I used to write articles for several sites online, and each site had its own focus—for one zine, I mostly wrote articles having to do with academic writing, but for another, I wrote alternative health articles, and I even wrote fashion/diet/exercise articles for yet another. (Don’t try to find these articles, because they’re written under another name!) Two of the blogs didn’t have a comment section, but one did, and the readers could get rather, um…let’s just say they could get a little nasty about their points of view if they didn’t agree with the writer. I had someone not only disagree with one of my articles, but she proceeded to call me all sorts of names. It was rather shocking, if not humbling. You mean not everyone loves what I have to say?
A few years later, I was publishing fiction as an indie author, and reviews were few and far between in the beginning. I had several sales (and the number grew from month to month), but no reviews. When I finally started getting a couple here and there, I pounced on them, devouring them in one fell swoop. I wanted to know what my readers thought! Now, bear in mind, this was on Amazon. It took me a while to discover Goodreads but when I did, ouch!
It wasn’t long, though, before I started getting some not-so-stellar reviews. Some reviews felt fair (for example, a good many readers hated the present/past storytelling aspect of Tangled Web), while others just felt mean. Whatever the case, I read each one and tried to glean anything useful out of them. After all, businesses grow when they listen to and adjust for customer feedback. One thing I hadn’t realized then that I know today: most of those readers would never be “customers” again, so there was no point in trying to revise my writing for one poor review. That said, if several readers complained about the same thing, I took it to heart and pondered it, because there was more weight to the complaint.
Something I’ve learned over the years, though, is that I will never make everyone happy. I said in my book Indie Writer Companion that even the most beloved writers are not beloved by everyone, and to prove my point, I pulled up their ratings on Goodreads. For example, at the time I’m writing this, Janet Evanovich has a 3.98 rating; James Patterson, 3.96; Toni Morrison (one of my personal faves), 3.83. I could go on and on, pulling up author after author to show you that no one has a one-hundred percent rating. Some might be higher than others, but no one on this planet likes the same thing—including books.
But, as an author, it’s not always easy reading those reviews about yourself. Reviews can hurt, especially when they feel personal (and, believe me, some of them are meant to feel personal). But you know what? You don’t have to take them that way. Nowadays, to keep myself sane, I get my feedback from beta readers. I let them tell me what’s working and what needs more of my attention. If I read reviews (and I do), I have a certain way I go about it. First, I know I’m going to have some bad reviews. All authors do. So that’s okay. That’s part of the business. I remind myself of that little fact. Then…guess what? I skip the bad ones. If there’s one star or two stars, I’ll skip it (okay, I’ll try to skip it). Why? Because reading it will only make me feel bad. It won’t help me improve my writing. I know there are a few authors out there who will connect with those readers in an attempt to understand the review, but I myself choose not to interact. It’s better for me to not read them—because I feel that most reviewers are simply trying to be honest. I don’t think most reviewers are trying to be hurtful…and they are entitled to their opinions. I just don’t have to read them, right?
Right! And, if you’re an author, neither do you. Happy writing!