Well, welcome back to Q&A Sunday! A few questions landed in my inbox this week so I’m going to break them up over a couple weeks so I can really dive into them. Are you ready?

Lupita asked…

Do you read your reviews? If so, how do you deal with bad reviews? How do you deal with good reviews?

Sometimes I think reviews are the bane of my existence! Good ones always seem to carry less weight than bad ones, but reviews are so important for an author that we have to have them.

A little background… When a reader leaves a review on Amazon, or another retailer or site like Goodreads, it affects the ranking for that book. A good review will move the book up and it will become a little more visible to other potential readers. A bad review, obviously, does the opposite. Enough bad reviews and a book is essentially invisible.

In addition to that, if you want to offer a deal on a book, and want to list it on sites like BookBub, they will check out reviews. They want to know if reviews are overall good or bad. If you have 100 mediocre reviews and another book has 100 good reviews, the other book is going to get the listing.

Obviously authors want good reviews, but if you’ve ever read reviews, you know no one can please everyone!

So my reviews… For the most part, no, I don’t read them. I write my books the way I feel they need to be written, irritating characters and all. I know my characters aren’t perfect, but neither are any of us, and that’s what I’m always after – authenticity.

It’s hard to write, and read, a character that you want to shake and tell to do something different, but there’s a reason all the horror flicks show people running into the basement to hide from the killer. It’s instinct to hide. It’s instinct to be somewhere you think you can predict what’s going to happen. You might know the killer is coming, but you can see him coming instead of wondering if he’s going to catch up to you if you’re running through the woods. When you’re the third party looking in, it’s easy to see that it’s not a good decision, but when you’re that person, instinct and fear and, in the case of my books, other sometimes irrational emotions take over and control you. You do things that don’t always make sense. We all do it!

But readers don’t always like those decisions. So they leave reviews that say they didn’t like a character or something about the book.

Because of that, I frequently don’t read my reviews.

When I do, I do it in small doses. Maybe I’ll check in on one book and only read a couple reviews. I know myself enough to know that if the reviews are negative, it’ll bother me, so I usually only read reviews when I know they’re going to be positive.

But how do I deal with them?

The good ones make me feel really good. They make me smile and keep me going. Knowing readers like my stories keeps me writing more of them. Reading a good review from someone I don’t know always makes me so happy.

The bad reviews are tougher to deal with. I’m the kind of person who only likes to put positive things into the world. I definitely grew up with my mother saying if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. A lot of people never got that lesson! But that’s for them to live with. Bullying is accepted when it’s done in the form of a book review, which is sad. I can’t imagine saying some of the things I’ve read on reviews (mostly others since I rarely read mine). I accept and understand that not everyone will have good things to say, but a constructive bad review is much better than an emotional one that tears the author apart. I don’t see any reason for those.

I’ve judged a lot of contests. In a way, it’s reviewing the work of someone else. I also have a critique partner that I work with and friends who’ve asked me to review their work. In all those situations, my criticism is strictly about the work. In many judging situations, I’ve read stories in genres I don’t frequently read, but I removed my personal opinion from it and evaluated the story based on the story. I know reviews are opinions, but I would love to see people being kinder. You don’t have to only leave good reviews, but make sure your reviews are about the actual story and not the author, or you the reader.

I’m sure this answer will make some people angry. You’re absolutely entitled to leave scathing reviews. If you feel that strongly about something, I’m not going to stop you. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, that’s all I ask.

Come back next week for another question from Lupita about reviews!

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!


3 comments on “Q&A Sunday: Reviews, part one”

  1. I think reviews should be constructive. I think reviews should let the author know what you specifically didn’t like about the book with the aim that they will take it into consideration the next time they write. By the same token, I love writing 5 star reviews for an author so that they know for me, I love their work and want to encourage them to keep writing. I don’t think for the most part that people are out to be purposefully mean. I know they are out there but I hope that when you identify that review that is purely emotional or mean, you recognize that you can and should ignore it because it does not offer something that makes you a better writer. I love the way you really think your books and reviews over critically and it is something you want to be pleased with first and hopefully the reader last. Hang in there!

    • You’re so right, Jeannie. Reviews should be constructive. The reviews of mine that I’ve read, even the negative ones, aren’t that bad. Of course, I try to ignore them for the most part! I take things so personally, and I know I do, so I can’t read them. Even good ones, I’ll find one small thing that a reader said and hold on to it at times! It’s a sickness for me!
      Keep reading and keep reviewing. I think that’s the most important thing. Reviews are huge. Both good and bad!

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