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Should Authors Read Their Own Reviews?

DistressedI was reading the blog of an author who had decided to never, ever look at reader reviews of her own books. She gave good reasons for her choice, and I admired her resolve. I also wondered how realistic it would be to never read your own reviews. It’s an issue each writer has to face.

How do we make the decision about whether to read our reviews or not? Maybe we should ask what we are looking for when we read our reviews. Validation? Constructive criticism? A simple acknowledgment that someone read our book?

Let’s face it, writers work alone and get precious little feedback on the results of their labor. Of course we want to see what people think of what we wrote! But we have to be ready to encounter opinions we don’t necessarily like.

Worse, we may end up facing not just opinions but unbelievable cruelty. These days, the Internet has become a place where people can lob the harshest insults in the most disgusting language and never have to face any consequences for their bullying. The trolls and the mean people have made it difficult for authors to feel safe reading their online reviews at sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

Another thing bothers me about reading reader reviews, and it’s basic human nature. People will tend to read their positive reviews and take them in stride, but one negative (or cruel) review can ruin the whole day or the whole week — even if there are 50 good reviews for every bad one! So if we are not going to allow ourselves to fully enjoy the positive things people say about our work, and we’re going to obsess about the negative things, does it make sense to read our reviews at all?

You tell me:

What are the pros and cons of reading your online reader reviews?

If you’re a published author, what is your experience and what is your policy on reading reviews?

 

TWEETABLES

People take positive reviews in stride, but a negative review can ruin the week. Click to Tweet.

If we read our reviews, we may face not just opinions but unbelievable cruelty. Click to Tweet.

What do you think — should authors read their own reader reviews? Click to Tweet.

 

 

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

52 Comments

  1. t w on June 3, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Hi Rachelle, well to weigh in, having written a good deal of fanfiction, I’ve definitely come across my fair share of good, bad and ugly reviews. I still read every review, and even respond to the nice ones, but what’s changed about this whole endeavor is that I no longer really listen to them. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the good reviews. When someone goes out of their way to say, “This is the best story I’ve read in a long time!” or something similar, you can’t help but love that, however, it gives me a false sense of security or worse, a false sense of adequacy. Maybe that person doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Maybe they just want me to finish the damn story or maybe they were having a really good day and thought I could use a pick me up. The same goes for the bad reviews and some reviews were pretty darn bad. I’ve had some that hated my story from beginning to end and had the nerve to tell me so, in detail, on every single chapter of which there are 22. Now why was this necessary, and more to the point, why would they read a 100,000+ word story if they hated it from the get go? Ppl that troll like that used to hurt my feelings, but not so much anymore. It’s annoying, kind of like when a fly buzzes around your head, but you wouldn’t let a little pissant like that deter you from what you were doing, would you? No, you would swat at it and continue on your merry way. Coincidentally, good reviews can be just as distracting. While ppl mean well by giving you ‘constructive criticism’ it can make you rethink your characters, your voice, your entire story. This can set you back as well. I used to listen to all the criticism and take it to heart, but you can’t make everyone happy. What makes sense to you, won’t work for someone else. Maybe your story could use a little sharpening, but 10 different ppl will give you 10 different ideas on how it could be better and you don’t want that. It’s not productive and like someone once said, “…you can’t please ALL the people ALL the time.” So don’t even try. As writers, it’s hard enough to please ourselves, and then to be critiqued on top of that is horrid. So to sum it up, read your reviews if you must, but gird your loins and batten down the hatches because you could be in for a bumpy ride. Good luck!



  2. Kayci Morgan on June 3, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    I had a reviewer suggest my book was kiddie porn because a slave in the story is referred to as “boy”. I don’t think I could have been more upset if they walked up to me on the street and just smacked me. Kiddie porn? Really?



