Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with another writer who just had her third book released. She told me that she never reads reviews of her books, and I had to wonder if this approach is a good one.
Sure, great reviews are awesome! We all need our egos stroked once in a while and a good review on Goodreads or some other website is like that much needed pat on the back. But what about the bad reviews?
Do bad reviews serve any purpose? If the good ones build our self confidence, do the negative ones tear our fragile egos down?
First off, whether or not to read reviews is something each writer must decide on their own, and, if they chose to read them, they need to be able to sort the helpful ones from the ones that aren’t helpful.
What do I mean by helpful?
We write to be read. Many of us write for certain audiences. If that audience feels a certain way about our stories or our character development (or lack there of), we might want to hear what they’re saying — after all, they’re the ones buying our books.
In psychology, they say that recurring dreams usually mean something — that our unconscious self is trying to get us to deal with some issue. Well, in reviews, recurring issues might be something we, as writers, need to deal with.
Of course, it doesn’t feel good to admit that maybe we could do something better, but isn’t that always the point — to get better at our craft. If I’m a singer, and I’m singing off key, I want to know! I want to fix it! But if we place our hands over our ears every time someone starts to say something negative, we’ll never improve.
The most difficult part is knowing which critiques are helpful and which ones aren’t.
I recently read Neil Gaiman’s book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I LOVED it! I went on Goodreads and out of curiosity looked at what other readers had to say about the book. I couldn’t believe that anyone wouldn’t like it, but of course, there are people who don’t like chocolate, strawberry shortcake, or walking along the beach.
People have different likes and dislikes, and as a writer, we have to know that there will always be people who don’t get us or our characters or our stories. That’s just how it is.
You can’t please everyone, and there are, sad to say, haters out there who just enjoy hating and might need to see a proctologist to have something removed from a certain part of their bodies.
But if there are recurring issues being brought up in reviews, we might want to take these critiques seriously and see if or how we should apply them to our future work. But we can’t know if there are recurring issues if we don’t read the reviews.
That being said, you don’t need to read a hundred reviews to get the gist of what your readers think. After all, that would take hours and hours, and that time needs to be spent writing!