Q05: Reviews

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Published Authors. For the remaining questions, see here.)

Do you read reviews of your books? How do you handle the bad ones?

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I tend to put on the five-star filter on Goodreads to give myself a pat on the back and still avoid the bad ones. Bad reviews come with this universe-warping effect that poisons you. Every time I see them, I feel like those reviews are actively beating back the people I need to at least try the book, especially when getting started and building my name. I feel like people read them then automatically dismiss what I have to offer for the rest of time, while a good review doesn’t always feel like it will win people over with the same power that a negative review will turn them away. We tend to be skeptical of praise, but easily believe criticism.

What I still struggle with is the reality that I have made the most kick-ass Rocky Road ice cream I can manage.  There’s nothing I can do about the people that say, “Ugh, this isn’t Mint Chocolate Chip!”

For me, it’s best not to even kick that hornet’s nest.

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I used to, and whenever a new book comes out, I can’t resist peeking at a few. But seeing them constantly, even the good ones, started making it hard for me to concentrate on my next project. My friends/publicist/editor or family send me ones they know I’ll want to read. As for the bad, I try to remember that I don’t love everything I read, and not everyone has to love my book. The important thing is I love it, and there are readers out there who do, too. It’s best to shift your focus to those readers, because it’ll make you happier, and even more passionate about what you write next.

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So far I’ve read every single review that’s come out — but take that with a grain of salt, since my one and only book has only been on shelves for a few months. So far I’ve managed to be pretty “que sera sera” about the bad ones. No book is universally appealing, and mine’s no exception. As long as the negative-reviewers are polite about sharing their opinions (i.e. no personal attacks on authors, no flame wars, etc.), they’re entitled to think whatever they want.

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I read all four- and five-star reviews on Goodreads.  I google to find reviews of newly released titles and read positive reviews.  And print them out and show them off!  If I can see right away that a review is going to be negative, I don’t read it.  I really don’t.  If I accidentally read a negative review, I try not to dwell on it, even if it seems to me that the reviewer missed something important.  Some people are always going to dislike your books; there’s no point agonizing over it.

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I do. I wish I could say otherwise. Bad ones I rant to friends and stew a little, but usually I end up coming to the conclusion (after exhaustive analysis) that this was not the reader for my book and/or the “bad reviewer” just gets jollies out of being mean. It’s either that or you follow @dontgoodreads on Twitter. I keep trying to be the person who doesn’t read reviews.

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I do read some. Or I should I say that I skim.  If it looks like it is going to be bad, that’s an immediate “abort!”

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With my first book, I read reviews obsessively at first. I don’t recall any really bad ones, but if I had seen one, I don’t think I’d have worried. You can’t expect that everyone will love everything! Now, I check on reviews very rarely. Although I do love it when my publisher sends me links to good reviews.

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I do! The critical ones can sting, but I try to take a step back and think about them objectively. Do I agree with their criticisms? Is there something here that I can use to improve my writing in the future? Sometimes they have been totally useful. And sometimes it’s simply not the right reader for the book; Kristin Cashore wrote a great blog post about how sometimes readers just want a yellow square when you’ve written a green triangle.

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