  3. Madeline Tasky Sharples on May 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Since my great and good reviews far outweigh the number of bad ones, I take the bad ones in stride. I consider the source and if the review is downright cruel, I feel sorry for the person who has written it. Of course the bad ones bother me, but I still rejoice in the number of wonderful reviews my book has received. And I would never not read the reviews that come in.



  4. L M-S on May 19, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    I’d read the reviews online where comments or voting can be shown as well in other readers’ responses. If I read a review that dissed my work, I;d post back a “Thank you, but may you please offer some constructive advice please?” and see what came back.
    That is, at least if I was in a good positive frame of mind when I read it! LOL



  5. Norma Beishir on May 18, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I read my reviews, and find some (but not all) of the negative reviews helpful. After all the years I’ve been published, I’ve learned not to let bad reviews get to me. It goes with the territory.

    I did get really ticked off recently, however, when one idiot sent me a private message at Facebook to ask me where I would like her to post her three-star review!



  6. mary gottschalk on May 18, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    I think it’s valuable to read your reviews. Some are trash … people who are just trying to protect their own market (e.g., people who aren’t interested on the genre in which you write). But I think serious readers who have critical comments — “what I wanted to see” … “what I wanted to know about ‘x'” … all these provide an insight into your market. Some you may not care to address, but some you might. Why pass up the opportunity to learn something new!



  7. Accidental Muse on May 18, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    I was just reading last night in Stephen Kings book On Writing, how he receives at least one, but usually numerous, hate mail letters a week. Often for things as silly as character who swears or a character who is racist and consequently *shock, horror* pouts racist dialogue in the book.

    Bad reviews aren’t fun, but at the same time we need to see that everyone comes to a book with their own bias and in some causes stupidity (seriously who picks up a Stephen King book and expects everything to be sunshine and lollypops?)

    That the end of the day take what you can use and ignore the rest. Besides, it’s better to be talked about than not at all 🙂



  8. Mercey Valley on May 17, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Some positives out of reading reviews:

    1) You’ve survived rejections and finally won a contract,

    2) YOU’RE in print, and “they” probably are NOT (whoever “they” are – or think they are),

    3) You’re invested in your words, but you are NOT your words. There are so many more stories to be written and YOU CAN write them.

    4) People love to gripe, and statistically complain more than they praise (especially online!!).

    A good constructive review may help produce growth, but those constructive reviews may also be few and far between (and really ought to have happened at the editing stage). Maybe the books most “qualified” to receive a bad review are some of the self-published ones out there. Others are purely a matter of reader opinion – ‘I will not love it because it’s not my usual cup of tea’.
    Will people really read something only to bag it and for the sake of having their say? Yup. Aware of this, decide for yourself, but don’t let it bring you down. Remember the first four points, and find ways to add to that list. Remember why you write, and stick with what’s in your heart. The truth is what God says about you.



  9. Ian on May 17, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Great topic Rachelle. Being a new fiction author I’ve been very keen to read reviews of my novel, Angelguard. I wanted to do this for a few reasons: see what readers thought, learn how to improve but most significantly use it as a way of connecting with readers.

    As regards that last point most of the reviewers have their own blogs so I’ve been able to comment specifically on the review.

    Certainly, I stewed a day or so on the first tough reviews, one of which was very harsh, however, I handed the reviews and the reviewers over to the Lord. We are to expect persecution as a Christian, and God asks us to pray for our persecutors, so I found praying for my reviewers brought instant relief in letting go of any discouraging thoughts.



  10. Gretchen Friel on May 17, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    Authors should read their reviews. Why? They are not whimps, they are survivors! In order to be published they have already gone through first drafts, revisions, circle critiques, and more revisions. They have sent letters of inquiry, been granted the honor of a full manuscript read from an agent, and finally, been offered a contract and been published. In that process is a lot of honesty, my own writer’s group (Chicago North RWA) is encouraging but VERY HONEST; this demands a lot of self reflection, a lot of perseverance. Authors are some of the most courageous people I know! Absolutely, read the review. What is the review going to do? Derail you? No my friend, you are published, you are a success story already, you are my hero. Be brave, there is nothing in that review that you don’t already know.



