There’s been a tweet I’ve seen going around the last few weeks telling readers that the best way to thank an author they like is to leave a review for one of their books. Makes a lot of sense, since usually people only tend to review things when they have a negative reaction to it. Happy people are quiet. Angry people will speak up.
With the constant lessening of paid publicity available to authors (mid-list in particular), so much of our sales depends on word-of-mouth, so I do agree with this sentiment. (Although, I have found that book lovers as a whole tend to be way more vocal about what they like/don’t like, which is a fabulous thing.)
Since the galleys have gone out for A Sliver of Shadow, I’ll admit I’m feeling a bit more nervous about its reception. It’s a different this time around. For A Brush of Darkness, I didn’t know what to expect. On one level I was just grateful that anyone would even pick it up, let alone leave a review for it. This time, I’ve got actual readers I don’t wan to disappoint, and readers who maybe weren’t as impressed as I would have liked them to be.
Many authors I know don’t even read any of their reviews at this point. It’s hard – because everyone likes to think that their efforts will be appreciated, but it’s a fine line to walk. Reading too many negative reviews can really bring an author down. Before long you start doubting you even have the right to touch a keyboard, let alone actually write something anyone would *want* to read. Not good for a long term writing career.
On the other hand, too many good reviews isn’t always an advantageous thing either. Always nice for an ego stroke – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but writing is an organic process. It’s always about growing and getting better. Start believing your own press and there isn’t really anywhere else to go but down. (And incidentally, I see people who get like this in pretty much all levels and types of media. It’s hard not to sometimes – the first few times someone gushes over you or your work, you just feel on top of the world and it’s lovely. But you can’t take it too seriously.)
Sometimes it’s not about whether a review is positive or negative, but the quality of it that makes the difference. I would far rather have a review that points out the reasons why it failed/succeeded for that particular reader in a well-thought out manner then one that is merely squees or full of spite.
(And sometimes you have to take who the reviewer is into question with this. Some reviewers are never satisfied with anything. Which is fine – everyone has a right to an opinion and to share it, but I’ve seen reviews that clearly had a bone to pick – it might be personal or just about a particular topic, but then you have to wonder if they really hate something that much, why continue to read books about that subject or by that author? Also, I’m really wary about people who claim how much they love to “snark” about books. True wit will show in the writing and the perception of the words…not because you’re crowing about how snarky you are. That tends to translate into a license to be mean.)
I’ve had my share of both – happy, fangirly reviews, and reviews where the reader clearly thought my writing was worth less than a piece of dogshit on their shoe.
But the best reviews are the ones that are honest.