Hooray! My book sucks

The very first Amazon user review of Fighting Fleas is in, and it ain’t pretty. It’s not horrible, either — in fact, it’s enlightening, and I’ll tell you why.

First off, it’s a one-star review. That’s always bad, right? And it’s clear the reader hated the book. That should make me angry. I should be shaking my fist at the sky screaming “they just don’t understand me!” or calling the reviewer names and wondering if he or she just drank a cup of stupid this morning. But I’m not. Not because I’m a Pollyanna, glass-is-half-full type, but because this review seemed pretty honest and frankly, helpful.

“If you are a fan of chemicals and pesticides then this book is for you. I was hoping to find natural and healthy ways to control fleas,” the reviewer wrote. Sounds harsh, but the fact is, the reviewer purchased my book looking specifically for natural alternatives to the flea sprays, shampoos, collars and other chemical treatments. And she (or he) didn’t get the information she was looking for.

“…however it is clear that the author is not a fan and does not recommend any of them,” the reviewer continues. “She actually points out the dangers of the least toxic solutions while touting the benefits of poisons.”

That’s an interesting statement. I’d hoped to give a balanced view of both natural vs. chemical treatments, but for this reader, it wasn’t balanced at all. And it raises questions about what exactly readers are looking for. Is it a good idea to present two opposing alternatives in one book? Is it better marketing to stick to one or the other–a book that only covers natural flea treatment, for example? There are actually quite a few on shelves already, meaning there probably is a bigger market for natural-only treatments.

The review raised other questions as well. In my book I chart the side effects of all the flea treatments that I listed–both natural and chemical. It seemed like the responsible thing to do: If you’re repelling fleas with eucalyptus, is that plant going to be toxic to your cat? Was the information presented effectively through the chart, or should I try another method?

Good reviews are encouraging, but bad reviews can do even more when it comes to feeling out what readers want. So, if you’ve read Fighting Fleas already and are just holding back, go ahead and post that lousy review. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to check it out when you have a chance, and if  you hate it, love it, or are just “meh,” leave a review over on Amazon. You’re not just helping humanity when you review Fighting Fleas; you’re helping me. Or–hang on, maybe that’s the other way around. Anyway, thank you in advance.

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