Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Review By Any Other Name

I remember getting my first review like it was yesterday. I wish I could say I handled it well, but I didn’t. My heart raced, my face burned, my stomach turned over, I agonized over each and every word—asking myself, “what does she mean by that?” after almost every other sentence.

Lord knows how I would have reacted if it had been a bad review! Luckily, by the time that happened I’d managed to develop a slightly thicker skin.

Lately I’ve noticed an interesting trend in reviews. I seem to get almost an equal amount of good ones and bad for every new book. Okay…to be honest, the balance may be slightly weighted toward the good ones, but still it’s nothing like the way things used to be back when I was Queen of the 4-out-of-5 (insert symbol of your choice) Review. It’s not just me, of course, I know a lot of authors who’ve noticed the same thing happening with their books. What one reviewer loves, the next one might hate, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Let me start by saying I love reviews and I love reviewers. A good review can put a smile on your face that lasts for days and even the bad ones have their uses. But, good or bad, a review is just one person’s opinion, and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s this: the book that absolutely everyone will love has never been written—and never will be.

Bad reviews can be frustrating—especially if you’ve been waiting and waiting for someone, anyone to review your book. Sometimes you want a sympathetic friend to whom you can whine, “she just doesn’t ‘get’ my story!” Sometimes you just want ice cream (or something alcoholic) to medicate the pain away. Sometimes—if they’re snarky—you want to write something snarky back. But, there's the bottom line: there really is a silver lining in back of that rainy, little review cloud.

Bad reviews can be oddly liberating. People generally want everyone to love them and, as authors, we generally want everyone to love us and our books. That’s never gonna happen, of course, but we want it so much we can become paralyzed and unable to write anything at all for fear of being rejected. Besides, once you  start changing your writing to try and please everyone, you end up pleasing no one—not even yourself. 

A bad review can be a godsend if you let it. It's just one less person you have to worry about pleasing…and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!


Meg Benjamin said...

Hear, hear PG! That's one of the reasons I think contests are helpful for beginning writers--you're going to hear from people who don't like what you're doing but at the same time you'll hear from people who do (usually). You get the idea that, hey, that's the way it goes.

Erin Nicholas said...

Great post... so true! I once had a writer friend tell me that any time you evoke emotion in someone-- even if it's contempt! :)-- at least you're book has impacted them and that's the ultimate goal! *G*

Kelly Jamieson said...

Don't we all have a love-hate relationship with reviews! That's a great attitude to have PG and I'm going to keep that in mind.