Back in October 2010, when I sold THE OTHER LIFE and reviews were still far off, I thought: “Huh, why should I not read reviews? I can take criticism.”
Fast forward a few months, when ARCs were finally sent out, I suddenly wasn’t all that sure about my thick skin. I checked goodreads religiously and then I got my first not-so-stellar review (a two star rating) and I sat in front of my laptop paralyzed. I was too scared to read it and was driving myself insane with the possibilities. But then I told my husband (with the warning that he shouldn’t read it either and that I didn’t want to know what was written!).
Yeah...Husband didn’t listen and in the evening while we were making dinner, he described the review to me and I didn’t die. I could deal with it. My husband shrugged at the end of his recount and said “that wasn’t so bad”. And he was right. The next day I read the review and it was well-written and I was grateful that the reviewer had taken the time to write something about my book, though they didn’t like it.
I still cringe every time I see a low-rating, I still hesitate before I read a negative review but I do it anyway because, while it hurts a little to find out that not everyone loves your book, it helps me grow as a writer. Every time someone criticizes some part of my writing, I challenge myself to do better next time. And I love a good challenge.
Of course I know that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never make everyone happy and that’s not what I’m striving for (though maybe a little part of me does). But I want to know what readers think, want to know why people hate some books while they love others with such a fervor that they fight for them.
I often find myself browsing reviews of books I’ve read, and one day I found a negative review for a book almost everyone loved (myself included). And there were dozens, maybe hundreds of comments defending that book. I was stunned (and I felt a bit sorry for the poor reviewer who’d done nothing but write their opinion and got bashed for it). People were willing to defend a book – not because it was written by their relative, or agent sister, or friend. No, because they loved it so much. I think it’s wonderful that books are still capable of evoking such strong emotions in us – hate, love, despair, blind rage. Isn’t that what we want as writers?
Movies have pictures, soundtracks and big actors to get a strong reaction from their audience, we have only our words.