This is a post written particularly for newly published or about to be published authors.
Don’t get me wrong. I love reviews.And I read them all. I have Google Alerts and Blog Pulse look for them every day and send them to my inbox …
In some ways that makes me a bit of an oddity, because a great many writers won’t read their own reviews at all, especially not random reader ones from places like Amazon (as opposed to review sites and professional reviews). Why not? Because they start to obsess about them and they get too upset by the bad ones.
I view it differently.
Good or bad, they are a connection to readers, and I really appreciate that. Writing is a lonely business and we authors should connect to those who buy our books, who take the time to read our stories. Reading their reviews is one way to make that connection.
For me, well, the good ones give me a nice ego boost (and we all like that, right?). The highly critical ones – if they say something thoughtful or wise, it’s a learning experience I can benefit from. I can use what is said to make the next book better.
The reason for not obsessing about a review:
There’s no point. It is totally unrealistic to assume that all readers will like your work, any more than you like every book you read. So why get upset when someone says your characters are flat, your plot boring and your world poorly depicted? They give their honest opinion and for them it is true. It won’t be true for the next reader.
Believe me, you newly published writers out there: not everyone is going to like your baby, that lovely child you slaved over for years.
Some will miss the dimples and home in on the pimples instead, and yeah, your book will have pimples. No book is perfect.
Some readers just like a different kind of story entirely.
Some readers will hate the way you look at life, which will come through in your writing.
Some readers are just don’t get what you’ve written – it may be their failing, or yours.
Some will hate your writing style.
And that is true of everyone’s work. It doesn’t matter if your name is Ursula le Guin or Tolkien or Neil Gaiman, some will hate your story, others will find it boring.
So read reviews, but don’t obsess. You can even get a laugh out of the silly ones. For example, this complaint – and it was a complaint – about The Last Stormlord (which is book 1 of a trilogy):
“by the end of book one, you feel like you’re only a third of the way through the novel.”
Yep, mate. Exactly right.
And here’s the proof that obsessing is ridiculous:
As you read these excerpts, remember that each one of these is a comment about the same book, The Last Stormlord.
“The characters were cardboard.” (Good Reads reviewer)
“full of interesting characters and the central characters are likable…” (Amazon reviewer)
“the characters are predictably clichéd, the villain more so than the heroes, and the supporting cast worst of all.” (Amazon reviewer)
“Larke calibrates conflicts and tensions between characters remarkably well and with subtlety.” (Online Review site)
“A lovely job is done here in showing him (Shale) growing up…” (another Online Review site)
Pacing and Plot
“A nice tight story line with no inconsistencies” (Amazon reviewer)
“This is a GREAT book” (Magazine review)
“The plot is predictable” (Good Reads reviewer)
“It is an engrossing book.“ (Same good Good Reads reviewer as comment immediately above)
“This book was long and difficult to follow.” (Amazon reviewer)
“Emotion zilch. Meh.” (Good Reads reviewer)
“I ended up staying up all night reading it once I started” (Amazon reviewer)
“Couldn’t get into it. Didn’t care about the characters or the problems.“(Good Reads reviewer)
“…even in 600 pages – no long, dull stretches of exposition. This book keeps moving and tumbling from one fantastic set-piece to another. “ (Online reviewer)
“ Wonderful setting, wonderful world building, incredible imagination and all in all a good tale.”(Good Reads reviewer)
“has created a great world here with different cultures and characters” (Amazon reviewer)
“The premise is still dumb.”(Same good Good Reads reviewer as comment immediately above)
“a great setting with an interesting magic and belief system.” (Amazon review)
“world-building is a great strength of the story”(Another newspaper review)
“I’ve visited an arid and frightening and wholly convincing land… and I’ve loved very minute of it. ” (Online Review site)
“I just couldn’t buy an entire civilization that refused to seek out new horizons, explore beyond the status quo of barely enough water to survive in a desert…” (Good Reads reviewer)
And here’s one more comment I just have to include. I don’t have a clue what it means, but it struck me as very funny:
“When I finished with the book, I honestly feared she might be more-talented version of Christopher Paolini.” (Amazon reviewer)
So, which comments am I going to obsess about, the good ones or the bad ones? Which ones am I going to believe?
My philosophy is: read them all, learn what you can, appreciate them — and don’t take any of them too seriously. Not even the good ones. More importantly, write the best novel you can, and then try to make the next one even better.