  11. Cathy West on May 17, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    I’ve always read my reviews. Since I don’t get a whole lot of them yet, each one is valuable to me. Even the ones that aren’t so great. I try not to get upset or annoyed by them, although I admit once in a while I do, but on the whole, I really like reading reviews because it lets me know that I’m either doing this right or I have room for improvement. For me, it’s win win. I am sure there will be a day when I will be the target of a scathing review for whatever reason, and I hope that when that day comes, I have the grace to accept it for what it is, and move on. I have seen them, heard from authors who have received them, and my heart goes out to them. When a writer says they bleed on the page while writing a book, they’re not kidding. When somebody cuts you down in a public forum without a second thought, it hurts. But it happens, unfortunately. All we can do is support each other and have faith that what we’ve published is GOOD and pleasing to the One who gave us the words in the first place.



  12. Gwendolyn Gage on May 17, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Hmmm. Good food for thought. I know a very successful CBA author who’s chosen not to read her book reviews, and I do respect her reasons and admire her. As an aspiring author, I’ve never read a review of my own work (just critique partner/beta reader feedback 😉 but I must say that I’ve always enjoyed reading their responses, both good and bad. Good feedback is like candy–who doesn’t like it?–but the critical reviews are important. They give us a glimpses of our stories through someone else’s eyes and offer opportunities to grow.



  13. Gina Burgess on May 17, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    I have found the reviews that are the most helpful are the ones from a blog tour. While some bloggers just post a mention, most of them write very thoughtful critiques. I like them because those reviews come from readers who are critiquing from a reader’s perspective, while an editor sometimes gets into a “rut” for the publisher and sometimes forgets he/she was once a reader.

    The blog tour reviews of my pre-press review copies were helpful for me because several flaws were pointed out and I was able to fix them before press time. Also, I knew what was working and what wasn’t. I was amazed that my risky blend of fiction and non-fiction was well received.

    I have found Amazon Vine Voices to be quite fair in their critiques of books. Reviewer blogs are the best and most helpful. If I want a good assessment of a book before I purchase it, I will read the Amazon reviews (skipping those 20-word, fluffy reviews), and then I’ll look for a blogger reviewer and read that review.



  14. Tim Fairchild on May 17, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Great question, Rachelle, and lots of great comments!
    It seems I’m one of those who has to look at all my reviews. The majority have been good, and some with sound criticism of things that have helped me overall as a writer.
    The two 1 star reviews I received on Amazon were so transparent as to their objections that I found them laughable, plus they were free downloads during a Kindle promo!
    It’s amazing that people will just greedily download a book for free without even bothering to read a few reviews to discover the contents of the story then have the utter audacity to write a harsh review. I’m sure anyone else reading them would see through it as well.
    I guess I’m one of those who have to read them all. 🙂



  15. Stroppy Author on May 17, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    I read professional reviews – in magazines, and on proper blogging websites – by people who know how to write a proper critical review. I rarely read amateur (reader) reviews, but if I do I don’t take them seriously unless they seem to be intelligently written. A ranting review full of rude remarks is of no importance – no one will take it seriously. If a reader feels strongly about one of my books they email me – and I reply. There’s nothing to be gained from reading reader reviews as it’s madness to respond to trolling reviews anyway. There are better things to do with your time (like write another book).



  16. Timothy Fish on May 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    I don’t read my reviews. For one thing, reviews tend to be written by people on one extreme of liking the book or the other. Another thing is that the people who write reviews aren’t writing to me. If they wanted me to know what they thought, they would send me an e-mail. Instead, they are writing a review, which is intended for other people who might consider buying the book. Or for some other reason.



