Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So You Want to Read Your Reviews…

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

reviewsI’ve heard that in the past, writers would hear reactions to their work in very limited ways.  They’d either get a review in a newspaper or they’d get letters from readers, passed on to them through their publisher.

These days are gone.   The number of reviews your book receives from readers on online retailers and sites like Goodreads can be overwhelming.  (I’ve got 222 reviews for Dyeing Shame on Amazon as I write this—and that’s just one retailer.)

It’s feedback—and it can either sting or bolster.  If you’re currently working on a book, you can really mess up your writing mojo by checking out your reviews. 

Reading your reviews can be:

Uninspiring—”Just didn’t do it for me.”  “Boring.”  Not the kind of thing you want to look at if you’re trying to create your next masterpiece.

Disturbing/distracting--  “The formatting didn’t display right on my Kindle Fire".”  What?  Uh-oh.  Must be Amazon’s new anti-Calibre, pro-KindleGen stance. 

Inspiring…but troubling.  “Great book!  Loved the characters.  Can’t wait to buy the next book!” Can you live up to expectations?

Downright anxiety-provoking: People who really LOVE your work.  I read one review that said: "My mother says Lulu is the only character she's ever found who she feels is similar to her."  I was right in the middle of writing the next book in that series and froze. How could I ever give this lady the experience through the character that she's looking for? It took me days to get my mojo back. And this lady was being nice.

Basically, reviews are completely mesmerizing…when we should be focused on moving forward with our new story.

What you CAN take with you:

Make a list of genuine things to improve from the negative reviews (when you feel brave.) Bad reviews can be useful, if they’re meaty reviews.  Paste reader recommendations into a Word file.

Cut and paste the glowing reader reviews for when you’re feeling down…frustrated at your progress or WiP, depressed from rejections, etc.  Glancing through them can bolster you up without your running into the scary stuff.

In general, we should probably stay away.  Your time is better spent writing the next book. 

And—this should go without saying.  Never respond to reviews.  They're not talking to us...they're talking to other readers about us.

How brave are you when it comes to reviews?  Do you read them?  Read them, but only during specific times?  Avoid them?  What’s your personal policy?