I Call BullSh*t: Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews
I know I haven’t been the best about blogging regularly lately. So many new things going on and so many excuses to give you. So now, I wanted to get back into this with the regular feature I promised, but never delivered on. The I Call Bullshit series where I take things I was told starting out in writing and blow them apart. The first one was on how I was told that social media marketing was really easy. It is not. This time I am going to go over a big one.
I was always told, don’t read the reviews of your work. Just ignore them all and keep putting out books. But that is complete bullshit. Perhaps if you are George R.R. Martin you can pass on reading the reviews, I suppose your success tells you what you need to know. But even still, I think he should be reading his reviews too. And who knows, maybe he is.
First people tell you that everyone is a critic, and this is true. It is also true that you can’t please everyone. Some people will genuinely hate your work and for no other reason than your style. Not every book is good for everyone. I think once you realize that, there isn’t any reason not to read the reviews. Even the bad ones have something for you in them.
And there is the reason you should be reading your reviews, there is feedback from actual readers there. You would listen to your Beta readers if they told you they didn’t like something, you may not change it, but you would listen. So why wouldn’t you listen to the person who paid money for it? Some of that money you received. Readers should be the reason you are writing stories. So to ignore their comments is a spit in the face of the reason you write. Sure, you may write for yourself. Or you may write because you like to create. But if you took that writing and had it published in anyway, you did it because you wanted someone else to read it. So you should be listening to their reviews.
Reviews, good and bad, are a precious gift. They are so hard to get. I have had just one review on Volition Agent since July 6th of 2013. One review and a year of nothing. Broken Trust has had just one review since itsrelease over a month ago. And Dissolution of Peace has 20 reviews, but it has taken three years to amass that many. So getting reviews is far from easy. I have given away free copies asking for a review in return. I have done promotions to get the book in thousands of hands through a KDP free day. And, I’ve begged and pleaded with my friends to write a review. And it doesn’t come easy.
The point is this. Even a bad reviewer took the time. Something so many readers will not do. They took the time to tell the author and other customers how they felt about the book. So I make sure to check them at least weekly and to read them. I do this because it is feedback. Feedback from someone who took the time to let other readers know what they liked and disliked. It is the reviews that lead to a second edition of Dissolution of Peace, because there was consistent feedback that too many typo and grammar mistakes slipped through the cracks. And it is the same set of reviews that has pushed me to get the sequel out.
And I am not just talking about Amazon or Goodreads reviews. I am also talking about the blogger, the Facebook comment, the Tweet, and all the other ways that authors get a review. We should be reading those because they speak volumes about what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong (or at least not to our reader’s enjoyment).
Because I will tell you my stance. Getting no reviews for a full year, that stings a whole lot more than getting a sub-par review. I am sure there are people who read it who must have liked it, but they couldn’t be bothered to review it. And that feels like I did something really wrong.
I have noticed a shift starting to happen in this “don’t read reviews” movement. That is the independent author. Authors like me who are publishing our own work. I am seeing more and more independent authors saying that we should be reading reviews. And I think this comes from the fact that we are typically the struggling artists who finally decided to take our work into our own hands and put it out there for the world to see. And, we are desperate to know if we made the right choice.
The main difference is that Traditionally Published Authors already have that validation. They have an agent, editor, and publisher that loved their work enough to put it out on shelves and stamp it with their name. Where as the independent author, the only validation that our work gets is from the readers.
But, as time passes I suspect we will continue to shift away from this idea that authors should avoid their reviews. I think it is important we listen to our readers and become better from it.