Authors: How Are You Handling the New Batch of 1-Star Reviews from Peeps Who “Haven’t Read It Yet”?

Wavin’ atchya, WG2E-Land!

Okay…I thought I’d seen it all when it came to 1-Star Reviews, but this latest version is a total stumper. Here’s one I just received this past week on Amazon from a Diana Hill (who’s reviewed three games and two books, one of which includes my STUCK WITH A STIFF):

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not read it yet., December 28, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Stuck with a Stiff (The Stuck with a Series) (Kindle Edition)

I have not read it yet. But it looks good. I love humorous stories and I’m looking forward to reading it.

So yeah, this chick hasn’t even read the book yet, but she’s giving it a 1-Star, which took my overall rating from a high 4-Star to a solid 4.

Mind you, this is happening all over The Zon in a huge deluge. I’m not sure if it’s the new way to stomp on Indies and try to bypass The Zon’s new, nasty review elimination spam bots (since they’re basically positive reviews with the lowest rating) OR if there are simply a bunch of new Kindle Owners who don’t know what the hell they’re doing when they’re giving a 1-Star.

What did I do about it?

Well, first, I emailed Amazon to make them aware of the review and marked it as not helpful and asked it to be removed. I also let them know that I’m seeing these all over The Zon now.

Then, I posted this message to the reviewer, hoping that if she was indeed trying to help me, that I’ve let her know she’s actually hurting more than helping. Here’s what I said in my comment to her review right on The Zon:

D says:
So tickled to see if you’ve picked up Stuck with a Stiff, Diana. But please don’t review and rate a book until after you’ve read it. By giving it a 1-Star, without having read it, you’re actually hurting an author instead of helping because you’re lowering their overall rating average because of your low 1-Star rating. Anyhoo…thanks bunches for taking the time to comment and Happy Reading!!!

In addition, I’ll be blogging about it on The RG2E and my personal D. D. Scott-ville site too to teach readers the consequences of doing this.

Okay, WG2E-Land: How many of you have experienced this new wave of 1-Star Reviews, and what are you doing about it?

The Best of WG2E Wishes — D. D. Scott

D. D. Scott is an Amazon and Barnes and Noble Top 100 Bestselling Romantic Comedy and Humorous Mystery Author. She’s also a Writer’s Go-To-Gal for Muse Therapy and Indie Epublishing, the Co-Founder of The WG2E- The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing, and the Founder of The RG2E – The Reader’s Guide to E-publishing.  You can get all the scoop on her, her books, her Online Classes and Live Workshops, plus juicy tidbits too from her new cyber home…D. D. Scott-ville.

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  1. I recently had a review of one of my books on that read: “Bettye Griffin never fail [sic] to enterain and make you believe in happily ever after.” The title of the review was “Highly Recommended.” So what was wrong with this picture? The reader gave my book just 3 stars. Doesn’t sound highly recommended to *me*. But I have not yet had any 1-star “haven’t read it yet” reviews.

    If I have (or if I do), I also would have contacted Amazon and asked them to remove it, because the so-called reviewer states that they didn’t read it. But I would *not* have replied to the review, because I don’t believe authors should do that, no matter how badly they get slammed. My rule is that I wouldn’t reply to sparklingly good reviews, so why should I reply to bad ones? Nothing personal–and maybe I shouldn’t say this–but it makes the author look rather petulant to me, no matter how good-natured, upbeat, and jaunty the phrasing…even if the author has not replied to just plain bad reviews that fall within the proper guidelines, i.e. “I didn’t care for this book at all.” It’s obvious to anyone that this particular person is misinformed and is abusing or at least misusing the review system.

    The baffling review I received? I did nothing, did not even contact BN. If the reader wants to say they highly recommend my book but just give it 3 stars, that’s really up to them. There is no blatant misuse of the review system involved, the way there was with your situation.

    My two cents. BTW, did Amazon respond to your request? What did they say?

    • Do not, whatever you do, complain to Amazon about a negative (malicious review). Amazon for some strange reason *will not* remove the negative but in many cases of complaint they have instead removed perfectly genuine five/four star reviews. WHY? good question.

