I’ve been reading a lot about the virtues of reviews lately. Do they matter? Do people take any notice of them? Do they make people buy your books? Should writers read them? Should writers write them? How do you deal with the trauma of them?
I’m actually not sure what the answer is to this. I’m not even sure whether they’ve made any difference whatsoever for Dark Moon or Killing Me Softly in regards to sales. What I do know is getting a good review is bliss and getting a bad one is a trip into the doldrums for a short time. I’ve been quite lucky and mostly had some really great reviews for both books. Here are some I’ve received for Dark Moon:
It has been lovely to receive these and I’m thrilled at the initial response to Dark Moon, but I’m also quite sure there will be people who don’t like my work either, because here’s the thing:
You can’t please everyone.
I wrote a blog a while ago on how writers should take criticism from judges when entering comps, (Judge’s Comments) and I think this is pertinent for how to take reading reviews. You just have to keep reminding yourself that this is just a person’s opinion, and being an opinion, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the only truth about your work. Anyone can write a review and post it to Goodreads. Many people say this is a bad thing, and sometimes, it is, particularly when you get review trolls. But mostly, the people who leave reviews sincerely want to share their experiences of books. They might not be able to sling a sentence together properly half the time, and mostly just reiterate the plot of the book, but I think that if anyone is enthusiastic enough about reading to write a review, that is a good thing. Being enthusiastic about reading should never be denigrated or looked down on. I think, in its essence, it’s a wonderful thing. And I think, if they’ve had a strong enough response to my book, either positive or negative, to write a review about it, that I have done my job – I have got them emotionally involved.
It can be a tough thing though as a writer to swallow. These reviewers are not there to be nice all the time. They are expressing their feelings and thoughts, and sometimes how they see it is not how you, the writer, meant it. It can be bewildering sometimes how people view the words you sweated blood over. Sometimes they are so far off the mark from what you intended, you wonder if they read your book at all. And other times, the reviewer is so enthusiastic about what you have written, it flings you up onto a fluffy cloud of blissful contentment. Reading reviews on your books can be an up and down thing and I know many writers who search out every one and get so depressed at times that they can’t manage to write while they get over it. And I know others who don’t read them at all because of how they make them feel about their writing. Writers do tend to doubt their talent very easily.
I probably waver somewhere in the middle. I don’t go looking for them, but if someone sends me a link, I’ll go read it. Sometimes it’s blissful, othertimes, not so much and sometimes just leaves me chuckling and shaking my head. But this experience has led me to institute a rule for the reviews I write myself. I won’t review anything that I give anything less than a 4 star review. Not that I think a 3 star review isn’t pretty good – I think 3 star reviews are good. But I want to share my thoughts on novels that I will read again, and for me, a 3 star review is a book that I enjoyed, and would even buy more from that author if I saw them, but I wouldn’t go back and read that book again. 4 and 5 star reviews, for me, mean that book is a keeper and worthy of a re-read.
I know a lot of writers don’t write reviews because they’ve been told it’s not a good thing to do. What I don’t think is a good thing to do is write a review that is nasty or about a book you don’t like. But I think sharing your joy about something you love – there is always something worthwhile in that. I would like to write more reviews of this kind for books I read, but I do read a lot and don’t have enough time to write reviews for all the books that I do love. I do feel kind of bad about this, but it is what it is.
And finally, do reviews make people buy books? Mostly for me, I buy books becuase someone has told me about a book they enjoyed – so word of mouth is a big seller of books for me personally. Sometimes though, I will read a review on a blog and think, ‘that sounds interesting’ and have bought it. Not a difinitive answer – I don’t think there is one – but reviews are an expression of a reader’s thoughts, and mostly, I think that isn’t bad.