When you are published or you self-publish, suddenly there’s your book on Amazon and Goodreads and other places where people can review it. And it’s in the hands of review bloggers who are going to write something longer than a line about it. Every author wants reviews. They think reviews sell books, or indeed that bad reviews put people off buying. How true that all is, who knows? But wanting to have reviews doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for you, the writer, to read them.
Don’t read reviews:
- If they upset you. If critical ones make you unhappy and discouraged. People will tell you to toughen up, but it’s not wrong to feel bad about them. You feel what you feel. Maybe you’re over-sensitive? So what? There’s no law against that. But if that’s how reviews make you feel, especially if they make you want to give up writing altogether, then they are doing you no good. Don’t read them.
- If you don’t get that they aren’t for you. The audience is not the writer, it’s the reader. Also, a lot of what we call “reviews” on Goodreads or Amazon are not actually reviews in the literary sense. They’re reactions and feelings about the book. Even ones that are more formal reviews are under no obligation to do anything the author wants, like give “constructive criticism” or “find at least one good thing to say about the book.” If you don’t get what reviews really are, don’t read them, because you won’t find anything useful in them.
- If they fill you with useless rage. They get you all riled up and angry that people are dissing your book and saying such rude things about your plot and characters. How very dare they?! Don’t they know how long you sweated over that book? Could these idiots write a book even a quarter as good? Think not! You seethe internally and before you know it your dentist is diagnosing night-time teeth grinding. Believe me, it’s not worth the blood pressure hike. Keep away from them and chill out.
- If you can’t resist responding. Maybe you can’t stick with seething internally. You can’t bottle up all that rage. You must unleash it. You must respond to reviewers. You know this usally leads to disaster and ends up with the author on a badly behaved authors list. But you cannot let that review stand without a reply. You absolutely must respond or go mad! In this case it’s best to not even expose yourself to the temptation. Don’t even look.
- If they make you into a raging asshole. Some people go far beyond just arguing with reviewers, or posting ranty blogs for the amusement of the rest of the Internet. Some people gather minions to sic on the reviewers, or ally themselves with sites like “Stop the Goodreads Bullies”. Some stalk reviewers through the internet, maybe reveal their offline identity and details. Or stalk them in the real world. One has even travelled the length of the UK to physically assault a reviewer. The lastest variation on this ludicrous theme is the author who co-wrote a book with one of the characters as a thinly disguised version of a reviewer she hates. Such people should be legally banned from reading reviews, for everyone’s good.
If you think you can read your reviews without falling into any of those traps, then go for it. Otherwise, stay well away for your own sanity and in a few rare cases, public safety!