  2. Forgot to add, there will always be somebody who doesn’t get how it’s supposed to work. I’ve seen many reviews on Amazon where people will give a book a 5-star review based on the fact that it was received promptly and in good condition and they are “looking forward to reading it.” I guess the test question to an author would be, Would you reply to the reviewer and object to a 5-star rating when they hadn’t yet read the book?

  3. Liz Fielding says:

    This, like the person who gave a 5* review because the book arrived promptly, suggests that they don’t understand what a book review is about and probably responded to an Amazon request to “rate” their purchase. Tricky to deal with. In my experience, whatever an author does in this kind of instance is likely to backfire on her. I’d be interested to know what Amazon’s response was.

  4. CC MacKenzie says:

    Well, nothing like waking up to THIS!

    I received a one star on Goodreads from someone who LOVED the book. It was patently obvious to everyone she’d made a mistake or didn’t understand the system. I just ignored it because I cannot be bothered to pick her up on it.

    I’ve got a doozy on B&N for one of my books but it’s not affected my rankings or my sales, in fact it made her look like a twit since the rest were mostly five stars with the odd four and other readers came in to disagree. I’ve ignored it and kept out of it. Not received one (yet) on Amazon (only a matter of time).

    However, if this reviewer’s not read it then Amazon need to take it down. God knows they’re taking genuine reader reviews down during their cull. I don’t know what’s the matter with Amazon at the moment, they seem to be suffering from a collective hangover after the festivities. Again, I tend to ignore their little glitches and they always sort themselves out in the end, eventually.

    The one distributor I’m incredibly impressed with and how they run their reviewing system and author dashboard is iTunes. I’m selling 3x more on there in over thirty countries than on the ‘Zon. Never thought I’d see the day. Just before Christmas I spoke to a very nice guy in their publishers helpdesk and he sorted out my issue within twenty four hours and the issue was all my own fault.

    Hope you get it sorted DeeDee.

  5. I’ve had two strange 1 star reviews. The first was titled ‘Wish I hadn’t bought this from Amazon’ and went on to say it was a really good book, but once he’d realised Amazon doesn’t pay taxes in the UK he wished he’d bought the book from Waterstones! (I wish it was for sale in Waterstones!)

    Anyway, I answered with a similar message to yours, D.D., and the reviewer said ‘fair enough’ and upped his rating to 5 stars. Bless him!

    The other 1 star review is on the US Amazon, and again is positive in the content, so maybe she got the rating system the wrong way around. I haven’t done anything about this, because it’s my first 1 star and I don’t think it hurts your credibility to have a range of reviews. BUT if I was getting a glut of them I’d be contacting Amazon super-fast!

  6. DeeDee,
    Thanks. I appreciate you addressing this topic. I received a couple of strange reviews after offering my books free on Select. This is an example:

    Dislike from the first sentence, December 26, 2012
    By Mary J. Deschene – See all my reviews
    This review is from: Wendy and the Lost Boys (Criminally Funny Fables) (Kindle Edition)
    Did not mean to get this. I want to delete it. I flipped through the pages hoping it would go away

    “Hoping it would go away?” Obviously a new Kindle owner who bought one of my books by mistake. I marked it as abuse since it is abusing the rating system. I wrote to KDP. They sent me a form letter stating that the review complied with their rules. Well… it doesn’t aside from containing the minimum of twenty words. She didn’t buy the book, she didn’t want the book, and got mad at the book because she didn’t know how to delete it.

    What concerns me is that a few of the stronger sites that we advertise on require a minimum rating before they will let you submit. I completely understand and agree with their marketing strategy. But there is that fine line between 4.2 and 4.3 and we easily get tipped over it.

    Many of the newbie Kindle owners seem to think they are doing you a favor with a 3 star rating. If you’re running a high 4 or a 5 on a newly published book with just a few reviews… it’s very hard to recover to a 4.3 after being hit with one 3 star rating. The ratings cost the authors money. The stars cost the reviewers nothing. I think the Zon needs to explain the rating system somewhere when they send out the solicitations for reviews.


