I’ve been noticing a lot of complaints lately in various indie publishing forums about a proliferation of one-star reviews that seem more hateful than helpful. We probably give these screeds too much credit by calling them reviews at all, since they don’t pretend to be thoughtful assessments of the books in question. The “reviewers” are more accurately called “trolls” because of their bad intentions. Their obvious goal is not to educate the public about the quality of a book, but to destroy the average star rating attached to that book so that no one will take a chance on it.
Who knows why they do it? Anonymous forums bring out the worst in some people. It’s the same sort of vitriol that fills so many online political discussions these days. Right-wing ranters in particular seem full of resentment for anyone more accomplished or educated than they are. I suspect many of the one-star trolls are the same sort. They’re dismayed to see authors managing to do something that they’re too afraid or untalented to do. Or if they’ve managed to put out a book themselves, they’re afraid of competition, so instead of playing fair, they set out to destroy others. Either way, they lack the guts, decency, and patience needed to be successful at the self-publishing game.
Amazon is no help in dealing with this menace. For its own obscure reasons, the company devotes major effort to killing as many five-star reviews as possible while letting the one-star industry thrive. So my advice to authors and readers alike is to ignore the rating system. Pay attention instead to reviews and blurbs that seem to reflect a thoughtful reading of the book. As for the trolls, pity them. Cherish your dumbest one-star reviews. I have a nice collection now, including the one who declared my book a “waist” of time, and the poor dear who skipped over large portions of it because it gave him/her a headache. Deny them the power they think they have over us.