Ever wonder if authors read the reviews readers post? Turns out the answer is “sometimes.” I myself am a review junkie, obsessively checking Amazon and Goodreads for new reviews of my books. I’ve heard other authors insist they never read their reviews. “Feedback is essential,” claims romantic suspense author Annette Francine. “Criticism is never joyful to receive, but is often constructive. On the flip side, positive feedback encourages and invigorates me.”
Camelia Miron Skiba, a romance writer who doesn’t read her reviews, takes an opposing angle. “I realized that those reviews were not meant for me, but for my readers,” she explained. “Some [readers] rely on those reviews to make the final decision” whether to read a book, but for her, “writing the next scene, the next chapter takes priority.”
I’ve never met an author who didn’t love to get a good review. But how do they handle the bad ones? Most authors accept that you can’t please everyone all the time, and negative reviews are a part of the business of writing. I’m Pollyanna-delusional enough to read something positive into even the most negative feedback. One writer explains, “It doesn’t matter if there are ten excellent reviews and only one bad, the bad one tears me apart. My confidence goes literally down the drain and I lose the love for writing, not to mention that’s a sure recipe for my muse to go AWOL.” Another author turns those lemons into lemonade. “It may take me a couple of days to get over it and I may be upset, but after the disappointment subsides I use the negative feedback as a motivator to be a better writer!” But those improvements can only follow constructive criticism, not slash-and-burn reviews or unsubstantiated 1-star ratings.
Writers are often readers first, and you can check my blog archive for reviews I’ve posted over the last two weeks. But it can become a sticky wicket to review a colleague’s work, especially if it’s not your particular cup of tea. Francine says her only rule about reviewing someone’s work can be summed up in one word: “Honesty. I believe one can always find something positive to say, but I don’t exaggerate. I definitely won’t say I love a book when I don’t. However, if I do love it, I’m not shy about sharing my opinion.” Skiba tempers this approach, explaining, “I don’t rate below 3-star, not because I don’t read bad books, but because I’m on both sides of the fence—I’m a reader but also a writer. I know how much effort it takes to create a novel from the first word to the very last. Even if the reader in me is frustrated with a book, the writer doesn’t allow me to put down a fellow mate.”