By Reece Hirsch
You've all heard them in interviews, the writers who say that they never read their reviews. I can understand how someone might feel that way, but I can't imagine how they would pull it off. Perhaps writers who have achieved some Olympian level of bullet-proof success can actually ignore their reviews, but I'm still slogging away in the trenches and the concept is inconceivable to me.
As someone who has been published in mass market paperback, reviews in major outlets were scarce and I treasured the few that I managed to garner. Getting reviewed in Publisher's Weekly was one of the highlights of my debut author experience. Maybe I might feel differently if I ever receive a truly psyche-scarring negative review. And, don't get me wrong, I have received a few lukewarm notices, but no professional reviewer has really taken the long knives and tongs to anything I've written -- yet.
When it comes to reader reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, I try to take it all in for anything that may be useful and ignore the rest. For example, I've learned that a large number of readers from Utah really don't like my use of profanity. And when a few readers note that I strained believability with a particular plot point, I have to figure that if enough of them say that, then I probably did, and I'd better keep that in mind the next time around.
I have also learned to never respond to a review, whether from a professional reviewer or a reader. That way lies madness.
My favorite review, and the only one I was tempted to respond to, was this odd little post on Amazon by someone from Dallas, Texas:
my son purchased this without my knowing it through his smartphone. He is 17 and loves thrillers and criminal type books. I am trying to steer him the other way.
As you can see, this is not exactly a review and I feel that my book and I are only incidentally involved in what's going on here. But I like to think about that crime-and-thriller-fiction-loving kid in Dallas devouring books the way I did at his age, downloading them onto his smartphone so that his parent can't see what he's reading. I'm sure that his mother's or father's disapproval just cemented his love of those books. Parents -- this is not a winning strategy. Consider it a victory that he loves reading.
I wish that kid a lifetime of reading books that his parent would disapprove of and, if I helped that process along, then that gives me as big a thrill as any review in Publisher's Weekly.