Let’s Talk About Reading Your Own Reviews

Do you regularly read reviews of your books? If you do, how do you deal with them? Do you respond to them, good or bad?

The advice I’ve always followed when it comes to book reviews is that you shouldn’t read your reviews regularly, and if you do ignore this advice, you should NEVER respond, good or bad. Recently, though, I feel like maybe that’s not the best advice. Sometimes you get an excellent review, but it’s not five-star, and you want to thank the reviewer for taking the time to break down what they liked and didn’t like. So, it’s a negative review, because you got 2 or 3 stars, but it’s good, because the reviewer included the good along with the bad, and you learned something.

I really want to thank the reviewer, but usually I don’t respond. I want to, but I’ve been told countless times that the best thing a writer can do is pretend reviews aren’t there. That feels wrong. Is that wrong? Right? I don’t know anymore.

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Sometimes, I find reviews just make me neurotic. I start doubting myself (even if the reviews are good) and my ideas, and then it’s just a downward spiral. Generally, after the first few weeks following a book’s release, I try to ignore reviews, because I know I’m a lunatic. I’ll look every so often, because hey, it’s fun to see what people think (if they’re saying nice things), but I can become a little obsessive about it, so the best way to avoid my tendency over-analyze every single critique is to remain in the dark about what people are saying about this book or that.

Sometimes I get feeling a little… less than confident, and I know I shouldn’t do it, but I’ll tell myself I need a pick me up (or a reason to wallow in self-pity and misery), and then I scour the Internet and read every review for everything.

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Don’t do that. It’s not helpful.

I’ve been all over the place on this, because I really don’t know the best way to deal with reviews. Maybe there’s a middle ground, you know? Like, it’s okay to respond if this, this, and this is true, but if this, that, and this have occurred, just shut your mouth and keep on walking. What is this and that? I don’t know that answer either.

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I’m so helpful, eh? What do you guys think? Should we respond to at least the positive reviews? Or never respond at all? Should we just not look? How do we know if it sucks or is fantastic or none of the above?

 

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Reading Your Own Reviews

  1. Thanks for writing this, Renee! (It gave me a tonne of thoughts as you can see!!)

    I don’t really enjoy people reading my reviews unless I’ve interacted with them a bunch in person/online, like you and I have—and then there feels like there’s enough of a connection that an author might extract something from my reviews that they can use. But I certainly don’t write them that way.

    I write them to compound my own thoughts and enjoy the freedom of writing with relative anonymity (and thank God I think anonymity is a gift at times, because I have it in abundance 😉 )

    When an author I’ve never been in touch with thanks me for a review, or even “likes” it, I feel a wave of annoyance and guilt for not having written it with them in mind. I like to write rambling reviews as jumping-off points for my own thoughts. Writing as if NO ONE is reading them, let alone authors!

    If I wrote reviews for authors, I’d be kinder and less digressive. And I’d learn less/have less fun. (I could always write one review for them and personal notes for myself, but who can be bothered?)

    Sometimes readers have sent me their reviews and implied I should read them (“You’ll notice I thought this about the ending” etc.) But unless, as I say, I know them personally, I doubt I’ll get much from it—and maybe not even then. So when I do read the reviews of these people, it’s out of a sense of obligation for them having taken the time to say something about my work. Am I then supposed to say something to them about that review until we enter a self-referential typing loop, ultimately dying of thirst?! I have a writer’s group of folk I trust, whose feedback I appreciate, and that works fine.

    When I have read reviews, I have regularly not agreed with any of the interpretation therein. Which is kinda great, because I think it’s the point. And I understand the motivation to return to the writer for validation of that interpretation, but that’s not even within my power to do. I love knowing that readers have personal responses to my work—but have less interest in what that response actually is!

    From writing all that out, I see that I believe there’s not much point in taking widespread feedback on the work. But that reflects my aims as a writer. If someone wants to be a widely beloved entertainer, they probably do need to “focus group” who thinks what is entertaining, who was best pleased by this outcome or that one. To me, that leads you on the path of that “Guaranteed HEA (Happily ever after) and no cheating” territory, which I find creepy. But I also have way less readers than people who go down that path.

    I do have an absolute FAVOURITE compliment from readers: it’s when they message me and confess some seemingly random thing that happened to them, or some personal thing my story made them think about. Something that I didn’t have in mind at all. That’s the truest sign to me of the individual interpretation, and a product of that interpretation that interests me. And if someone admits something personal, it’s probably because you took the lead in baring your soul through the writing, so they feel obligated to give something back (which they aren’t, but it’s a nice bonus.) I’ll admit it here and nowhere else so that it remains spontaneous and unsolicited 🙂

  2. Very interesting, Leo. As I read your thoughts, I find myself nodding a lot. Your mention of HEA has me really thinking, though. Probably the most consistent bit of feedback I get (generally through beta reads or PM’s from readers now and then) is that I could go a little happier on the endings or that I need to put a bit of light into the story, because it’s too bleak or dark. I know people need that sometimes, but in the horror genre, HEA and/or “good things” don’t always make sense. In an effort to satisfy these readers, I’ve tried to add a bit of comedy here and there, but that doesn’t always work either. Now I’m going to think about this all day. 😉

    1. Cheers Renee 🙂 From what I’ve read of your work, your endings are always fitting to the story at hand (to me)—but it’s great that you’re taking on the challenges your readers present to you!

      It’s more “guaranteed HEA” as a marketing term I have a problem with. When entering a story—either as reader or writer—I don’t want anything guaranteed! 😀

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