One of the first pieces of advice I ever received as a debut author was to open a Goodreads account and then never look at it again.
Why? The answer was simple: Reviews are for readers and not the authors. Reviews (the bad ones), I was told, will slice and dice an author with all the mercy of Gordon Ramsey on a bad day in Hell’s Kitchen.
Now, before I continue, there is probably something you should know about me. I am one of those individuals born on the cusp of Aries and Taurus. So while I like to believe that I have the playfulness, compassion and gentleness of the former, the latter has a very strong influence and I tend to be stubborn AF. Tell me not to do something (or that I don’t have what it takes) and you better freaking believe I am immediately going to want to do it and keep doing it until I either break through the goddamn wall or fall back exhausted and bruised to finally admit that maybe I am defeated.
As a result, I have done (and continue to do) the exact opposite of that advice. I read all of my reviews across all the platforms, diving onto each new one as if it were the last morsel at the Last Supper.
Yes, I have been extraordinarily blessed to have received the most generous reviews that without fail, reduce me to tears of gratitude because someone out there in the big, wide world chose not only to read my book/s but then felt moved enough to leave a few words sharing their thoughts on their reading experience.
What an incredible gift!
Of course, I realise that there is going to come a time where a reader is going to pick up one of my books and it’s just not going to gel with them on any level. Or maybe said reader will be in a bad place in their life and lashing out with one star and disdain is going to be the stress relief they need. And you know what? That’s okay. Will it hurt? Of course, it will. Much as I like to believe I’m made of Adamantium and nothing can penetrate to the soft meats of my heart and soul, I know that’s just not true.
Perhaps said future negative review will contain points that I can take into consideration and use to grow stronger as an author. Worst case scenario? I take whatever horse manure might be laid down and use it to fertilise my Taurean determination to keep moving forward 😉
Reviews are not only for other potential readers. There is a takeaway for the authors too.
Reviews indicate whether we’re hitting or missing the marks, which scenarios readers loved most and which didn’t really make enough of an impact to be commented on. Was there too much needless description? Did the emotion hit the reader in the feels? How about the plot? Did it hook the reader from the start and draw them in?
Ignorance is not always bliss!
Despite how rough some reviews can be (I’ve seen some truly awful, blisteringly unkind reviews), they are the only compass point we as authors have. This is how we become stronger in our craft and learn to shape and mould our stories, developing plots and growing our characters into three-dimensional beings that (hopefully) stay with our readers long after they’ve closed the book.
If we’re not going to take into account the reaction of readers then…why on earth are we writing? What is the point of labouring for weeks and months if we’re not going to deliver what readers are looking for?
No, I don’t mean that we should compromise our unique voices to become literary slaves to the masses. What I am saying is that without those masses, we have no market and without a market there really is no point to any of what we as authors do.
Readers: Good or bad, your opinion matters! So keep those reviews coming. I, for one, value and appreciate each and every one of them. Even a short, Love this series cannot wait for the next book, is enough to keep a weary author going.
Fellow Authors: Read your reviews but do so with a positive mindset. Even the bad ones. Allow yourself to feel the feelings (this is important) and then move on, spinning the negative into a positive (dumping the awful into a compost bin to fuel your determination). And when a reader leaves you a glowing review? Share the hell out of that baby! You have every right to be proud of yourself.
May 2019 be the year that we all start to live our best lives!
Love and good vibes!