The first time one of my stories received a one-star review was on Smashwords. I had just experienced one of those lucky strikes that you never know where you’ll find, that “big break” without which nothing that followed would have ever ventured. I had written and self-published a zombie satire called ‘Zombie Nights’, offered for free (like all of my stories) and promoted, like many of them, on a free website called getfreeebooks.com. It just so happened that the people who ran that website went on a long summer vacation right when ‘Zombie Nights’ was on their front page. There it stayed for two whole months, during which time the downloads piled up to such an extent that ‘Zombie Nights’ actually became the number one most downloaded ebook on Smashwords, surpassing every piece of smut and even the Smashwords Style Guide itself.
This did not sit well with one particular reviewer, a self-appointed guardian of Smashwords Lists, apparenty. The reviewer did not limit himself (or herself?) to trashing my book, but every book that eventually overtook their particularly favored writer of erotica on the ‘most downloaded’ list. The reviewer eventually gave up this practice, but three reviews, including that of ‘Zombie Nights’, still remain on his or her Smashwords page .
The ‘Zombie Nights’ review has since been edited. Originally, it blasted me as someone who had evidently recruited an army of friends and family to spend all their time downloaded the book over and over again in order to top the charts. I was clearly a blatant cheater. This was not only untrue but rather shocking to me in that hardly anyone I know or am related to ever reads or has any interest in my stories! The charge was eventually withdrawn, and unfortunately I can find no trace of the original, but what remains of the one-star review is still fairly revealing:
I do not normally write reviews, but this one prompted me. It climbed to the top so fast that I felt compelled to check it out, and I assumed anything with enough downloads to out-rank the Style Guide must have some broader appeal. If, like me, you are looking at this one simply because it is the most-downloaded book on Smashwords, don’t bother. As near as I can tell, it is the most downloaded simply because it has the word “Zombie” in the title. The story doesn’t stink quite as badly as a reanimated corpse, but it isn’t very compelling. The formatting is poor, there are plenty of typographic errors, and it is far from the degree of imaginative writing I expected from such an apparently popular work. This story has earned a single star, because judging from the previous reviews a zero-star rating won’t have any effect on the overall count.
I was extremely disappointed with this review. A lot of people have disliked the story, but most of them had better reasons. They did not like the ending, in which (spoiler alert! surprised?) the zombie dies, or they did not like the writing, or it did not align with their sense of humor, or for other, genuine and valid reasons. But to have it “earn” a single star mainly because it had too many downloads? This was not the kind of one star review I had ever dreamed of. It reminded me of the hair color advertisement in which the model pleads, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” I wanted to say, “It wasn’t my fault, really! Next time I promise I’ll try not to be overly downloaded”. Happily, another self-published author came to my defense on the Smashwords site, which led to the reviewer’s retreat from the original charges. My defender concluded with these words: Oh, one more thing! If you read the story, take a moment and leave an honest review. Your words might help someone else decide whether or not they should give it a try.
Words to review by.
- Smashwords (eileenmaki.com)