Thursday, April 29, 2010

To Read or Not to Read (Book Reviews), THAT is the Question

Really interesting #yalitchat last night about critiques, editors and book reviews. We've heard a number of authors say that they refuse to read any reviews of their book. It's just too much of a roller coaster for them to read 'em. Some people love it, some people hate it. After all, the only thing that really matters is how many people are buying your book. Good, bad or indifferent, money talks.

Oh, but how do you not read what people are saying about your work? I mean, I can't imagine not sifting through every single inane comment about LIAR SOCIETY. Painful or not, I would just want to know. (For the record, somehow we've already got 4.3 stars on Goodreads from three readers. Unfortunately, none of them have actually read the book. So guess that shows you how much stock you can put in some reviews...)

Of course if you're an amazing author like Dianne Salerni (WE HEAR THE DEAD is out now! Do you have your copy?) with a kickass review from Kirkus, I guess maybe this really isn't a debate.

Or if you've written an incredible book like PICTURE THE DEAD (yeah, we're looking at you Lisa Brown and Adele Griffin) that's racking up glowing reviews all over the interwebs, it's probably super fun to see what the critics and readers are saying about you and your writing.

What about you guys? Would you have the willpower to avoid reviews completely or are you crazy OCD masochists like us? Tell us what you really think in the comments.

50 comments:

Amie McCracken said...

I'm a crazy OCD masochist. Feed me the good the bad and the ugly, as long as it's a reaction to my stuff!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Yeah, me too. I'm a very... GOTTA KNOW person. :)

salarsenッ said...

I think you need to take a cautious approach either way. Even the most famous, well-known writers have had *bad or awkward* reviews. Writing is so subjective. We need to remember that.

Susan said...

For my sanity, I should probably not ever read review, but I'm sure I won't be able to help myself! If I get published, that is what my husband is dreading: the OMG she said WHAT about my book???? aspect of the whole thing.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

My first review on Goodreads was negative (not mean, but picky). I can live with it, but it was the very first one, and it appeared the night before the launch party in NYC -- right before I was about to meet my editors for the first time. Disheartening! I half expected everyone to look at me and say, "Oh, here comes Miss 2-Stars!"

Of course, that was not the case!


I'll probably read every single review and either learn to toughen up or spend a lot of time upset. One piece of advice: read a bad review only once. Don't look at it again, memorize it, start dreaming about it, etc....

Bish Denham said...

I would be like Lot's wife. I'd just have to peek and hope I don't turn into salt.

Alissa said...

I know not everyone is going to like my book. So, I'm expecting I'll get some bad reviews, and I don't know if I'll have the power to avoid reading them.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I'm pretty sure I'd read every last review. Although, my heart would absolutely break if the majority of the reviews were negative. That said, one of my favorite authors, Alice Sebold, got terrible reviews on Amazon for her second novel, The Almost Moon, which I loved. I think I'd have to keep her in mind as I approached each review.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I would read them, but I know the bad reviews would really hurt. I'd hope after I got some distance from the bad ones that I could take them in stride and maybe learn from them. I think it's important to remember that reviews are subjective and based on our own individual likes and dislikes.

Jen said...

I would be all over them like white on rice, dying to know what was said, regardless of how hurt I might be.

Candyland said...

I'm a glutton for punishment so I'd probably read every single one, cry all day at the bad ones and eat ice cream. Because I need another reason to eat ice cream.

Cheree said...

I would just have to read every one. I would go crazy if I know there's one out there that I haven't seen.

PJ Hoover said...

Bad reviews are a sign someone besides your mother and cousin are reading your book. That said, they do bring down the day. I avoid the bad.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I'm not sure how I'll handle this. Maybe I'll read the pre-approved, filtered variety. ;)

Lisa said...

I've got masochistic tendencies and plan on reading all of my reviews, good and bad. I've got a "need to know card" in my wallet, lol!!

Kim Harrington said...

I think I'm going to read them all basically because I won't be able to stop myself from doing it. But, I wish I could not look because I don't think it will be mentally healthy for me. lol.

Kristi Helvig said...

I'll read them all but actually won't waste energy on them - even the positive ones, which might sound strange. I'll already know if I'm proud of the book that's out there, and since I write YA, it's much more important to me what the teens who read it think.

Positive reviews would be icing on the cake, but I didn't write my book for reviewers - not even Kirkus ones. :)

Donna Gambale said...

I'm an OCD masochist at heart. I don't think I could resist obsessing.

Matthew Rush said...

If I ever got published I would do my very best not to read a single review - good or bad - and I would fail miserably.

Christina Lee said...

OH yeah, I'd totally torture myself and read them all!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Oh I'd want to know, but I'd get someone else to read them to soften the blow on any bad ones:)

Dara said...

Crazy OCD masochist here :P I don't think I could avoid reading the reviews.

Of course I probably wouldn't read every single Amazon review--half the time they don't make much sense anyway :P

Carolyn V. said...

Somebody already gave you stars even before they read the book? Wow. =)

I don't know if I couldn't keep away from the reviews, but it would be hard to read them if the reviews were terrible.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Total masochist OCD---omg!!!!!!! It will be endless!!!

jessjordan said...

Oh I'd absolutely have to read them. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I'd drive myself crazy with it. My hubby would have to take my computer away for awhile or I'd have to keep myself really busy or something.

