It is said that there are two types of author – those that read their reviews and those that don’t.
“Don’t ever read your reviews. If they’re good, you’ll get complacent. If they’re bad, you won’t be able to write for a day.”
Others, like me, are too curious. We have to know what readers think of our work. Yes, it can be distracting. Yes, it can drive you crazy. But … it’s free market research. And, as long as you avoid the pitfalls, it’s informative.
Pitfalls? Oh yes, dear author, there are pits out there awaiting the unwary. The biggest pit – sometimes named ‘Anne Rice fell in here’ – is ‘the need to respond.’ Ask any experienced author about this and they will tell you, ‘never respond to a review.’ Read and walk away. Even if there are glaring factual errors. Even if a simple one line response would clear up the obvious misconception. Walk away. If you don’t, you risk being drawn into a public meltdown. We’ve all seen forum threads that descend into flame wars. One person’s innocuous remark is another person’s grievous insult. Posters start reading between the lines, answering insults they alone can see and, before you know it, everyone’s screaming at everyone else.
What if the reviewer asks questions in their review? Questions you can answer. Like why did the hero behave that way on page 273? It was so out of character. You can explain that it wasn’t. You’d foreshadowed that event on pages 97 and 151.
One of the reasons BVC was created was to increase the communication between authors and readers. Discussions about books, the process of writing and the reasons behind choices made by authors can be both interesting and rewarding. Shouldn’t we be engaging with the reader more?
But is the review forum – be it at Amazon, Librarything or a blog – the place to do it. After all, it can be intimidating for the reader if, suddenly, there’s the author replying to their review.
Another thing for the author to remember is that reading a book is not a sterile process undertaken in a vacuum. Readers have expectations, interests, prejudices and a lifetime of experiences. We all do. And we bring them with us when we read a book. Sometimes a book can disappoint because it wasn’t what we expected. The cover said X and we were given Y. Or it touches on a subject we’re particularly fond of then switches to something else leaving us disappointed. Why couldn’t it have had more about AI? I loved those bits.
Remember, you can never please everyone.
Chris Dolley, who mainly attracts only good reviews, is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!