The Reviews Conundrum

I have long held that writers should not read reviews of their books.  What it comes down to is that reviews are not written for the author.  A review is simply a conversation between one person who has read a book, and someone else who is thinking about reading it.  As such, a review is not meant to contain information that is useful to the writer.  Where a good critique, which is intended for the writer, will note both positive and negative elements within a book, a review is essentially an argument for or against reading the work, and will mostly contain information designed to support the initial argument.

A critique, generally, will be specific in its points, identifying, not simply where the story fails to work, but why it fails to work, and what can be done to make it work.  A review doesn’t have these elements because there’s no reason for it to do so.  When an author reads a critique they will hopefully emerge on the other side with an idea of how to better themselves.  When an author reads a review, they will emerge on the other side either thinking more highly of themselves, or pissed off at the person who wrote it.

It is a no-win situation.

But authors, especially new authors and authors who have not achieved the level of success that they want, will inevitably read their reviews.  Because reviews are one of the best indicators of a books future success.  Did you just get twenty praise-filled reviews in a row?  Well, chances are those people are telling their friends.  Did you get a dozen one star reviews?  Good luck getting someone who stumbles across your amazon page to randomly purchase that.

So our eyes are locked on it.  We are fully invested in that next review.  that next comment.  that next X-star….

Every once in a while, one of my writer friends will post a story about a writer who replies to a bad review.  Inevitably, things go poorly.  No matter how bad a review is, how much we think that they just didn’t understand, writers have to learn to keep their thoughts to themselves.  The truth is, we’re listening in on somebody else’s conversation.  They aren’t talking to us, so bursting in and screaming at them is unacceptable.  After all, if they bought a copy of the book, then they’re entitled to share their opinion of it.

Sorry, just had all of this running through my mind while I wait for Awfully Appetizing to get its first review.  I have to remind myself that I may not like what they have to say.

Then again, maybe I will.

Either way, the truth is, I shouldn’t read it.

But I will anyway.

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