Back Away from the Review: why authors should stay out of it
Another day, another Goodreads meltdown. In the latest ‘oh dear’ moment, an author and her friends (or possibly alternate personalities) is/are going nuts on anyone rating her book less than an enthusiastic 4+ stars. This includes attacking someone for leaving a DNF review (without star rating) and someone else for saying ‘I’m not reading this because the blurb is terrible’* (again without a star rating).
* As annoying as it may be for authors to have someone say ‘I’m not reading this because X’ where X is a factor unrelated to the book itself… the blurb in question is terrible. It’s one ADJECTIVE IN CAPITALS away from achieving sentient life and eating your soul. As a blurbwriter of many years’ experience, I want to give the person who wrote this blurb an hour’s remedial intensive coaching, and a slap. I’m not reading this book because the blurb is terrible. Please click here for how to write a good blurb. But I digress.
I’m not linking to the book because publicity, and also because getting into internet slap fights is right up there on my to-do list next to flossing with barbed wire and listening to the Collected Speeches of Michael Gove at 33rpm. However, I am blogging on this sorry business because it’s a good opportunity to remind myself, and other authors, of a few salient facts about reviews.
Negative reviews aren’t always a bad thing.
I disagree violently with certain reviewers (in my head, obviously), therefore anything they slag gets extra interest from me. I’m much more likely to believe in a book with 30 5* ratings if it has a bunch of 2* or 3* ratings to suggest that the reviews aren’t all by sock puppets. And a review that feels like a murderous knife attack to the author may well read as a mild ‘meh’ to anyone not personally involved.
You don’t have to read reviews, and you probably shouldn’t.
This is not to say I don’t appreciate reviews – I do. Any success I’ve had as an author is down to the enthusiasm and energy of people, mostly on Goodreads, reading and sharing and discussing books. It’s incredibly valuable to any author. I love people who give their time to books.
But, as I have blogged elsewhere, reviews of my books are none of my business. The review is a conversation between the reader and the book. It is not the author’s place to stick her nose in, unless specifically invited. Reviews are for readers, not authors. They are not for you.
Don’t expect yourself to be thick-skinned.
Authors are people. Our books are personal and precious to us. We get upset by negative reviews, especially when they’re spiteful, inaccurate or point-scoring. It is not much fun to have your work made the object of a comedy slating or hate screed. (Or even of mild and justified criticism, to be perfectly honest.) But the solution is not to go in all guns blazing and tell that reviewer why they were completely wrong about your book. It is not to read the reviews in the first place because – all together, now – they are not for you.
Remember that book you didn’t like?
Some people didn’t like your book. Live with it.
If you want to bask in all the lovely comments, or learn something from the critical ones, or profit from the fact that people are talking about your book at all, you have to accept there will be negative responses too. If you can’t take the negatives (and there is no shame in that, you’re only human), you need to stay away from the whole thing.
But you can’t pick and choose, and you really can’t tell readers what they ought to think and say about your book. It doesn’t work that way.