Reviews are a fact of a published writer’s life. Your publisher will emblazon the good ones from professional sources (Kirkus, Booklist, newspapers, etc.) across your book cover. The ones from readers on book buying sites, Goodreads, blogs, and similar places will influence readers to buy your books . . . or not. So, you want reviews, preferably lots of good ones.
But you don’t have to read them.
Reviews can be a two-edged sword. The good ones rocket you into the emotional stratosphere, and the negative ones can plummet you into a gallon of rocky road ice cream. They can make you doubt your writing ability and whether or not you have anything profound or entertaining to say. They can make you say things like, “I’m not cut out to be a writer,” or “I shouldn’t have given up my orthodontist practice to write,” or “If only I’d become a pro wrestler instead – the fans are kidding when they boo you in the ring.”
It all depends on your personality.
To read, or not to read
If you have a hide like a rhinoceros and can laugh it off when someone trashes your book in a public forum, then by all means read the reviews. Keep a collection of the particularly nasty ones to trot out at cocktail parties or include in a self-deprecating way in keynote addresses. However, if a 2-star review from an anonymous reader on Amazon depresses you, and a meh review (or worse) from Library Journal keeps you from writing for three days (or three minutes, for that matter), then do not read them.
You don’t have to. Yes, you want snippets from good reviews to put into your press releases and other promo materials, crawl across your website, and slather on your book jackets.
Appoint a publicist, friend, or writing critique group buddy to collect them.
Hire a virtual assistant to do it. That person will scour the internet for reviews on your books, and forward you only the good ones (or only positive phrases that you can use in marketing the book). This protects your fragile writer’s ego from reviews that might disrupt your writing process.
The best defense
If you do expose yourself to a review that sends you into a tailspin, keep in mind that reviewers are human, even the ones who do it for a living. A review is one person’s opinion of your book at a particular point in time. Maybe he had a fight with his girlfriend before writing the review, or maybe she had a migraine that day. Maybe he loves sci-fi but got assigned your romance to review for his publication. Maybe she read eight legal thrillers in a row and was tired of them by the time she got to the ninth – yours. You just don’t know, so shake it off.
Consider the following. These are two reviews, diametrically opposed, that my most recent book received from professional sources.
“This stand-alone novel by the author of the Bookclub Mystery and the Incubation series is well plotted, its mystery compelling, and its outcome unexpected.” (Booklist)
“The unexpected twist at the end doesn’t make up for hundreds of pages of predictable plot.” (Publishers Weekly)
One person’s opinion on one particular day. Not worth champagne or tears, is it?