  17. H.B. Pattskyn on May 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    For good or ill, I always read my reviews. The funny thing is that (usually), I can shrug off the bad ones. (It’s just the ones that feel like attacks that are harder to deal with, because seriously no I *did* know what I was talking about when I wrote X).
    The reviews that leave me feeling the most…intimidated I guess, are the good ones, the glowing reviews from people who loved it scare me. They make me think I’ll never be able to measure up to my own work 😉 What can I say, I’m weird.



  18. Alana Terry on May 17, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Thank you for this aptly-timed post. My novel was published last month. At first I was elated by the positive reviews, but as I began to get my second novel ready for editing, the plethora of enthusiastic feedback left me nearly paralyzed to move on with book two. Will readers like it as much? Will it be as well-received, etc. Once you start paying attention to the reviews, it becomes a lot easier to write for the praise of others.



  19. Reba Stanley on May 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I enjoyed this post. I have to be honest, I do not seek out reviews, simply because I would be that person who would focus on that one bad review and not the 99 good ones.
    However I do get reviews….My readers tell me either face to face or thru fb or e-mails about how they enjoyed my books. and i give the Lord all the glory and praise.
    I call those my personal reviews. ;0)



  20. Bo Stern on May 17, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    I love what Jon Acuff says about critic’s math and I’ve found it true. My book has 80 five-star reviews on Amazon, 6 four-stars and 1 three-star. What number do you suppose I focus on most often? 86 great reviews just barely outweigh the one three-star – which is just silly. And forming mental arguments with my three-star reviewer wastes time, energy and creativity (but I still do it sometimes).

    One thing I AM learning is that Christian non-fiction is a magnet for theological debate. Many will pull out their truth tweezers and try to pick it apart. Initially, this made me very cautious to write anything that could be contradicted. But who wants to read something so vanilla? Now, I’m just very committed to providing a good biblical foundation for what I’m writing, knowing that there are many issues on which smart, awesome people disagree. And that’s okay. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary.” The worst thing we could do is let the fear of bad reviews cause us to write something so innocuous it provokes no thought or debate whatsoever.



  21. Carradee on May 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Should authors read their readers’ reviews? Depends on the author, methinks.

    Some folks will take every review personally, and negative ones will bother them and make them stop writing. These authors should not read their readers’ reviews.

    But some will accept all of them, even the negatives, and pull what they can from them and shrug off the rest. These authors should their readers’ reviews, if they want to. (And only if they want to.)

    Example: From the content of the first review on one short story, I’m actually surprised the reviewer gave me as many stars as s/he did. The reader evidently didn’t read the blurb (which even puts the word count) and didn’t understand the story at all. But…that story nearly got published a few times by e-publishers (various factors interfered), and betas have loved it (and they’d tell me if they didn’t), so I know the problem is that the reviewer’s outside the story’s audience, rather than with the story itself. I’m waiting to see what other reviews and reactions come up, but I’m already trying to think of what I could do for a cover so folks like that particular reviewer don’t waste their time.

    But I know writers who would see that review and be convinced they’re worthless and should never write anything ever again, which is the wrong response.



  22. Terry Shames on May 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    This is timely for me, since my debut novel comes out in two months. I feel so naive, because I really haven’t thought about what kinds of reviews I’ll get. Then last Friday my editor sent me my PW review, saying it was “awesome.” I thought it was pretty good, but realized that I wanted them to say “best book ever.” Whoa! I’ve spent the last few days thinking about attitude adjustment and reminding myself that I will get negative reviews and to try to take them with grace and humor.



  23. Guest on May 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I read my reviews. In fact, I save the good ones in a file for those low days. Since my book has only been out a few months there haven’t been too many bad ones yet. The hardest part has been reading a concern/question from a reader and knowing that I wrote the answer but my publisher cut it out of the final draft to meet a page count they didn’t inform me of.



