Monday, March 3, 2014
Reviewing the reviewers
Do you read reviews? Reply to them? Review the works of other writers?
Something rather frightening happens to some writers when their first book comes out. They become obsessed with their own reviews. They obsessively check the issues of Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, etc., etc., holding their breath and hoping that their book will get a favorable mention (or perhaps even a star). When it doesn't? Despair! When it does? They slowly find out that a great review does not instantly make them a bestselling author.
It's not that I don't read my own reviews--I just don't read them very often. I noticed that all I ever remembered were the bad parts of the review and none of the good. Eventually I had to stop measuring my own abilities on whether or not a newspaper/magazine still gave a few inches of space to unknown writers, and whether or not a reviewer happened to like or dislike my writing. I did a guest blog some years ago where my host quoted from a review that I remembered as being particularly horrible and scathing--and I was shocked that he had been able to find something that sounded so wonderful in the reviewer's words. I had completely missed it. I realized that I had no perspective and it was healthier to step away.
I have never responded to a bad review because I think it is, well, tacky. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm not going to change their mind and I would just end up looking like an overly sensitive wimp. And I only tweet about (or mention on Facebook) books that I like. I'm not being paid to review anything and I figure life is too short to read things that I don't enjoy. Or pour salt on the wound of a writer just because it wasn't a book that I enjoyed.
Now, I'm not saying that reviews are not important. I love to read reviews and I'm sad that newspapers aren't reserving space for them anymore. I find reviews helpful as I look for new books and authors to read. And I can sometimes tell by reading between the lines of a bad review that it's actually a book I would love. I just have to trust that other readers will do the same for my books.