Monday, August 5, 2019

The Yin and Yang of Publishing: Good vs Bad Reviews

I've been hitting it pretty hard for the past nearly 7 years in the publishing world as far as books are concerned, and a question that often crosses my mind is this: are bad or mean reviews of an author's book worth reading or even analyzing? 

In the modern world, anyone, anywhere, can become a book critic by picking a username and logging into their Amazon account. Pick your product, give your stars, and state your opinion. Easy. 

Over the years, Amazon has had issues with people buying positive reviews to prop their own book sales up or worse: competitors paying others to post bad reviews on their rivals' books to damper sales. When it comes to publishing, it seems that some people can really get vicious. That being sad, there are many, many legitimate reviews out there, both positive and negative. 

But as an author, should we be reading the negative reviews people leave us about our books? My answer is yes, as long as you do so through the lens of someone who can take the criticism. Some reviews are genuine, in that the reader really didn't like the novel. It can be valuable to an author to know why, because it helps them tap into what types of elements readers like to see in a book. It can also be toxic, because sometimes, people are cruel and offensive in the commentary for no reason at all. They'll hate a book simply because they can, not because there is any logic in it. Because it makes them feel powerful, perhaps, to put someone else down on a public forum. Those are the reviews you have to skim, to realize that this has nothing to do with you as a writer - this is just Internet drivel, designed to upset don't let yourself get upset. Just laugh about the absurdity of it all and move on! 

When I published my first book, I was always interested to see what people were saying about the writing on both the review sections of different selling platforms, along with discussion forums on the Internet. In the beginning of my novel-writing career, I would get pretty upset about negative commentary regarding my writing. People can be cruel. They don't care or understand that you have not only created a novel - but you have funded it financially, taken a gamble on it, worked your butt off for it, and practically ransomed your soul to bring it to life. So, yeah. Insults can be hurtful, and when I was younger, I would get upset. I remember crying sometimes, because people would say the most inane garbage online. One man chided me because he believed I should incorporate more graphic situations into my novels, or else he didn't buy the realism of my post-apocalyptic atmosphere (he disregarded the fact that the book he was reading was meant for young adult readers). Another one made fun of me because I was "young author", and yet another claimed that he found it hard to take a girl seriously when she was trying to write survival fiction (because apparently, girls aren't allowed to do that?). People can take the opportunity to give an honest review into a spitting match where they exert their egotism and arrogance on the online web, because there is no consequences for their actions. 

As authors, I believe we need to stay in touch with our audiences and read our reviews. We need to know how readers feel about our work. However, no author, no matter who they are, should dwell on negative reviews. Use constructive criticism wisely, because that will help you grow as a writer, but don't bother with the hateful commentary. Look beyond that. 

Are you an author? Do you read the reviews that people leave on your books? How does it affect you? I talk more about this topic in my book, Prolific: Writing A Hit Novel (available in the Kindle and Nook Store). Let me know! Drop me an email or leave a comment. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @writingbelle or Twitter @SummerEllenLane. 

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