  24. Tali Spencer on May 17, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    I believe once my book has left the nest, it no longer belongs solely to me and I have to take whatever comes of it. That said, I can’t read my own reviews when the book first comes out. I’m on an emotional high and hope everyone likes it and, well, I don’t like crashing back to earth on a nasty review. So I don’t read any just to avoid the potential cruel ones. I will read a review if my publisher or a friend let’s me know it’s “safe.” My husband screens my Goodreads and Amazon reviews for a bit. Silly, I know. But after the book has been out for a month or so and I’ve moved on emotionally to the next book, then I have no problem reading even very critical reviews. It’s informative, if not about the book or my writing, then about reader expectations. 🙂



  25. Beth K. Vogt on May 17, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I decided when my debut novel came out last year that I wasn’t going to read reviews. I knew myself well enough to decline that revolving door of “They like me/they don’t like me.” Here’s the reality: Sometimes I read reviews, sometimes I don’t. I’ve had people send me links to their reviews (thanks … or maybe not), which makes it hard not to read the review. (Come on, you’d click the link too!) The question is: Why do we treat Amazon or any other review as the great Oracle of Self-Esteem? (Admit it: We do.)
    So, sometimes I read reviews. Sometimes I don’t. I trust my mentors, my agent, and my editor for feedback. They know me. They know my writing. They are invested in me. And I have my “security net” of writers who know me too — and their feedback carries more weight than a boatload of stars. Negative reviews sting — and I talk back to those reviewers in the privacy of my office. Positive reviews put a smile on my face. I hug those to my heart — and work harder. The reality is, I learned a long time ago, I would never please everybody — although there are still days when I try to.



  26. Ugochi on May 17, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    I gotta say, I sure do love the pictures that accompany your blogs. That lady’s facial expression is priceless. #loveit

    Funny, the proverbs verse I read earlier reminded me of this blog so I had to come back. It says if you listen to constructive criticism, you’ll be at home among the wise (NLT). I (personally) think this applies if you can really tell it’s in fact coming from a good place (even if it stings). I think compliments with no CC for such massive work is unbalanced so I listen up when that one person has something different to say. Why? because I know I’m not perfect. It surprises those who give me CC when I immediately do what they say and they usually say something like…”but don’t change it on my account – it’s just my view,” but I reply something like, “No, I need to bc you confirmed something that was already in my heart – so thanks.”

    But come on Rachelle, some of the kind of reviews we see nowadays don’t sound constructive. Some are flat out from the pit of hell – intended to break down and not build up. So, I grab my grain of salt and ear plugs. hehehehehehe



  27. Connie Almony on May 17, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    I think the best rule for me is to PRAY first, expecting
    God to show me what to do in each case. I’ve been told that MOST people will
    not like any given book—it’s a matter of taste. So to expect all reviews to be
    in your favor is not necessarily realistic. My manuscripts tend to get discrepancy
    judges in contests because there is usually a “lover” and a “hater.” Usually
    the one who didn’t like my story had a very different life experience than I
    did, stating the premise was unrealistic, when I lived it, or the character was
    not relatable. The other judge would call it relatable, relevant and timely.
    What’s a writer to do with that? Write to his/her target, I guess.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen reviews that helped an
    author change formatting in the book for the next printing, improving it for a
    future audience.

    Some reviewers’ goals are to help readers find a
    good story. Other’s goals are to prop themselves on a pedestal and look down at
    the peons before them. If you can glean the helpful from the not helpful,
    reviews can be a good thing. However, if you are doing it solely for
    self-gratification, it might be better to seek that from the One who called you
    to write in the first place.

    Now, having said that, I’ll have to tape it to my
    computer so I take my own advice—sigh!



  28. S. Kim Henson on May 17, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    I don’t have a book out there, but I’ve had a blog comment or two that have sent me reeling. I like the idea of not reading reviews, although I’m not sure I’d have the resolve to stick with that decision. It’s certainly something to consider. Reminds me of what a wise friend used to say, “Praise and criticism go down the same drain.”



  29. jamie beck on May 17, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Growing up with very critical parents (I mean that in the best way), I have a pretty thick skin, and have always been able to use critical feedback to improve myself.

