Reece on Monday said it was unimaginable that anyone didn't. Hilary on Tuesday said it was a big fat lie that anyone didn't. Chris on Wednesday was worst of all - he made it seem like a good idea to give it a go.
Readers, until this week, I was that unimaginable big fat liar who'd never given it a go.
Hand on heart, I did not read my reviews.
Wait a minute, wait a minute, hang on. Let me add a few caveats. If my publicist emails me and the subject line is "nice/good/great/fab/amazing review from _____" I open the link. I read, I download, I email to my dad to print and give to my mum for her scrapbook. Thanks, Mum. (She spent her working life in libraries and is a better archivist than I could ever be.)
Also, on the Saturday after the UK publication date of a new Dandy Gilver I will buy the Scottish broadsheets (if I'm there) and look through the book reviews. It's a small country with a lot of newspapers so the strike rate is high and I'm not a big enough name for anyone to want to take me down.
And that - that last point - is why I don't look at reader reviews on Amazon etc. All you have to do is write a book to make someone on Amazon want to take you down and leave you bleeding. And while I enjoy a good one-star review of Pride & Prejudice as much as anyone (click here for a favourite) I don't see how any writer could want to read sneers, swipes and cynicism about their own stuff? How could it not make you want to curl up in a ball and only uncurl to put a DVD of Pillow Talk in the machine and open the Pringles?
That was my position until earlier this week, as I say. Since then I've had the highest of the high and the lowest of the low: a Goodreads review (click here) of the ARC of AS SHE LEFT IT that made me go and stare at myself in the mirror just to see what that big a genius looked like. (Not really.)
And this (click by all means). One of the two-star reviews of my first published novel, AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL, is a doozy. It's an anonymous review by someone who's never reviewed anything else (not even the banana slicer) and it's got everything: mistaken beliefs hotly defended, unfounded accusations, personal attacks - I'm crass and discourteous, don't you know? - and then there's the bit that really got me.
My "bad writing" is illustrated by writing that's nothing like mine. God, that's annoying! The reviewer gives "over-vivid, lengthy, painful and agonizingly contrived descriptive phrases" as a taster of my kind of prose as well as an evaluation of it. Tricksy. But if you can find a noun in AFTER THE ARMISTICE BALL pre-modified by four adjectives, one of which is pre-modified by an adverb, I will give you a thousand dollars.
So, all in all, I'd rather not read reviews. Except Chris made a good point about saying thank you for kind ones, Hilary was a shining example of psychological health and Reece was convincing about using them as tools for improvement. I'm going to wait and see what Sue Ann says tomorrow.