by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
If you're published, dealing with reviews just comes with the territory. There are many distinct lines of thought about how writers should approach reviews.
I know a couple of authors who say they never look at their reviews. That it really just messes them up as they're trying to work on another book.
I know writers who sneak peaks at Amazon, but not at Goodreads. Goodreads is a notoriously tough environment for writers, and reviews are often lower on that platform than on Amazon.
It could also be true that an author who's going through a particularly low or vulnerable time might not be in the right place to read their reviews . . . where, during brighter days, they might have looked at them.
Here are some of my practices when dealing with reviews:
Good reviews. These are day-brighteners. I like to copy-paste mine into a document to look at when I need a little extra validation. It's also helpful to use snippets in your editorial reviews section on Amazon (access it through your Amazon Author Central account).
Bad reviews. In my experience, there are different types of critical reviews. There are some that really don't provide any helpful feedback. Then there are some that may provide some helpful ideas, moving forward with your series. If I see a lot of reviewers saying the same thing, I definitely pay attention and start making notes.
Writing reviews. I actually think I'm a pretty lousy reviewer, so I don't review. It's a tricky thing, writing reviews as a published author. Avoiding penning critical reviews is a good idea.
Endorsements work better for me. With the punchier, ad copy style, they’re also more fun to write.
As a general practice, I don't respond to reviews unless a blogger tags me on social media with one. Then I'll thank them for reading my book, regardless of what the review says. Otherwise, it almost seems like author intrusion for me to comment on the review post.
That's how I handle reviews, but I'm curious to know what you think. Do you read your reviews? How do you handle good and bad ones?
Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links @elizabethscraig or at her blog where she offers tips for writers: http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/ . She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two. Her latest release is A Novel Idea.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Diane!
I've always found it a little awkward to respond to even good reviews. On the other hand, there are some situations (on blogs, for instance) where it's more awkward *not* to respond. It's definitely a skill! As for bad reviews, I try to learn from them if I can. If it's a matter of someone's taste, I try to let it go.
Margot--Awkward is definitely a good word for it! But you're right that it often feels a response is needed on something as personal as a blog.
I read my reviews and take what I can to improve from ones that provide good feedback. Some I just laugh at.
I don't tend to review a lot of books either.
Alex--Being able to laugh is also very helpful!
It sounds like you handle reviews the way I would too. I love how you paste the good ones in a document to read later. I don't write lengthy reviews, but sometimes I write a two to three sentence review on Goodreads.
I think the shorter, pithier reviews on Goodreads can be very helpful as a reader when I'm trying to decide which book to read!
Thank you for the terrific post, Elizabeth.
Great post. I like the shorter, pithier reviews as well, and I like to keep the nice ones for those tough days.
Sometimes a "bad" review is someone just saying the book wasn't for them. I've read bad reviews that convinced me that the book in question was one I'd enjoy for the exact reasons the reviewer hated it. (And the opposite can be true. Someone could love a book for a reason that would turn me off it.)
Tyrean--The good ones are so uplifting!
Liz--That's very true; I've done the same thing!
Thanks for the post and information. Reviews are a tricky side of the business.
We have the same review philosophy. I don't obsess over them, but will read them periodically. It was through reviews that I realized I was using a beat over and over and needed to mix up my character actions. A smart, well-thought out review can be as valuable as a paid-for critique.
H.R.: They certainly are, aren't they?
Elizabeth: Very true! I've found them very helpful from time to time.
I don't read negative reviews. I don't mind a critical review if it's offered in a thoughtful manner. But I don't believe you'll find that kind of feedback in a review that's a one or two.
Sandra--That makes sense! I love lots of authors who avoid reading reviews completely.
Great article! As I read your article, I was reminded that it's not the negative comments that necessarily offend, but the intention to inflict pain with criticism. We all need to keep in our minds that there are bullies everywhere and to ditz something meaningful to another person (appearance, accomplishments or a craft) is a bully's MO. It's how they grab their power.
Thanks, Diane, for featuring Elizabeth!
Teresa--Excellent point! Yes, there can be trolls in the review section, for sure. It's always important not to feed the trolls!
Thanks, Elizabeth. You got some great responses here.
Hey Elizabeth, I didn't realize you also lived in NC. I'm in central North Carolina.
Sandra: I am! Recently moved from the CLT area to the NC mountains. :)
Elizabeth, You'll enjoy the mountains for sure. We go to the Blowing Rock area occasionally. It's beautiful. As are all the mountain areas in NC:)
Sandra: Thanks! We're loving it so far. :)
It's a touchy arena - the reviews thing. I don't hesitate to be critical with what I say, but I do hesitate to give reviews a below "3" unless the writing and/or formatting are horrid. Also, too many books are not true to their title or genre, and I won't hesitate to say so. As far as getting bad reviews, yeah, that's just tough. My worst was "meh," and I'd rather know why the book was "meh." Anyway, excuse my rant.
Thanks for discussing this important topic.
I sent a package to Alex via Dancing Lemur Press that should've been received this past week. Sorry I can't find your email addy. I'm afraid maybe it was all eaten up by the postal service. It appears (from a very old email in my box) that this has happened before. Dangit. I went thru a lot of trouble. Anyway, if you get this message and have time, please email me at Rawknrobyn @ aol.com. Not sure if the address I sent it to is still current, correct...Thank you!
Have a great one:)
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