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Four Types of Authors Who Shouldn’t Read Reviews

Four Types of Authors Who Shouldn’t Read Reviews

Should authors read reviews?

That was the question Jordan Dane posed at The Kill Zone blog last week. I also saw the same question addressed in an author Facebook group I’m a member of, and (indirectly) on Seth Godin’s blog.

Three times in three days. That must be significant …

I’m not yet a published author, so haven’t yet had to face this decision for myself. But I do have a lot of experience from the other side of the question: as a reviewer. I’ve reviewed around 900 books on Goodreads, and most of those reviews have also appeared on other sites: Amazon, my blog, and other retail sites.

My reviewing experience leads me to believe that not all authors should read reviews of their books. Here are some authors who shouldn’t read reviews of their books.

Authors Who Forget Reviews are For Readers

Reviewers don’t always agree (you can see that by reading the reviews to any great work of fiction). But one thing we do agree on is that reviews are for readers. Not for authors.

As reviewers see it, the purpose of an online book review is to share information which might persuade a like-minded reader to read the book … or not. And either is a valid conclusion. It takes several hours to read an average novel, and a good review takes a while to write, and to post. Especially if you cross-post across several sites, as I do.

Reviewers aren’t doing this to please authors. Reviewers do not exist to promote your book for free (although some do). If they are, it’s skirting close to Amazon’s definition of a “promotional review”, which is then at risk of being deleted.
No, reviewers review for themselves, and for like-minded readers. They do it for fun, for free.

Authors Who Focus on the Wrong Things

As Seth Godin points out, if there 100 glowing five-star reviews and one stinking one-star review (or even a well written three-star review), we focus on the negative. We ignore the positive, even when it’s overwhelming. It’s human nature.

Yes, some reviews are unfair. Some reviews are written by people with issues. Some people should be banned from the internet because they seem unable to communicate online in a mature and adult manner. In an ideal world, everyone would love everything we write and our reviews would be all fluffy unicorns and rainbows.

But life isn’t fair. Everyone has issues. And the world would be a better place if some people were prevented from ever sharing their opinions again (including most politicians, celebrities, and especially reality TV stars). No writer can appeal to everyone. Not even JK Rowling.

The critical reviewers probably aren’t your target reader. So we need to ignore the naysayers and focus on the positive reviews. If we can’t do that, we shouldn’t read reviews.

Authors Who Are Seeking Validation

If we’re reading book reviews to validate ourselves—as a person, or as a writer … just don’t. My worth as a human being is entirely separate from some random reader/reviewer’s opinion of my book (or my blog post). So is yours.

Just because someone doesn’t like your book doesn’t mean they don’t like you. And vice versa. Some of my closest writer friends write fantasy—a genre I have a lot of trouble enjoying. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them as people. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good writers. It just means I don’t enjoy the genre they write.

Authors Who Respond to Reviews

This is one of the first rules of being an author: don’t respond to reviews. Don’t respond to positive reviews—it can look needy and stalkerish (as if you’ve got nothing better to do than read and comment on reviews). And don’t respond to critical reviews—that never ends well for the author.

This should seem obvious. Yet just this week I was checking the Amazon reviews of a book I was considering buying and I saw the author had commented on the top-ranked review. The review basically said the self-help book contained no new information on productivity for writers, and that the author’s suggestion writers give up coffee and chocolate was unrealistic.

I thought this was a helpful review—there is no way I’m giving up coffee or chocolate on anything less than do-it-or-die orders from a doctor. So there is no point in me even considering a book with this recommendation. It’s not helpful.

The author didn’t agree. She copied and pasted a five-star review that said the book had helped the reviewer.

I’d already decided not to buy the book (see above points about coffee and chocolate), but now I’m hesitant to buy or review any of her books. I don’t want an honest review to come back and haunt me if she takes issue with my view should it differ from hers. (As it does. I don’t believe authors should respond to critical reviews. She obviously has no issue with the idea).

So Should Authors Read Reviews?

If you can read reviews of your book without becoming one of “those” authors, then yes. Otherwise, it might be best to ignore reviews, or get someone to vet them for you.

What do you think? Should authors read reviews of their books?

This post is part of the June 2017 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors. Posts are related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, and reviews of author-related products. The hop the brainchild of Raimey Gallant. To find this month’s posts:

 

Best of the Blogs: 18 March 2017

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing Services

Writing

Plot vs. Character (the Rematch)

Last week I shared a blog post from James Scott Bell on why plot is more important than character. This week, Kristen Lamb takes the opposing view: that Character Determines Plot.

Discover Your Writing Voice

Jeff Goins tells us that the way we discover our writing voice is by reading and copying others. Lots of others. Who do you copy?

Editing

Do you use editing tools? I tried Grammarly for about a week, and while I liked the idea, it’s an online programme … which means it slowed down Word too much for me to work with, and I couldn’t use it at all when out of wifi range.

