Friday, January 30, 2015

I read my bad reviews and so should you

Allow me a minute for business, if you will. I just wanted to let you know that my monthly newsletter will be going out this weekend AND it will have two, yes two, alternate POV scenes from Rite of Rejection. Ultimately these will find their way to the public sphere, but if you want to see them first, get thy name on my subscribers list!

Now, let's talk reviews.

Obviously, I'm a big fan of the five star variety. I'd have to be the world's worst liar if I even tried to say otherwise. Glowing reviews are the little sugar nonpareils that get sprinkled on top of the icing that is someone taking the time to leave a review. In this analogy, someone reading the book is the cake, but maybe we should quit while we're ahead. The point is, those reviews are fantastic and can do wonders to feed an author's soul.

Then it would stand to reason that reviews that fall toward the other end of the spectrum are little black holes that eat happiness for breakfast and then hold out their bowls for more. And they absolutely could be, but only if we let them.

This idea that we shouldn't read our reviews is a bit odd to me. In almost every other consumer driven market, the powers that be pull out all the stops in order to get customer feedback. At tons of restaurants they offer you the chance to win anything from free food to cold hard cash for giving your feedback. Last night I gave a presentation at my local library and they asked me to fill out a comment card to help them improve services. There are entire corporations that exist only to call and solicit feedback from customers about their experiences with everything from products to health care.

So why are we so afraid of our reviews as authors?

I get it. Harsh reviews can be tough to read. No one likes to hear that they didn't measure up. But a reader telling me exactly why they didn't like my book might as well be passing out bottles of liquid gold. As writers, what better way to improve at our craft than to hear right from the readers' mouth what isn't working.

I read in several of my reviews that readers wished there was more information about how the world of Rite of Rejection came to be. That was shocking for me. I originally had all the history included, but took it out because I thought it slowed down the story and would be boring. While I stand behind my decision to cut it, now I know that I need to find a way to work in at least some of this information into the next book. So thank you, reviewers. Not only does that knowledge allow me to give readers more of what they want, it makes me think about the kind of information I include in my other work.

Look, negative reviews are never going to be fun. You'll never see me fist pump and bad dance over a two-star review. But I'm not going to ignore it either. Instead, I'll put on my big girl pants, strap on my thick skin and dig in. 

Readers want top notch stories and I want to give that to them. Listening to my readers and working to improve my craft gets us all a little closer to getting what we want.

1 comment:

  1. My first thought on this is the negative reviews you read were helpful. Lots of negative reviews aren't helpful and are discouraging. I don't think this matters for you (since it was originally included) but I don't want to write a book to the market. I feel like it's important for me to produce the art the way I would and not worry about what anyone else thinks. With every book I release and every review I read, this gets harder to do until recently I can't write at all because of all the things that run through my head.

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