning author! LOOK AT THE BONES!

4. Then you get a little bit angry. Could be from all that bunny violence in number three. But really. Why would somebody do something like that, right? You’re not going to just let them do it, are you? You’re not Janice Joplin, letting people just take pieces of your heart out if it makes them feel good. Hell no!

5. Of course, you’re a nice, civilized person. Not prone to violence. So you calm down and start to defend yourself in a more…whiny sort of fashion. I write fine. That reviewer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m a good writer, right? Do I stink? But I really enjoy writing!

6. Then there’s complete denial. What’s with these readers dissing me and my book? I don’t care what they say about us, anyway. I don’t care about that.

7. Of course, it still hurts. You can pretend you look like Buddy Holly all day long, but that review is still there. Maybe it’s time you realized the truth: your career is over. It’s a big fat pile of turds all over Amazon. You had it good for a while, though. You could have been a contender. You could have been somebody. Instead of a hack. If it weren’t for that awful, one-star review.

8. You cry. And you eat a bunch of chocolate, chocolate-chip cookies, a half-bag of white cheddar popcorn. You give in and let it all out.

 9. After all that blubbering, you figure, what the hell. It’s not like you’re going to stop writing. You don’t write for the reviews anyway. You write because…well, because that’s what you do. And if you’re out there telling the world one-star stories, well, make them the best one-star stories ever! Seriously. The sun will come out tomorrow. So, buck up. Wipe your face. Get used to it. No use crying about it. There’s no crying in publishing! You think you got it bad with a one-star review? There are plenty of authors out there with a hundred one-star reviews. Hell, be thankful you got any review at all. That means someone’s actually reading your stuff! Got it? No crying in publishing.

10. So, you wipe the snot from your nose and take a few ZzzQuil and go to bed and get up the next morning, hold your head high, act like nobody out there in the big wide world knows you’re a one-star paperback writer (come on, really, it’s not like it’s tattooed on your forehead), climb those stairs to your office, sit down and…blog about it.

You will go on to write again. You will put out another book, and another. And one day, damn it all, you’re going to get more and better reviews. One day, that sickly-yellow, demeaning, demoralizing, soul-crushing one-star review will be buried under a bunch more reviews that may or may not be better than one-star. I mean, truthfully, let’s be honest and all–it’s possible that you’re going to have a lot of mediocre reviews and you’ll never rise to the level of greatness you see in your head when you’re writing…. You know, when you’re reading your own stuff and laughing or crying and thinking you’re brilliant. Nope. Truth is, it’s probably going to be more like those times you read your stuff and wonder what the hell you’re doing, why on earth you thought you could be a writer, anyway.

I digress. What I mean to say is, you come to understand that life goes on. After all, tomorrow…is another day.

Monday, I mean. I’ll get back to serious work on Monday. This weekend, there’s another half-bag of white cheddar popcorn and some open packages of Toll House cookies in the fridge calling my name.

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