This came up earlier in the week and prompted a conversation of sorts on my Facebook page, and I thought it also might serve to get something going over here.
Long story short: I received an e-Mail from a reader of one of my books, who had taken the time to write so that they could tell me how very much they were disliking said book. The note was very formal and polite, and offered a few backhanded compliments before diving into the meat of the matter, which is that the reader just wasn’t enjoying the book. They hadn’t yet abandoned the effort of reading the rest of the story, but it was proving to be a chore for them. The reader then closed out the note by apologizing for its bluntness and thanked me for my time.
Now, I’ve read my share of reviews—good, bad, or indifferent—on Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s websites or on message boards or Goodreads or whatever. Still, receiving an e-Mail like this is a bit different. It’s a more personal form of communication, with the individual on the other end of the correspondence attempting a direct dialogue, in this case to tell me how much they didn’t like something I did. I’ve never really understood what motivates people to do that sort of thing. Are they hoping to elicit some kind of defensive reaction? Could be, but I’ve already babbled before how a writer looking to engage a reader in response to a negative review, generally speaking, is a monumentally bad idea.
Normally, such reviews don’t bother me. As a writer, you learn (or, if you haven’t you should) that not everything you write is going to rub everyone the same way. Indeed, my e-Mailer even told me that they had enjoyed other books of mine, but this one just wasn’t doing it for them. Such is the way it goes, sometimes.
Bad reviews come with the territory, and at least this one had the virtue of being thoughtful and courteous. While I might experience a momentary sting, I usually don’t dwell on such things. In truth, I tend not to get too excited one way or another with reviews, be they good or bad. What fascinates me about reviews in general, and negative reviews in particular, is how one person can find little to like in a book I’ve written, and another person will tell me it was a rollicking read. Review on sites like Amazon and Goodreads can be all over the map. Much to my amusement, I’ve been called a bleeding heart liberal and a rightwing warmonger from different people reading the same book. Who’s right?
The answer, of course, is that they all are, in their own way. So be it.
Though I spent a few moments longer than normal pondering the e-Mail review I’d received, I finally snapped back and reacquainted myself with my standing self-imposed policy of not letting reviews distract me. I certainly can’t let the bad ones get me down, just as I can’t let the good ones go to my head. All a writer can do is shrug off such things, and get back to work.
What about you? Do you fret over reviews, totally ignore them, or do you fall somewhere in between?