    I don’t have any published work yet, so the only reviews I’ve received have been from contests. I’ll admit that when I received the honest reviews of my first MS, it stung more than I’d anticipated. I suppose it is because this work is so personal. Anyway, my initial reaction was to “kill the messenger”…but within an hour I was able to review the comments constructively and use them to better myself.

    The upshot…two years later my most recent MS’s have both placed in contests (and received really great scores/feedbacks in ones where they just missed the finals). The criticism made me work harder and get better.

    Thus, if I ever get published, I suspect I will read the negative reviews, wince/cry, and then dig deep and learn from them (at least, from the reasonable ones). I know that not everyone will like my story, my hero, my voice, etc….and that hurts, but then I remember that I don’t always love every story that others enjoy (even from tried and true authors that I typically adore). Bad reviews are just part of the process.

    I do, however, wish that people offering negative reviews could do so with respect. There have been a few popular books that I didn’t enjoy. If I give a 2-star rating, I usually write a brief qualifying review detailing what I didn’t like (and it usually isn’t the writing, but some other element that just isn’t for me). That way, the author knows I respect their craftsmanship, and other readers know that my disliking something might actually be an element they actually like.

    Sorry for the long response!! LOL



  30. dabneyland on May 17, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    This is my greatest fear.

    My book releases July 1, and I haven’t decided if I am going to read the reviews.

    On one hand, I’d like to think that I could grow from the feedback offered.

    On the other hand, my book is about an ordinary girl who almost dies four times. It’s about miraculous interventions that were well document on my medical records. This doesn’t excuse poor writing, but I hope and pray people will look at this message as a story of hope. That life isn’t so much about the living, but in the surviving, and the lessons we learn along the way.

    I have dreaded this part of the publishing process for some time. Thanks Rachelle for your perspective on this topic.



  31. Matt Mikalatos on May 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Amazon reviews below three stars are almost never constructive. I still read them all, though, because I am neurotic,

    Four ways I cope with negative reviews:

    1. I remind myself that my books are professionally published, and at the very least they are of professional quality. Even if (a few) people hate them, they are professionally written. That’s an accomplishment.

    2. My favorite books of all time all have one star reviews on Amazon. So I started a series on my blog called Ridiculous One Star Reviews on Amazon, where I make fun of one star reviews for books like “Lord of the Flies” or “East of Eden.” Like this: http://www.mikalatos.com/search/label/ridiculous%20reviewers%20on%20amazon

    3. I try to remember that oftentimes the one star reviews are from people the book was not intended for. When someone says, “I don’t like humor” or “I don’t read spiritual books” or “I hated this book starting with the cover” I remind myself, “This is not who I was targeting anyway.”

    4. I don’t respond to Amazon reviews and I have a personal policy not to link to negative reviews (no reason to plant a seed in potential reader’s minds that my work isn’t good, and on the flip side I don’t want my fans running all over defending me, either). BUT if someone took the time to review my book on their blog, I always leave a note. Something like, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the book, but I’m thankful you took the time to review it.” Strangely, this sort of comment often elicits some positive responses from the reviewer in their comments section.

    What I don’t understand is the occasional personal attacks on Amazon reviews. Someone in the last week commented to say that I shouldn’t be compared to C.S. Lewis because Lewis was a “sincere Christian.” I’m considering making that reviewer the vilain in my next novel. Moowhahahahahaaaaaa! Just kidding.



    • martha on May 17, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      As a reader and aspiring author, I know it will be hard to read the poor reviews, but I remind myself of this. I have been a book buyer for not only myself, but a small bookstore for years. I cannot tell you how many times the poor reviews have influenced me to buy the book, more times than the 100 positive reviews have. If it struck a nerve hard enough for someone to type up a long, poor review…it has to be good enough to at least risk the money to buy it and read it!



      • Matt Mikalatos on May 17, 2013 at 4:12 PM

        That’s a great point, Martha. As an author, if you can get a response out of someone, that’s a good sign!



