For millennium, mankind has looked to the stars for answers. We have sought guidance for our future and validation for our decisions going back as far as our written records can capture. It is an age old habit. Even in this modern era of iphones, tablets, social media, and instant communication, we still look to the stars to validate our worth, and we use the same stars to validate the worth of others. If you don’t believe me, go to the nearest big name online store, and see if the stars don’t tell you something.
As a writer, I know the stars have value. I am not talking about horoscopes and fortunetelling. I am talking about those wonderful star reviews that are attached to every published work. Every writer who puts their work out on the market watches those stars as if their very life depended upon them. In some small way, it does. The life of their work depends upon those stars. Poor reviews can break an author, just as much as great reviews can make them. Every author hopes for 5 star reviews. We shout to the world when they come in. We are slightly less enthusiastic when the number reduces to 4. We are delightfully silent when the number of stars falls to 3 or less. To most authors such lackluster reviews are hardly worth mentioning. In fact, many believe they should be hidden in some dark corner of the world where no one can see their dim light. But I say, there may be something written in those stars that is worth our notice.
Back during the gold rush, everyone was looking for the giant hunk of gold that would make them instantly rich. Few people paid much attention to the tiny flakes of gold that drifted by on the currents of the rivers and streams where they panned. Those flakes and specks were hardly worth mentioning. They were hardly worth the effort to chase after them. After all, what could they possibly be worth?
The industrious few who had the gumption to sift through the muck for the gold dust and gold flakes others ignored or rejected were able to make a comfortable living for themselves. They weren’t afraid to accept a less than perfect outcome, and they didn’t give up. They may not have “struck it rich”, but they did well for themselves.
I still remember the first time I got a 4 star review. When I read what was written by the person giving the review, their praises were so glowing, it made me wonder why not 5 stars? Then I decided to see what was written in those stars. I looked at the other reviews the person wrote. What I saw surprised me.
The ratings this person gave were very dim elsewhere. 2 and 3 stars were the most this person ever granted. I received the highest rating for any book or product. Those 4 stars were a precious gift….the highest compliment that reviewer could bestow. I felt the full measure of that honor as I once again poured over the words that were written about my book. It didn’t matter how many stars were there…it was what was written in the stars that counted. I was humbled. I stopped counting the stars and started reading their message from then on.
Later on, after my first 4 star experience, I was searching for a book on a particular topic. Research for another novel. I found a book that seemed to have exactly what I was looking for, but it only had a single review. It was a 1 star review. I had learned my lesson, and sought what was written in the stars. As it turns out, the reviewer loved the book! They had accidentally hit one star instead of 5, and the system would not allow the person to change it. They wrote the most glowing review. Had I not looked beyond the number of the stars to the message behind them, I never would have seen what I needed to see. I wound up buying the book, and I celebrated that decision when I read it.
I have received several 4 star reviews for my first novel, and so far, that is the lowest I have received. I do not expect however to remain unscathed by the disgruntled reader who does not like what I have written. If I have learned nothing else in life, I have discovered you cannot please the world, and in a day and age of social media, the world has the right and the empowerment to make their opinions known. The best thing I can do is receive it graciously.
I have grown to celebrate each review for the gift that it is. Evidence of one more reader who took the time to sit through my work; whether they liked it or not. Whether they could follow the language of my novels or not. The fact that they made it to the end of the book is a joy in and of itself. They finished it. They didn’t throw it away when they reached page 10. There is something to be said in the completion of a book.
I welcome the stars in all their number. Even a single star sheds light on the world. Never forget that as children, we wished upon the first star of the evening. We weren’t afraid of the solitary star, shining all alone in the sky. We shouldn’t be afraid of it now. It has so much to tell us.
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