Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Authors Reading Reviews

Alright authors, do you read your reviews? I’ve heard other authors say they don’t and before now, I’ve kind of dismissed that as silly, since reviews are part of how we get feedback from our readers, but I may have been wrong.

Someone asked me a question that caused me to look for one of my books on www.BN.com. While there I happened to see that someone had written a review of the book. It wasn’t a bad review, but it wasn’t as good as I might have liked. I understand where the reviewer was coming from, but looking back at the my original goals for the book, I’m not sure I could have produced a book to his satisfaction and met those goals.

Here’s the thing: I look at the review on Sunday evening. Sunday was an amazing day. I hadn’t been scheduled to teach our Sunday school class that day, but I got to teach anyway. We have five visitors in our Sunday school class and many more in church. We learned about a member of our youth group accepting Christ while they were on mission trip. We heard from a missionary to Mexico who has started a church that has grown by eighty people in the last ten months. And there was a man saved in our evening service. It was a great day. But then it was a letdown when I read that review. I suddenly had this feeling that maybe I’m wasting my time with writing.

The thing about reviews is that they aren’t written for the author. A reviewer writes a review because he wants people to know what he thought of the book. He may think other people should read the book. He hope to warn other people. He may just enjoy writing reviews. But the audience for his words is not the author. If he wanted the author to know what he thought, he would write an e-mail to the author (my e-mail address is published in every book) or he would leave a comment on the author’s blog.

Another thing is that people who write reviews aren’t always in the ideal audience for the book. That’s not to say we’re not happy they purchased the book, but there may be a disconnect between what they are hoping the book would tell them and what the author hoped to convey to the intended audience. While we want to improve, we have to be careful about writing to please reviewers. Some reviewers won’t be happy with anything we might write.

I’ve also seen authors who get upset with reviewers who write unfavorable reviews after having read a free version of the book that they only downloaded because it was free. I understand their point that the reviewers are biting the hand that feeds them, but we don’t have the option of telling these people they can’t review the book.

Even with good reviews, you can fall into the trap of thinking that you’re a better author than you really are because all your friends are writing good reviews. So while I may not completely quit reading reviews, I think it might be healthier if I do. There’s a point at which you have to say, “I’m doing the best I can. If people like it, they like it. If people don’t, they don’t.”

So what about you? Authors, do you read your reviews? Readers, when you write a review, are you hoping the author will read it?


Michelle D. Argyle said...

I used to read my reviews for Cinders, but now I've decided not to read reviews of my work until a certain amount of time has passed after publication. Reviews aren't for readers, and I strongly agree that authors shouldn't respond to them - good or bad. I don't think readers particularly appreciate authors peeking over their shoulders, anyway, if you know what I mean. I interact with my wonderful readers in other ways besides reviews.

I'm sorry you felt down about one that you read. :(

Timothy Fish said...


Thanks for commenting. I think one of the dangers with authors "peeking over their shoulders", so to speak, is that the author comes across as angry when readers say something they don't like.

Whitehawk said...

I would love to read a review. I finished my first book in March and I'm STARVING for feadback. I feel very concerned that I can't get anyone to complete the book and give me some feedback. Of course I think the worse. A bad review with someone else's perspective would be welcomed at this point. My genre is nonfiction, Christianity-Spirituality. I think my message is very important but I fear I haven't done a good job communicating it.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Yeah, Timothy, been there done that. Not fun.

Deb said...

I do read my reviews. I figure, if I made a mistake, and the reviewer points it out, I'll be less likely to make that mistake in my future work. I try to make a goof only once...so far that's not workin' out quite as I hoped.