  32. JosephPote on May 17, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    An interesting question with no clear-cut right answer…
    As a writer/blogger it is a constant battle striving to be sensitive to readers’ reactions to what I write while not becoming too reliant on their opinions.
    I must remain teachable and flexible while also remaining secure in my convictions and confident of my abilities.
    So, yes, reading reviews is important feedback. However, we should never assume we are really as good as our best reviews, nor as poor as our worst reviews.
    Rather, the reviews (and other forms of feedback) should be used to help us continually improve our communication skills and become more focused in our message.



  33. doreenmcgettigan on May 17, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    I love when people take the time to write an honest review of my book. I look forward to reading them. I wrote a true story and have gotten some cruel comments disguised (by family members of murderers) as reviews. It has taken me a bit to learn to just ignore them and keep writing. I thank them now because they caused a LOT of book sales:)



  34. CJ Vermote on May 17, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Interesting blog – I have had two reviews (book is still in process of being published) by a beta and editor. Fortunately they were both positive but I’m certain the others will come too…can’t please all the people all the time. For me, I’ll read but now considering your thoughts, I’ll sift through and realize what is speculative and what is simply someone with issues of their own.



  35. Jo Murphey on May 17, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    I read the reviews of my works, but don’t take it to heart. If the bad review was because of a technical issue, I can fix that. I also see what the reviewer has to say about any of the books they purchased. Most times the reviewer will have tons of one star credits to their handle. Internet reviewers as you say are a dime a dozen. It is a matter of opinion to what is good or bad.

    If an author reads their own reviews a helpful tip is don’t ride the roller coaster. The ups and downs are a killer ride that doesn’t end.



  36. Jeanne Takenaka on May 17, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    I’m nervous about reading reviews when my turn comes. I know myself well enough to know I ca handle negative reviews that are constructive. When they move into vindictive, that can be difficult. I guess I’ll have to learn to laugh at them. I like what Andrew mentioned, it seems like the negative reviews shared with a genuine tone of desiring to help the author are actually a gift.

    Of course positive reviews will be fun to read. But I know myself and my abilities well enough to realize that there will always be room for improving.

    Thanks for giving me good food for thought today.



  37. Else on May 17, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    A writing teacher of mine gave us a good suggestion– read the last sentence first. That’ll tell you whether the reviewer liked it, and gird you to read the review.

    I’ve stopped reading my reviews on goodreads because those are the least constructive, most frequently cruel reviews I’ve encountered. While it’s certainly not true of all reviewers, there’s a definite “mean girls” element on that site and if it finds your books, look out. It’s seldom pleased with anything.

    After that, I’ve found amazon Vine reviewers –the ones who receive free books and other products in exchange for their reviews– to be the ones I’m most leery of. Often they seem not to have read the book at all, but only the jacket… and yet they can still find something nasty to say.

    The industry reviews are always worth reading, IMHO. They may point out shortcomings but they’re only occasionally wantonly cruel.



    • Dabney Hedegard on May 17, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      I love the idea of reading the last line of the review! Thanks for this tip.

      Dabney



  38. Dan Erickson on May 17, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    I’ve always read my own reviews. I have two problems.

    1. I haven’t gotten very many as a little-known self-published author.

    2. So far the ones I have received are all positive, even glowing.

    Come on people. I’m waiting for a critical review. I want to see both positive and negative reviews. The negative reviews can do two things. They can help me learn and grow as a writer, and they can create controversy which is a form of promotion. I say, “Bring it on!”



  39. Sue Harrison on May 17, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    I read my reviews. The only con about that is feeling down or angry about a bad review, but there are so many “Pro’s”

    1. A good review can really lift your spirits.

    2. A bad review can teach you where you need to improve.

    3. You can use your good reviews as copy for book covers and PR material.

    4. Reading through a file full of good reviews can lift your spirits on a bad day.

    5. Those idiotic reviews can give you a needed belly laugh!

    6. You can keep a file of reviewers who have enjoyed your work and ask your publisher to send them ARCs for your next book.



