Reviews: They Aren’t For You

Reviews.

I love them and I hate them. I read them. I search for them. I scream at them. I get why we need them. I don’t buy anything or stay anywhere without looking at reviews, so I shouldn’t expect anything less when it comes to my book.

I know I shouldn’t look. That’s the first advice you get when you start writing — don’t look at the reviews. More importantly, don’t look at the bad reviews. But when your book first pops up on Goodreads, and that first person marks it as “currently reading,” it becomes an obsession. You can’t stop, no matter how hard you try.

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I checked that first person’s Goodreads page repeatedly until they posted their review… and it was positive. Whew. It wasn’t so bad. I could handle it. Then more and more people posted reviews — and they were pretty good. And then it happened. The first negative review.

Now, Goodreads does something amusing when you get a bad review. They display a huge message that essentially says “Chill and don’t do anything stupid.”

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And they are right. It’s tempting to engage, to explain why the reviewers assessment is wrong. The important thing to remember is that all those reviews aren’t for you, the writer. They are for other readers. That’s it. Not. For. You.

So what do you do when you’re confronted with a review that stomps on your book (and maybe even you) like a scurrying insect? You ignore it.

But what if you can’t?

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Then you turn to those you trust. When I got my first bad review, I mentioned it to my editor. She sent me a directly worded, get-your-head-on-straight email that I printed out and still have posted above my desk. In it, she rightly emphasized that not everyone will like my book, but its the one’s who read it and are touched by it that matter. And (this is the important part), the vast number of readers do not leave reviews anywhere. Think about all the people you know (who aren’t other writers). How many are avid readers? How many of them leave Goodreads reviews? In my circle of friends, I’d say about 25%. So there are a lot of people who I will never meet who will read my book and enjoy it. Many more than the handful that will leave bad reviews.

So, dear reader, read those reviews if you must (and you will), but remember — keep your reactions private and your focus on the readers that love your words. They are the ones that will come back for book 2.

Pre-Order Promotion!

If you pre-order my book, send me proof and I’ll mail you a signed bookplate and a bookmark! Details here.

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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at amyereichert.com.

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This article has 1 Comment

  1. Ernest Hemingway got a bad review once — one that said his machismo and his hairy chest were fake.

    The reviewer probably meant the part about his chest hair as a metaphor, but Hemingway took it literally. He confronted the writer, in public, ripped open his shirt to show that his chest hair was legit, and then knocked the guy down.

    The lesson I take from this is that you really have to let the bad reviews go. 🙂

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