  7. Hi DD,

    I think what might have happened with Diane giving you a 1-star review and saying she’d never read the book is related to a new phenom I’ve noticed just in the past thirty days with my own Amazon purchases. The Zon’s auto-message system is sending me emails asking me to review books in less than 24-hours of downloading them. Maybe Diane felt obligated to ‘answer’ the email request right then. Hopefully she plans to increase her rating after she reads your book.

  8. LM Preston says:

    Oh my, I have the same thing on one of my books. Lady leaves a review but hadn’t read it, she did give it a 3-star rating I think. I try not to get all bent out about reviews as long as all of them aren’t bad. I mean when I read reviews for some well established authors they have way more 1-star reviews than I do (also way more overall reviews,lol! but who’s counting those)

  9. It’s a sad fact there are people out there who seem hell-bent on inflicting misery upon authors , and these people leap at the chance when freebie books appear at Amazon. Unfortunately freebie downloads give credence to their review, in that it appears to the casual eye they have indeed purchased said book. Some even leave comments to the effect: “Even if this book comes free don’t bother.”

    There is more to this negative review malarkey, or should I say Intrigue: being that publishers employ freelance proof readers, editors, and anyone willing to do engage in underhanded on-line reviewing. The idea is to discredit Indie books that dare to challenge mainstream published novels and their position within best seller listings at Amazon Goodreads et al. There is even a network of review sites sponsored by publishers, which ensures glowing reviews of all their listed novels and lesser star ratings for Indie books that are sent for review: by naive Indie authors. How do I know this? My daughter is in PR, and her company had approaches made to them by a publisher. If you want a truly independent book review try They’re also on facebook. If you join you can post reviews of fellow authors books, and in turn spread the word. Be very suspicious of review sites that are supposedly run by an author – look to see who that author is published by and I bet with a bit of detective work you’ll discover that person is also a freelance editor with a publisher!!! The publisher’s books who always get rave reviews… The joke though, is negative reviews are being bandied back and forth between mainstream published novels too as on-line competition hots up.


  10. There was a thread on this topic somewhere and the opinion was that these were new kindle owners (maybe even new readers) who didn’t know the way things work.

    My personal opinion: Amazon regularly sends e-mails asking recent purchasers to review the book they purchased. This sort of e-mail might boost the ego of a new to kindle reader and they comply by leaving their unwittingly hurtful one-star.

    In this case, it is so obviously a mistake, Amazon should take it away.

    • Julie Day says:

      I have had these emails from the ‘Zon. Most of the time I haven’t read the ebooks by then so I delete the emails as I can’t do anything yet.

  11. Consuelo,
    Agreed. :)

  12. Barnes and Noble is just as bad, if not worse. They, too, send out rating-request emails within a week of buying a book. I mostly ignore these requests, but I’m sure there are readers who feel obligated to do something in response. There are also a plethora of bogus messages posted as reviews on BN. I think I read somewhere that these are actually turns in some online game or something. I try to report these to BN when I see them.

    I’ve pretty much stopped paying attention to the reviews on Amazon and BN. I rarely read 5 star reviews because I think at least half of those are friends, family, and paid posts. I’m more likely to skip to the 1 star reviews, ignore all the ones about shipping problems, etc., and then work my way up through the 2 star, 3 star, and sometimes 4 star reviews.

    I tend to trust reviews on Goodreads more, especially if they’re posted by one of my “friends” on Goodreads. Their system, as another poster pointed out, isn’t immune to this review craziness, but I think it’s a lot better than the vendor sites.

  13. D.D. Scott says:

    Y’all are making fabulous points and thanks bunches for adding your voice and thoughts to our conversation!!!

    I do think it has a lot to do with Amazon now being even more proactive in soliciting reviews, and yes, I’m getting requests from them too to fill ‘em out! So, as you said, Consuelo, Amazon should remove these kinds of reviews and perhaps even issue a statement on their own, teaching new Kindle owners that reviews are meant to be used after you’ve read a book.

    What we can do as authors is also use our platforms – personal websites, social media, reading blogs like RG2E – to teach our readers and get them to help spread the word. :-)

  14. D.D. Scott says:

    Oh, and I also want to say that I rarely read my reviews either. And I’m much happier that way!!! <3

    This one just caught my attention because we had all 5′s and 4′s for this book till this stinker. LOL!