    • Rachelle Gardner on May 17, 2013 at 9:01 AM

      GREAT points, Sue. Thanks! I love your perspective.



    • Dabney Hedegard on May 17, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      Love this!



    • donnapyle on May 17, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      Sue, right on point! I agree completely.



  40. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on May 17, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    This is a very interesting and important subject – thanks!

    I came to writing with a perspective that may be worth sharing – I used to do academic research, and dealing with critics in that field has helped me with handling reviews.

    When you publish or present a piece of research, you’ll get a lot more critics than fans. It took me awhile, but I realized a fundamental truth – many of the critics simply wanted attention, and negativity is an easier way to get it.

    The basis for the criticism often didn’t matter. These people saw my name ‘in lights’, and they wanted a share of the spotlight.

    What better way than to knock me off my perch?

    It happened in print, and was especially vicious when I presented papers. The negative remarks from the audience could be cruel, and were often personally demeaning.

    At first I was hurt, but then I started watching my audience – and realized that there were people out there just looking for something negative to catch, something where they could say, “I gave this five minutes’ thought, and your five years of research is WRONG!”

    A lot of book reviews seem to fall into the same category. The negative reviewers will personalize their comments – not “I didn’t like the book”, but “the author is a toad”. They make their remarks cute and clever, good camouflage for cruelty.

    There are certainly negative reviews that are justified, both in academia and in writing. They’re usually delivered with grace and understanding, and address valid points that can be clearly identified within the scope of the work.

    Personally – I do read reviews, and I do listen to comments from readers. But I’ve been lucky, in that I have not yet HAD any negative reviews.

    What I’ll do when I start getting them, I don’t know. I’d like to say I’ll read them and have enough equilibrium to let them pass. Only time and experience will tell.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com



    • Rachelle Gardner on May 17, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      I like what you said about legitimate negative reviews being delivered with grace and understanding. So true!



  41. Alessa Ellefson on May 17, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    I think authors/writers are already so riddled with doubts (and they’re probably always criticizing their own work), that they may take the smallest piece of criticism (justified or not) really hard.
    Perhaps they shouldn’t read anything below a 4-star until they’ve achieved success (however they define it)? Because by then, they’ll know that their work has pleased at least the majority of people, so they’d be able to take a little more “negativity” without being deflated and, say, start reading the 3 star-rated reviews 🙂



    • Rachelle Gardner on May 17, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      That’s an interesting idea, Alessa. If you KNOW a negative review would be too much to handle, just skip them until you’re stronger and more confident. Works for me!



    • Heather C Button on May 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      I found an infographic done by a comic artist on XKCD (http://xkcd.com/1098/) that I think sums this up in terms of how people should read ratings online. I usually go for the 3’s to read for other people’s reviews because they usually have something good and bad to say, and aren’t just mean about it. Having said that, I don’t know how I’d feel reading those about my own work.



  42. Persephone Nicholas on May 17, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    I’m more concerned about what people I know will think of my book. A girlfriend recently sent me an SMS to tell me she’d preordered my debut novel, Burned, on Amazon. I replied saying I hoped she’d like it – and she wrote back saying she’d ask me for her money back if she didn’t! Of course it was a joke but it did get me thinking about how I would feel if I found out someone I knew hated it. Then again, I’ve read plenty of books I haven’t liked and certainly don’t hold it against the author. And there are generally plenty of other people who did like the book or it wouldn’t have been published.

    I guess that, just like everything else in life, you have to try and put the negatives in context and not get overwhelmed by them.

    `



  43. Ugochi on May 17, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    Pro: I should say for constructive criticism but I’m not sure how much of that exists anymore.

    Con: As you rightly said, it may ruin an author’s whole day/wk. I guess what you don’t know won’t kill you.There are some really mean people out there today. I see what they do to some celebs.



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