Lately, I’ve been hearing and reading authors, both indie and traditional, advising against writers reading reviews of their own work. I assume this advice is given to avoid the reviews that are just blatantly blasting your books, but I’m not sure why we should blindly ignore all reviews. As a writer whose advice should you listen to? A handful of beta readers? A reviewer who writes reviews for a living? A professional editor?
All of those are great sources but readers who are willing to tell the world in great detail what they love and hate about every book they read is a resource that shouldn’t be ignored. It is gold in my opinion. If you’ve got thirty-five out of fifty reviewers saying they couldn’t connect with your protagonist, I think you should be taking a hard look at why. Then use that information to make your next book or novella or short story better.
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was too little to write. Before I started writing stories, I made up songs and wanted to be a songwriter. I was planning to marry the adorable little boy next door and write the songs he’d sing. Neither of those plans worked out, and probably for the best, but I didn’t stop creating with words. I attended a creative writing summer camp and every writing class I could, and every instructor I had told me I was wonderful. That’s the rule, right? Teachers tell kids they are wonderful writers so that the kids keep writing. Then we all go to college. The creative writing course in college was brutal. My classmates all attacked each other mercilessly – at least that’s how I remember it- and I figured out that I could toughen up and work harder or I could quit. Over the years, I’ve had praise and criticism in equal measure and I’ve learned to tell good critiques from bad. After writing so long, when someone points out an area of weakness it’s not painful, it’s like they’ve shone a light on something that was dark. As writers we get so caught up in what we’re creating that we sometimes miss the obvious. Good critiques are priceless and difficult to find, until sites like Goodreads were created. Now, you can get critiques from as many people as you can convince to read and review your book. People who love to read the genre you write and look upon reading your work as a pleasure and not a chore. Why would anyone ignore the gift of a well-written and considered review?
I haven’t received a lot of reviews, yet, so maybe I shouldn’t write on this topic, but I have read a lot of reviews and have found them to be extremely useful to me as a reader. I hope to get more reviews in the future and, when I do, I plan to look at all of the reviews and focus on the flaws the majority of reviewers are pointing out. Criticism should not be feared but embraced.