“Read the reviews!”
“Ignore all reviews!”
“Don’t let them get to you!”
It used to be easier to ignore reviews, but I think we all know that reader reviews have become an important part of discoverability for all books, but especially for ebooks. It’s important to keep track of them–to pluck out the awesome phrase of praise, or to pluck out critical information. I recently learned about an embarrassing formatting error via a reader review, for instance. (Yes, it’s fixed!)
And if I care deeply about what I’m doing, how could reviews not get to me?
But some are harder than others.
I talked about the review of A Feral Darkness, where the reader really, really, REALLY didn’t like the book. I wasn’t sure she was reading the book I wrote, but nonetheless…that was her feeling about it. Those are a little hard to take when the review responds with such viciousness, because, wow…who needs to deal with that?
But in another way, that makes it easier to step back from the sting of it. “Well, this book quite clearly isn’t for this reader. It happens.” It’s happened to me, too–where I pick up a book and am utterly taken aback by it, but also know it’s not due to craft issues…it’s just because that particular book isn’t sympatico with me. Different strokes and all that. Or sometimes when a book pushes all the wrong buttons, as clearly happened with the A Feral Darkness reader. Whether she likes it or not, that book reached out to her on some level. She just wasn’t happy about it.
“I have downloaded many books recently and have not had a chance to read this book so i(sic) am unable to rate at this time.”
Well, okay. Thanks for sharing that. But why, oh why, drag the book down with a one-star rating?
So those are frustrating, but don’t have any particular emotional impact.
Here’s another frustration:
“Heart pounding saga–a great read. Captivating from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you like action this is the book for you.”
“Wait!” you cry. “What’s your problem with that? What more could you want, you darned prima dona author?”
Well, I’d like to know why that wonderful review came with a low-star rating. *sob*
But that’s still not the hardest review to read. I can marinate in the review’s praise–it’s wonderful to have someone say such nice things about a book–and hope to heck I get enough good ratings to offset the stars.
Nope, the hardest comes with the low star reviews where the reader is perfectly literate, has clearly read the book…and just didn’t like it. And says so quite effectively.
I can’t step aside from that one. There’s no ax being ground, no obvious buttons being pushed. It was a book the reader hoped to like, but didn’t. And those are the reviews that make me stop and worry and wonder and second-guess myself.
A certain amount of that is healthy…it helps keeps the writing fresh. Too much of it…stops you in your tracks.
(One reason I’m writing this blog today instead of writing pages, eh?)
The truth is, reader reviews have always had power. Now they have more power than ever, and for that reason I appreciate any reader review with thought behind it, even the ones that make me doubt myself.
(In order to remain uber-PC, I should say I appreciate all reader reviews, but…nahhh, I’m not a saint. I don’t in fact appreciate one-star “I haven’t read the book yet” reviews.)
But I know it takes time to post such reviews, and I like it that people are invested enough in their books to bother. I like it that they’re invested enough in my books to bother. That’s the whole reason I started writing, after all. To create stories that people care about as much as I do.