Anyway, April Bradley visited Writers Helping Writers to give an introduction to ProWritingAid, which sounds good–especially as it can apparently be used online, with Word, or as a separate desktop application.

Have you tried ProWritingAid? Do you recommend it? Read more here: ProWritingAid: A Useful Tool.

Publishing

Attorney Susan Spann visits Writers in the Storm to share 10 Questions to Ask before you sign a publishing contract.

I’ve covered several of these in Christian Publishing: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction. If you don’t already have a copy, sign up for my monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy.

Networking

I’m an introvert, so I never felt comfortable networking in the corporate world. The writing and editing world suits me so much better, because it’s full of introverts, and most of the networking is done like this, using the written word. This week, Kaye Dacus has a post on the importance of Networking for Building Name Recognition in the writing world—especially important in the small world of Christian fiction.

I’ve come across several other writers who have been published because of their connections, for better or worse. Romantic suspense author Dani Pettrey thanks Dee Henderson in her acknowledgements. Forensic thriller author Carrie Stuart Parks thanks her BFF’s husband who coached her in writing until she earned a contract—a guy named Frank Peretti.

Marketing

Book Reviews

As a long-time Amazon reviewer, I try (try!) to keep up with what’s changing in the world of Amazon reviews. In fact, it’s something I must write a blog post on, because a lot of what I wrote in my last series of posts is now outdated. Anyway, here is Big Al at Indies Unlimited commenting on one of the changes: how customer reviews are displayed on Amazon.

Improving Your Reach

Nina Amir at How to Blog a Book posts on How to get Better Mileage Out of Your Blog Posts. Basically:

  • Deliver them in different formats (video, audio, written)
  • Make them shareable
  • Share your posts (you can automate some of this using a tool such as Buffer).

I haven’t yet tried video or audio. Would you watch a Facebook Live question-and-answer session? Let me know in the comments. And add your questions!

Best of the Blogs 21 October 2016

The best posts I’ve read in the week to 21 October 2016 … on writing, editing, marketing, and an update on the Amazon book review situation.

Writing

I’ve got two posts this week looking at different aspects of point of view. Both posts give lots of great advice on how to use deep POV to improve your “showing”.

First, Carol J Post visits Novel Rocket to give four tips to Elicit Greater Emotion Through Deep POV. Great post, although I have to say I don’t like Novel Rocket’s new web design. Scrolling down makes it look like those background pages are turning, and make it difficult to read the actual post (or am I the only person with this problem?).

And next is a great post from Janice Hardy at Romance University on how your use of narrative distance (aka use of Deep POV) affects your ability to show rather than tell. If you only read one post this week, this should be it.

Editing

Self-proclaimed Kindlepreneur Dave Chasson gives his advice on Selecting the Best Book Editor. He does an excellent job of briefly summarising the four main levels of book editing (in my experience, most novels need all four. Yes, this is four separate edits, although not all need to be from paid editors). I also agree with his “what to look for” list.

What I didn’t agree with was his idea of an editing test—not because I don’t want to take a test, but because I often find authors can’t accurately gauge the level of editing they need, and tests like this won’t tell them. His test is a 1,000-word article. Not a 90,000-word novel. It completely misses the many intricacies of fiction, which include:

  • Point of view
  • Plot and structure
  • Scene structure
  • Showing, not telling

If a fiction author picks their editor based on a test like this, I have no doubt they’ll come away with a polished manuscript that has all the essentials of grammar, punctuation and spelling right (although he’s still wrong on one point: CMOS 7.58 clearly says “either italicized or enclosed in quotation marks”, with “or” being the operative word.. Italicizing “and” enclosing in quotation marks is unnecessary emphasis).

But a polished manuscript could still be a rambling unstructured mess of headhopping and telling that doesn’t obey any of the current “rules” of fiction.

Instead, I prefer Dave’s other suggestion of getting sample edits from potential editors. Comparing different sample edits will confirm what level of work needs to be done, and help you decide who is the best editor for your book.

Yes, I offer a free sample edit of up to 1,000 words. A sample edit means we both know the level of work the novel needs, and how much I’m going to charge for that.

Marketing

Misty M Beller visits Seekerville to share her 9 Steps to Market a New Book Release. Oh, she makes it sound easy!

Book Reviewing

As you’ll remember from my post on 7 October, Amazon have recently revised their Reviewing Guidelines, and the changes have been causing consternation around authors on the interwebz (mostly from people who didn’t read the full Amazon article, which explained authors and publishers can still provide reviewers with Advance Reader Copies).

Anyway, Anne Allen has written a comprehensive post on the “new” rules. As you will see from the comments, I don’t agree with all her findings, but it’s still an excellent reference. And do read the comments!

Fun

And finally, a little fun. Aren’t you glad publishing is easier these days?