This is something I gave up doing not long after I published my second book, and there is very good reason for my policy of not reading reviews of my own work. It’s not that I don’t like reviewers and it’s not that I don’t like the fact that people take the time to read and give an opinion of my work. I love it when people are stirred enough by my writing to write their thoughts out for others to see. I just found that for me, it’s not conducive to my health, either mentally, physically, or most importantly — creatively.
The second book I ever got published is in a genre, and of a type that people are either going to love or hate, for one thing, and the reviews it got reflected that. I had one batch of readers raving about how fantastic it was, and how much they loved it. On the other hand, there were several who hated it for various reasons and they spelled those out in their reviews. *wince*
It’s great to read a good review, but it is literally hell, when you get a bad one. You feel terrible. You wish you could explain, you wish you could take it all back and start again!
At least, that was how I felt, and in the end, my feelings and thoughts about getting bad reviews got in the way of my writing. I ended up suffering from one of the worst cases of writer’s block I’ve ever had. It went on for months on end and nothing I wrote felt good or satisfactory to me. The two shorter works I wrote and published during that time sank into oblivion with barely a murmur from readers. One of them got a review that was not great. Not bad, but not great and the saddest part for me about that review was that I felt I had to agree with the reviewer about the weak points in the story.
Eventually, I got my mojo back, but only after I decided that whether the reviewers like my stories or not, is none of my business. Reviews are written for readers, not for authors. Authors can get positive strokes from friends, and they can get constructive critique from friends as well. Reviews are written to help readers decide whether a book is something they want to read or not.
That being said, there are three types of reviews any book can and probably will, get.
1. The reviewer will love it, and lavish the story with terms like “Outstanding” “Groundbreaking” “Enthralling” “Gutsy hero/ine” “Terrific pacing and wonderful plot…” etc etc etc. Those are the reviews all writers dream of getting.
2. The reviewer will neither love nor hate the book. I’d rather not have readers not care either way about my books. Loving or hating a book is far preferrable to being indifferent!
3. The reviewer will hate the book and spare no words in telling everyone exactly why. If they’re fair, they might also try and point out some of the places where the story did work for them, but they’re not obliged to.
There is nothing anyone can do to change these opinions. They are only opinions, though.
The review I read about my story this morning, was honest, and it was fair. It wasn’t a stellar review, but it wasn’t a terrible one, either. I could see the reviewer’s points about where the story was weak and how it had disappointed her. There’s not a lot I can do about it, except take those comments onboard and think about them when I write something else.
But what prompted this post in the first place was the feelings I got when I stumbled across that review. I started to shake, my heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I actually felt afraid! Afraid to look, afraid not to look! Mama mia! That can’t possibly be good for my health! It was a strong reminder of why I don’t go specifically looking for reviews any more.
Reviews — my advice to writers? Never touch the stuff!
I don’t want to give the impression here that I am not interested in hearing my readers’ thoughts about my work. I love to hear from readers! I do my best to reply when someone takes the time to email me or contact me via my website and let me know what they liked, or didn’t like about my books. I also know how to be gracious, so don’t be afraid that if you criticise something I wrote that I will snarl at you. As long as your tone is civil and you don’t snarl at me first, that is. I will either not reply to nasty emails, or sometimes I forward them to friends so we can snark about them in private. *chuckle* (That’s never happened once. I don’t get nasty emails from readers, thank heavens)