  15. Angela Brown says:

    Not sure I want to know if this has happened to me yet. Think this may be an “ignorance is bliss” for the moment.

  16. Ignore the review.. It’s pointless to argue. I received a 1-star from someone who hadn’t read the book, yet is complaining about page length. They flat out say that’s why they’re complaining.

  17. Joe Bruno says:

    I received one one star review out of 19 reviews of my book Mobsters, Gangs etc…- Volume 1. I average more than 4 stars. It was written by a fine fellow named Chaz. I saw this was his first review. All my nine books combined average more than four stars.

    He said my book was garbage and not worth 99 cents. No reasons; just garbage.

    I commented that it was quite possible Chaz was a sock puppheteer. Then I explained what that was and gave a link to an article about them.

    Chaz replied that I was I so senstive, I must know my book was garbage. I withdrew my comment. No use in geting into a hissing contest with a snake.

    The next day, Chaz’s one star review musteriously disappeared from my page. I didn’t complain to Amazon, so I don’t know why that happened.

    • Karen says:

      I could have been misinformed but I’ve been told it’s never a good idea to reply to a bad review. The reasoning was that replying to a review somehow helps it rise into the ‘most helpful negative review’ postion. Don’t know how acurrate this is but it does make sense that giving the review attention in the form of a reply might somehow make it more visible on the site.

  18. Miriam Joy says:

    When I buy books, I never look at the average review, because I know stuff like this happens. Personally, I’ll always go through and read a bunch of reviews, and if all the negative ones are like that … I’ll assume it’s pretty good. If there are in-depth negative reviews, I’ll consider it.

    Hopefully, other people reading reviews will mark it as ‘unhelpful’, and it will be ignored by the majority of potential readers. Though a lot of people do just look at the stars, which is a flawed system.

    Maybe Amazon should simplify it with a simple ‘positive / negative’ indicator and a written review, instead of the star system? After all, one person’s 4 stars is another’s 5. And it’s harder for people to get confused that way.

  19. Great post, D.D.!

    Yes, I received a one-star review on a writing book after I placed it free on Kindle Select. It was the first review and pretty much killed the thing. I went to Amazon and protested because the reviewer had not purchased the book on Amazon (the only place it was available) and referred to things that were completely 180 degrees away from what was in the book. The reviewer’s grammar was laughable, but it wasn’t funny to me. After not getting sales over the next two weeks, I took the thing down and republished it under a different title. The book is doing great now.

    As with some of the other commenters experienced, Amazon did nothing—said the review was within their guidelines. I felt like Demi Moore in A Few Good Men, making a fool of myself with “I strenuously object!”

    Thanks for the post and the discussion. It reminds me that I’m not alone out there.
    By the way, I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but since Amazon typically show the “most helpful reviews” first, if several folks go in and click on “no” under “did you find this review helpful?” it should make the review go to the bottom of the list. That won’t get rid of the thing but at least it won’t be staring a potential buyer in the face, first off.

    Hapi ritin ya’all! (below is that unhelpful review, as an example)

    0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
    1.0 out of 5 stars FIRST TO TELL THE TRUTH, December 11, 2012
    By MoonStar – See all my reviewsThis review is from: How to Write a Novel – Storytelling, the Writer and the EBook Novel (Novel Writing) (Kindle Edition)
    This book wasn’t well. It said it was bad to have a plot and keep writing not reviewing what you wrote. It should be called ‘How to Write a Cheap Book in 1 day’ It told you getting a horrible app that doesn’t work well for the cover. Not worth anything.

  20. I had a interesting 1 star on Video Vixen – woman admitted she bought the original paperback version for 1 cent…then complained because “it wasn’t updated like the ebook said.” …Really updating an old paperback! And on the same book…I think it was a 2 or 3 star – someone said with all the 5 star reviews I expected this to be “Nobel Peace Prize winner.” …honestly..for 99 cents a romantic comedy….. you have to laugh and polish the body armor!

  21. What I don’t get is why Amazon deleted one of my biggest fan’s five star reviews for ALL of my books. These reviews were unsolicited to boot! Go figure – I even requested they be put back up, but so far all I hear is crickets.