I'm like that cat who's too curious for her own good. Too bad I don't have 9 lives. :)

Amy Jo Lavin said...

Although I'm not in a position to have reviews written about my books (yet!), my curiosity would get the best of me. I couldn't avoid them, even if they were terrible. I'd go crazy either way, so I might as well read them, right? :)

Christine Fonseca said...

I would love to say I would NOT read the reviews...but yeah, I know better! I would totally read them!

Tere Kirkland said...

I crave praise, yeah, but even more, I like to know where I'm going wrong, so I'd have to read them all.

Marsha Sigman said...

Please. I would read EVERYTHING. All of it. I would obsess over every little word.

But I would probably ease off after I had a few published. I think your first book would be like your first baby. You stress over every detail, then by the 3rd or 4th, you're more confident and don't freak out as much.

Falen said...

i think i would try and avoid them. I can get down on myself pretty easily and a negative review would hurt a lot.
Though, i don't know how successful i'd be avoiding them...

JEM said...

Ohhh, that's a tough one. One the one hand, it's always good to know what you can improve on. On the other, if the comment is stupid and really not applicable I still can't get it out of my brain, and it might affect my writing in a bad way. It's like having the ability to read other people's minds. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's awful.

Although reading that last sentence it seems that I am saying i have said ability. Interesting.

Rhonda said...

I would want to avoid reading the reviews because of the potential damage to my sensitive writer's feelings.

However, I figure my will power would last all of 2.3 seconds because I would just *have* to know what people were saying. Then I would obsess about what they were saying, dismissing the good and fussing over the bad until I was convinced I had no talent at all.

Then I would ground myself from reading reviews - lather, rinse and repeat until I get over myself or until my head explodes...whichever comes first.

Krispy said...

I'm in your OCD masochist boat. I don't have the willpower to go about blissfully unaware of what people are saying about my hypothetical book. I'd have to know, and if I tried to resist, I'd probably just obsess over it more. Vicious cycle, I tell you.

Kim said...

If this ever becomes a reality for me, I should NOT read them. I know bad reviews would crush me. But, it would be like a scab that I'd have to pick. I know it will bleed, but I just wouldn't be able to stop myself. It's too tempting.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I would not be able to control myself from reading them. I'd need a therapist on call, however, just in case.

Elana Johnson said...

We just talked about this in my live critique group. I think I'd have to stop reading them. Especially if they were bad... I don't think I could handle it. So there you go. Now you know I'm a huge wimp. *cries a little*

Sara B. Larson said...

Oh man, I'm so curious I probably will be an OCD masochist with you ladies. Though it would probably be better for me if I could refrain if they are negative... Let's just hope we all get tons of glowing reviews! ;)

Laura Marcella said...

I wouldn't read bad reviews. I probably wouldn't even read good reviews (often). I'd be afraid I wouldn't live up to the praise with my following novel. But I'm not even close to the point of having my writing published and reviewed, so this is all conjecture!

Lynn said...

OCD Masochist for sure. But I would then call my friends for encouragement if the negative starts to over power the positive.

Kelly H-Y said...

I'd have to know!

Mariah Irvin said...

I would read them all, good or bad. Probably while consuming massive amounts of chocolate.

Lydia Kang said...

I think I'd read one bad review, then just stop reading the rest assuming they all said the same thing. I can't handle it!

marissaburt said...

I'm with you. I don't think I'd have the discipline to not read the reviews. Good or bad, I'd want to know.

And, hopefully, be able to laugh about it.

Wendy Sparrow said...

I don't know. I doubt I'd have the stomach after a while to continue to read bad reviews. I'd take it too personally. Some of those reviews on goodreads and amazon make me feel like I'm in Junior High again where everyone is just looking to tear a person down.

Jemi Fraser said...

If I ever get that far I will read everything - but I will read them all privately behind a locked door so I can cry if I need to. :)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I lurked last night :)

I love that your girls are already at such a high rating. I'd probably have my mom screen the reviews and only let me read the good ones. Nah, who am I kidding? I'd read the bad ones too. But I'd have a bottle of wine nearby. ;)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Hmmm. How about you asked me this question if I'm ever published. I'll probably feel differently than I do now. :)

A friend of mine read one of the reviews of her book on Goodreads. The individual put the book down, and told exactly what page the book lost it's appeal. My friend checked out the reviewer's comments about other books. The individual said exactly the same thing, including the page number, on the other ones as well. ;)

Great post!

Heidi Willis said...

I think the real reviews started with the query process. After one agent who requested my full wrote back, "The main character just seemed kind of dim," I thought "OUCH!" If I can take that, I can take anything. After all, I knew who she was and valued her opinion, unlike random reviewers online.

Now I read every review. I do tend to over-analyze. If it's not glowing, I think, "what's wrong? what didn't they like?"

Still - it was a really strong voice, and I get that it won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I'm okay with that.

Ask again, though, when I've gotten my first scathing and personal attack.

ASBLACKASOBAMA said...

If I had the talent to write a book, I would stalk the review sites and just keep pushing refresh all day....

Sarah said...

I think I'd start off reading every single one and then, in an effort to maintain whatever's left of my sanity, I'd probably stop reading. Especially if they were bad...but maybe good, too.

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