One of the questions I am often asked is “how do you feel about reviews?”
It’s a difficult question, and one that I’m sure makes many writers feel ever-so-slightly torn.
I’m sure there isn’t a writer alive who doesn’t bask in the warm glow coming from their laptop when they find a lovely comment from a reader. It’s impossible to not grin like an idiot when someone is enthusiastic about your writing, and it’s a huge boost. Of course, I love those reviews. Who doesn’t?
In the same way that music, paintings and TV programmes divide people, not everyone will like what you do. I would say to anyone who has just signed their first publishing deal, that is one of the first things you have to understand and really accept. I mean really accept. Why would everyone like your work? That would be weird.
‘Negative’ reviews are tough, but as you mature as a person and a writer, they don’t faze you so much. In fact, there’s a huge amount to learn from them. When my debut novel This is a Love Story was published, there was some fantastic buzz surrounding it and some lovely reviews. The not-so-favourable comments did often have one common thread. ‘It was a little bit too long’, people said. Consequentially, my second novel was a little shorter.
It’s actually a really good thing when you can turn the sting of a negative review into something that you not only take on board, but learn from and act upon. You can turn that negative into something good.
People who aren’t mad about your book have every right to communicate that, and I’ve no issue at all with constructively worded comments that don’t necessarily sing your praises from the rooftops.
The only kind of reviews I have a problem with (whether directed at me, or the kinds I see all over the comments pages of Amazon and other review websites) are the ranty, OTT aggressive sort. The kind of reviews that prompt amazing writers to simply shrug and say ‘I don’t read my reviews’. The ones that start off commenting on someone’s novel and then transcend into a scathing critique on the book industry as a whole. Wide, throw away comments of someone’s dissatisfaction of a whole genre beneath a single novel is a little unfair right?
Reviewers, it’s not right to get personal in negative reviews, or to go too crazy… After all, if you hated the book so much why did you finish it? Then, even more oddly, why did you waste a further 30 minutes of your time writing a review? Sometimes you read things, whether they are written about your book or a fellow author’s, and they are hysterical enough that you feel a sense of detachment from it. You remind yourself of the internet and all the nastiness that exists within it. Writers, one day you will stumble across something like this about your work and it will hurt like hell. You are better than that.
Moving on though… hearing from readers is a wonderful experience 90 per cent of the time. I love your tweets, emails and Facebook posts. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to receive a message from someone who can relate to my work, or someone who was touched by it, especially when that message has been sent from the other side of the world.
It reminds you why you do what you do. It is the buzz that keeps you tapping away, coming up with new ideas and working hard. So thank you to all the readers who put the time and effort into getting in touch with me, whether it’s via social media or review pages. It means an awful lot!