  22. As someone who reads -all- the reviews when buying anything (not just books), what I focus on is what the person is complaining about. I think most habitual Zon and other internet shoppers understand how the ratings game is played. When anything new first arrives in the mail, most people are happy. Some people have more experience than others with a particular product and leave a rating based on broad experience compared to other similar products. There are those people who complain when something breaks a few months later and go back and leave a nasty review. And then there are the ‘the mailman was late delivering this’ reviews that don’t belong there.

    What matters to -ME- when I look at other people’s reviews is ‘what is this person complaining about?’ For example, I write epic fantasy. When somebody says they liked the main character, but there were too many characters and too many intersecting plot lines, guess what? This person is not somebody who regularly reads epic fantasy. On the other hand, when people read GRRM and complain there is nothing heroic and no hero prevailing in his otherwise magnificent writing, I pay heed. That’s dystopia … a genre I don’t care much for … not fantasy (which follows the hero’s journey). Another example … if I’m in the mood for a romance read and reviewers complain the heroine ended up with the wrong guy or there was no happy ending, guess what? That book’s genre is misclassified. And then you get readers who give one-star ratings because of a sex scene … QUICK … HIT THE BUY BUTTON!!! :-)

    What I -really- hate are the 1-star reviews on sites like Shelfari and Goodreads where the person can rate it low and not say WHY. It denies potential readers the opportunity to judge the veracity of the reviewer. I got zinged on Goodreads by one who left a one-star rating with no review, then sent me a separate nasty email about fallen angels having sex (well … yeah … that’s what makes them fallen). Unfortunately, potential Goodreads readers don’t get to see WHY it was rated 1-star and it dragged my ratings down from a solid 4.39 to a 4.11 :-(

    In the end, what’s important is not just the rating, but what the reader is saying. A 3-star review from a reader who gives thoughtful critique is a gift. They are telling you how you can improve your next book in a way no editor can. As for the ‘I haven’t read this yet…’ reviews, report it to Amazon, but don’t sweat it. Most habitual Zon shoppers are smart enough know a quality book rates out like an inverted triangle and to filter out the ‘the dog ate my homework’ reviews.

  23. Bill Beaman says:

    I would suggest you go to Joe Konrath’s blog and read his 2013 resolutions three times. It should make you feel a lot better.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Already been there and done that, Bill! LOL! And yes, I’m with Joe…I rarely read my reviews, but as I said above, this one just jumped out at me because I’m seeing a lot of them lately all over Amazon, and interestingly enough, mostly on Indie Books with otherwise stellar ratings…

  24. I can imagine how frustrating these are! Still, I think there’s entirely too much fuss over reviews. Yes, I do look at reviews if I’m going to buy a book from an author I’ve never read (unless I’ve a fan of his/her blog, know the author from Twitter, etc) but I take them with a grain of salt. If the review looks like it’s well thought out, I pay attention. If it looks like the person is picking on one element (be it a typo, theme, etc), I will often ignore it. If it looks like the person has no idea what makes a helpful review, I ignore it. A slew of unhelpful bad reviews has NEVER stopped me from buying a book. And a slew of unhelpful glowing reviews has NEVER made me want to buy a book. I can tell the difference and I’m sure other readers can too.

    As for positive reviews with less than 5 stars: I think readers checking reviews often check the 5 star reviews last. I know I do. I want to see the 2, 3 and 4 star reviews first. They seem to be the most helpful, especially the 3 stars.

  25. I’m so glad you’re addressing this D.D. I’m going to be blogging soon about the hot mess that is the Amazon review system. I had a one-star rave review once, and recognized the name, so I contacted a friend of the reviewer who told me the reviewer–an elderly lady– thought that giving a book “a gold star” was a good thing. That may have been what happened with yours.

    The comments here are fascinating. There seem to be very few authors who haven’t been burned by the Amazon review system. I think one solution is to post reviews in several places, like Goodreads and B and N as well as Amazon (in case it gets taken down for no reason) and always read Amazon reviews with several shakers of salt. Also, I wish places like Kindle Nation Daily and ENT would stop using Amazon reviews as the criteria for their choices of books to promote. That’s so 2009.

