I tend to take bad reviews with a grain of salt, because it’s easier (and more fun) to vent about a bad experience than thoughtfully praise a good one. I also have a theory that most of those snarky, caustic reviews are written by frustrated writers who want to feel the rush of publication.
Personally, I mostly write good reviews. It seems like a waste of everyone’s time to post negative or “meh” reviews. My only exception is when I feel obligated to warn people about a particularly shady place — like that nail salon in I stumbled into in Jackson, Wyoming with the filthy files and nail tech who I’m 99% sure was detoxing from drugs in the middle of my manicure.)
I’ve never posted a negative review of a book in my entire life. Not even for books I can’t stand, but everyone else seems to adore. (I’m talking to you, “Eat, Pray, Love.”) Reading a book is in intimate experience, and reviewing one is completely subjective.
And then there’s the question of how to review the books of authors with whom you are acquainted. Some people say you can find something positive to say about any book, and it’s important to support other writers with positive reviews. Others say it’s best to say nothing at all than give a clearly forced, mediocre review.
But with so many new authors being published in e-book format with little or no support from their publishers, new authors feel an enormous pressure to rack up reviews. Authors obsess over getting to a magic number of they think will trigger Amazon to promote the book. (The rumor mill says that number is 20, though more likely it is the number of sales triggering the recommendation, with X number of sales usually corresponding to about 20 reviews. But when an author has an above-average amount of reviewers compared with sales, 20 reviews doesn’t represent X number of sales, and the whole thing goes out the window.)
For me, the biggest challenge regarding reviews is how to take them in — both the bad and the good.
I haven’t gotten any nasty reviews yet, but I fully expect they will come. Snarky reviews are especially en vogue right now, and sites like Goodreads have become a place where reviewers can find a little bit of fame by writing an especially “clever” caustic review. (See my earlier suggestion that negative reviewers are often themselves frustrated writers.)
And then there are the whackadoos, who receive a book as a gift, and instead of saying, “Oh, well. This one wasn’t my taste,” feel compelled to warn others away. One of my fellow Crimson authors, whose book was sailing along on a sea of praise, was recently smacked with just that kind of unnecessarily harsh review. Not a constructive analysis of the book, not a recommendation as to who should avoid it, just a “this book sucks” rant.
The other Crimson writers and I consoled our friend and told her the reviewer was obviously nuts. I even suggested that the only possible explanation was that the reviewer was someone she went to high school with who’d always been jealous of her.
Writers face so much rejection on the path to getting published, that once our work is out there, it seems especially shitty to have it torn apart by strangers. And so we circle the wagons and tell each other it doesn’t matter what some crazy lady in Idaho thinks.
And it doesn’t.
Unless some crazy lady in Idaho thinks your book is fabulous. Then, it matters. Then, it becomes the reason you write.
I sometimes struggle more with the idea of good reviews than bad ones. Like most writers, I delight in them. How much of that is ego and how much of it is something more noble, a true artistic yearning to move a stranger with my words?
I studied Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements in my twenties, and like with so many other spiritual books, the lessons have long slipped through my memory — except Agreement Number 2, Don’t Take Anything Personally. The idea is that what you say and do to me is not about me; it’s about you. You are motivated by your own flaws and needs, so when you are critical, it’s a reflection of you, not me.
I take comfort in this when people treat me badly. I especially lean on it in ongoing difficult relationships.
But the flip side, as Ruiz points out, is that the same is true for flattery. When you fawn over me, it still a reflection of you.
I know this intellectually, and yet I still crave praise. Is that so wrong?
Perhaps it’s all part of the yin-and-yang of being a writer. We spill our soul on paper, then have it torn apart, critiqued, edited, rejected, and hopefully, finally published. After all that, don’t we deserve to revel in a little love?
Lisa Weseman‘s romantic comedy The Name of the Game was released July 23 by Crimson Romance. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and adorable Doodles. Follow her at www.Facebook.com/LisaWesemanWriter.