Rife with easy conversationalIsm, Writer gal’s (author Aarti V Raman) guest post for SiMPLiSPEAKiNG gives us her take on dealing with reviews…
REVIEWS: The Powers That Be
New York City has a special bar called Sardie’s where all the playmakers of American Broadway Theatre gather after opening night of a new production and make it or break it. This includes reviewers, critics and the who’s who of American Plays. If they say it works, it does. If they don’t, then you can bet the bank the performance will close after its scheduled run, if not before.
It’s weird, and a little scary, that someone ELSE’s opinion matters more than the months of hard, sweaty, backbreaking work that a lot of people put in as a team in order to get a production on a stage as illustrious as Broadway.
Now, imagine Sardie’s as any laptop enabled with internet access and imagine a writer in place of a whole team of people who has put in all his/her blood, sweat and tears into writing a book, getting it published and then has to market it to the best his/her ability. And imagine how awful said writer feels when someone who has no knowledge or understanding of the English Language (or others) and the benefit of writing a review goes on and bludgeons this piece of an artist’s soul that is on public display for all to consume.
The writer has to use REVIEWS as a marketing tool to further the cause of Bestseller Status and that unforgiving god, Pushing Sales.
I know, I come off as a bit disillusioned, dare I say, even bitter and cynical but the truth is, a bad review hurts. Oh, it does so hurt.
Be it on Amazon, Goodreads, a traditional media publication, with stars and without stars, or simply when someone read your book decides to give you “feedback”. Any sentence that begins with “I liked your book so much but…” is cause enough to have our collective hearts break a little and our resolve weaken with the crazy notion: Am I a shitty writer?
All writers have sensitive egos and are eager to lap up praise. We are artists, narcissistic in our very core (some of us more than others) with that excess of creative soul and energy coupled with a rare clarity of vision that lets us pursue up an uphill mountain in search of writing that first draft, that epic poem or that short story to beat any other. That, in itself takes a kind of guts that not many people really possess. Then, comes the arduous process of submitting, waiting for publisher responses and finally, when that happens, seeing the finished product hit the stores.
And then, oh THEN, comes the trickiest part.
When our readers start reading and sharing their opinions.
Comments, criticisms, praise and compliments are all part of the review package. And, to be fair, yes, reviews matter. King Herodotus might have commissioned the Bible, but believe me, the guy who said, “Hey, this Book is good. Let’s all read it,” mattered more. In this case, it was King Herodotus himself, but I hope you get my point.
Reviews MATTER a lot. All good writers know this. All bad writers fear this. And every writer, no matter how famous and accomplished they are, quakes in his/her boots when he/she see the word Book Review: followed by the title of their baby.
Reviews Matter a LOT, let me reiterate. Because book marketing is first and foremost a word of mouth business, and the more words readers and reviewers have to say about one’s work, the better it is.
A third time, REVIEWS matter a lot. Positive or negative, as writers, we need to remember that it is just that: a review, a revisiting of information already out there in the world followed by an opinion (good or bad) about said piece of information. It does not mean your book is bad. It does not mean your work sucks. It does not mean you need to quit writing and die (ALL of which I personally feel EVERY time I see a negative review of my books). All it means is that the reader was looking for something in your book that he or she didn’t find and made it a point to share that particular opinion with the rest of the world.
Most reviewers are awesome. They opine decisively and give fair reason for why something works and does not and are very gracious about letting down a writer’s hopes. One cannot expect or hope for more than that.
If a reviewer is your friend (oh, Facebook, Twitter) then the boat goes into rocky waters. If both people can remember “difference of opinion” and how it leads to healthy discussion, I believe the reading and writing world would achieve greater harmony.
A writer need not take this personally. It’s a review. Be polite; thank them for their effort (they DID read your book in the first place) and then get on with life. Post about it on Social Media if you have to or let it go (Goodreads advises you to stay away from Super-Bashers) but mostly, I say, let it go. The book is written and so is the review.
One person’s butchering is another reader’s titillated curiosity. Not for nothing do they say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
And, if nothing else works: Go write the next kickass story swimming in your head (I do this too!)
If writers can keep these simple fundas in mind, then I do believe the world of writing will be a more welcome place for all of us who have been given, ouch, 1 and 2 star reviews.
Till next time
Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal