Monday, September 26, 2011

Handling Reviews


I noticed I’d gotten a really nice review of one of my books the other day.

Several books ago, good reviews really had a strong impact on me. Actually, the word ‘elation’ wouldn’t be far off the mark in terms of describing my feelings.

But the problem with putting stock in an unexpected good review is that they’re sure to be followed by negative reviews. If you’re on a high from the good ones, you’ll really crash after the bad reviews.

Plus, I realized, if I believed the good reviews, it meant I had to believe the bad ones. Otherwise, I’d really be biased.

After I came to that conclusion, I got a lot more clinical with my reviews. I appreciate them tremendously, I love that people care enough to read my books and offer feedback. But I can’t put a lot of stock in them. All I can do is take note of the ingredients of both the positive and negative reviews—did the reviewer list elements they especially appreciated or disliked? Is this a common theme in the reviews I’m reading?—and use them to help me with future books.

My approach:

I don’t read reviews when I’m writing something new. It’s just hardly ever good for a decent writing day. It tends to make me want to edit more instead of be creative.

I don’t respond to any reviews—positive or negative—on a bookselling site. If I see a nice review on a blog, I might thank the blogger in the comments or send them an email. Author intrusion on bookselling sites is almost always a bad thing.

I do like helpful negative reviews—reviewers who point to what they see as a particular problem with the book. It’s always interesting to see if the problem is something that can be addressed in future books in the series. Are other people giving feedback about the same thing?

As I mentioned above, I don’t believe my good reviews, either. I find them heartening and I appreciate them, but I try to look at them just as clinically. Did they say what they liked about the book? Is it something I can give more of in the next book?

With any review, I try to look at it as feedback. It’s a business and I’m trying to make readers happy as well as please my publishers and myself. I work hard to make sure I don’t take it personally. If I feel tempted to take it personally, I remind myself it’s a business. And it is.

So….basically, I don’t take much stock in either bad or good reviews, I just take from them whatever I can find useful, moving forward. And I remember it’s all part of the business of writing.

How do you get distance from your work in order to keep positive during either querying or reviews?