  26. Great that you brought this subject to the surface, D.D.! I haven’t yet been a victim, but I know several authors who’ve had the same ‘I haven’t read it’ one stars. Meanwhile, that whole authors-can’t-review-authors thing has real readers (who happen to also write) feeling shaky about leaving reviews. I also agree with Anne’s point about the major venues demanding X number of high rated reviews in order to be listed. I have found great books that have only one one or two reviews.

  27. I will be putting The Guardian Prophecy, a paranormal romance, on Kindle Direct soon and this is my greatest fear. Not the dentist, not terrorists, not the gynecologist…the crappy reviews. So I just won’t read them. I’ve already decided. As for sites that need a high rating…well, in the words of Archie Bunker: I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it. First things first: finish revisions, format the darn thing and get it out there.

    Writing (and publishing) is not for the faint of heart!

  28. SK Holmesley says:

    Just to throw an interesting phenomenon regarding apps–at least games–and reviews. We’ve noticed with a free app we had on the Apple store (off right now for update for the latest iOS upgrade), that one star reviewers can inadvertently attract people. We had one 1-star reviewer who complained that the game wasn’t like “Tetris”. In the end, that worked out very well, because it reassured people that it wasn’t just another knock-off of an existing popular game. Because it’s free, we only make money when people play it (and see the occasional pop-up ad), so we were looking for quantity of downloads and definitely got that from his review. But we did learn from that that sometimes it’s more important to have people talking about us than it is to have them necessarily saying supportive things. Rare, perhaps, but an instance where infamy bought the same or at least a similar advantage as fame would have.

    Just bringing it up, because if you’re going to have friends go in and review your book to counter a bad review, particularly if the 1-star awarder has written their criticism along with the 1-star, you might have them “agree” with the reviewer but point out how they enjoyed the surprise of a story with an entirely different twist from the normal formula books in that genre (whatever the genre is). Where a reviewer says the book was garbage, a counter review that agrees by saying that “although, a few of the sex scene’s were a little provocative, they were very well handled in the end, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give a copy to my grandmother,” can change everyone’s understanding of what the word “garbage” means without out your counter reviewers ever having to use the term not garbage. :-)

  29. Talli Roland says:

    I haven’t seen this on Amazon yet – scary! I have seen it quite a bit on Goodreads, though, and it makes me clench my teeth! Here’s hoping it doesn’t spread too much on the Zon.

  30. JamieSalisbury (@JamieRSalisbury) says:

    I have had some low ball reviews – I haven’t decided whether it’s because they’re new folks on Zon and don’t know how it works (new Kindles) or if it’s what a call a select group of “haters” – folks who seem know exactly what they are doing by giving one star or two star reviews. . .lowing an author’s rating.
    As these folks usually have not read the book they are reviewing I choose to ignore them.
    Zon is going to have to address the issue at some point.
    I too have had five star reviews removed (one book in particular) by Zon for no reason – and I never did get a satisfactory answer from them either.
    Perhaps the best remedy is being vocal about our discord and as group will make them go away – that and/or educate.

  31. Alex M Smith says:

    Well DD i just got a one star today (my first) form someone who never reviewed anything before and didn’t even read mine too. I think that there is a band of toxic reviewers who go around poisoning the ratings of Indie writers. I don’t think that Amazon will ever do anything about it though…
    Let’s all hope that this will not last long.

  32. I didn’t realize this was occurring until I received two one-star reviews for two different books in two days. Both reviews consisted of two short sentences. One review, in particular, could in no way be considered a review.
    I waited to see if all my books would suddenly receive this type of reviews but so far it’s just the two.
    I’m doing nothing because I’m not sure anything I attempt to do will remedy the situation. Had I continued to receive a one-star review on a daily basis, written in the same vein, I did plan to contact Amazon.

  33. David Slegg says:


    I thought I must have misread it at first. Good to know that it was the first time you’ve seen it too.

  34. Shae says:

    I think the reason readers are doing this is because Amazon sends out an email that says “Rate this product.” So, people click on it and rate it only because Amazon is prompting them to. I’m sure it works for other products but in the book world it is just plain sucks!