Reviews. You need them, and yet … they can be painful. I’ve seen authors discuss (on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter) whether or not they read reviews of their books. I’ve come to the point where I don’t read all of them anymore.
However, thanks to social media, there are other ways to “eavesdrop” on your readers which are extremely tempting and addictive.
The first time I discovered a link on Goodreads that showed me all the status updates related to my book, it was very exciting. That weekend, I secretly stalked a reader through my book and just glowed with pride as she reacted exactly the way I wanted her to. She was puzzled at the right spots. Touched at the right moments. Surprised and shocked just where I wanted her to be. Following her progress was like crack for authors!
The next time … well, I was sorry I looked. The next reader’s updates were snarky and unkind – every single one of them. This quickly cured me of clicking on that “status update” link!
Unfortunately, that particular reader linked all her status updates to Twitter, so I got to see them there, too. Which brings me to the next way you can eavesdrop on your readers: setting up a Twitter search for your book title. Some people will mention you in their tweets – which means they want the author to see what they’re saying. Those are fine. But if you search for your book title on Twitter, inevitably it becomes like that scene in countless movies where the protagonist is in a public bathroom stall and some girls come in talking about her, never knowing she is there.
The habit of looking on the Twitter feed is harder to break (at least for me) than checking Goodreads status updates. If I hadn’t set up the search, I would have missed the blogger who described my book as “mysterious and beautiful.” Or this incredible review on the Kirkus Blog.
But I also come across things like this:
Tweeter1:@Tweeter2 How are things going?
Tweeter2: @Tweeter1 Slow.
Tweeter1: @Tweeter2 Ha, slow. So is The Caged Graves.
For almost a week, anytime Tweeter1 engaged in a Twitversation, she took the opportunity to bash my book. Later, she wrote a review on Goodreads that listed all the things she disliked about it – and gave it 4 stars!
Which brings me full circle – back to whether or not it’s good to read reviews. I have several 4-star reviews that nitpick the book to death and a couple of 2-star reviews that are very complimentary. Really, it makes no sense.
What I conclude is this: Better your book be read, reviewed, and talked about widely than for only positive things to be said about it. As for eavesdropping on the conversations … be brave, be selective, and consider that maybe you should stop snooping and get back to writing the next book!
OMGosh.. I had no idea I could even “snoop” on a reviewer, but hopefully, when my book *is* published, I’ll be able to hold off, now that I know the “dark side.”
I was planning to avoid reading my reviews on GRs, but I had no idea you could eavesdrop on Twitter. I thought you could only do that if you ‘follow’ that individual and happened to see their tweets at the right (or in this case, wrong) time.
Hmmm…there is so much here to think about, both as a writer and reviewer. I am (and will always be) a firm believer in honesty; however, one can be truthful without being rude, cruel, or shady. Another firm belief of mine is that, despite a reader’s opinions about an author’s technical and story-telling skills, the reader should show some respect to the writer for simply writing a book. That is a feat. (Psst…now I’m clearer on your email the other day. *Sighs* You are talented. I say focus on the positive.)
I think you’ve got the right idea, there, Dianne. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but not all of them are going to be tactful or considerate about it (particularly when they are faceless, online presences; it’s amazing how brave people get when they’re anonymous!). Good or bad, your book has these people thinking and talking. And even a bad review may convince someone to pick up your book to form their own opinions. I know I’ve read reviews BASHING certain books, and I’ve made a point to read those books myself to see whether I share the same opinion. Most often, I do not!
I don’t get the ripping apart a book and giving it four stars…
I am VERY cautious with my reviews. I THINK before I write them. When I give four stars the books is close to genius.
Genius is hard to come by ….
Yes, we are have our standards, but there should be more consistency. Reviewers NEED to be more educated before they start shredding a book and then giving a high star rating.
I cheer for the two star reviewer who was kind enough to pull out what she liked about the story instead of bashing it.
CONSTRUCTIVE criticism can be very helpful to an author. Sometimes a subtle tweak in the right direction will give us an edge for our next story.
As for the “SLOW” remark. I am REALLY tired of books that LEAP into a story because that’s what publishers want.
What every happened to building the suspense with beautiful prose… like in CLASSIC literature?
Man! No publicity is ever wasted, eh? What a mature view you have on the review process. Who knows what motivates people to say what they say.
I guess everyone has their own review system, eh? I’m not sure how much I’ll eavesdrop once I’m published. I’m sure once it’s first out, I’ll read almost everything but then probably die out somewhat once I start reading more negative ones (because those are bound to happen too, sigh.)
REading reviews terrifies me! I don’t know what I’ll do once I finally have my books out and about! 🙂
I’m with Jemi; I’ll be afraid to look.
This is exactly why I don’t care for Goodreads. If I were you, I’d pay more attention to that Kirkus review, knowing that Kirkus is notoriously picky and still praised your book. Well-deserved, by the way. I just finished reading it and was captivated by Verity, the romance, and the mystery. Well done!
I miss the days when reviewers were all professionals.
Ouch, that sounds like a painful experience. I wonder what’s with the disparity between reviews and ratings, if it’s something like how much they enjoyed it or just really weird standards. Oh well. It seems like you took the right lesson from it.
I can see how it could become addictive to read reviews and “stalk” readers. I’ve only gotten three measly reviews on amazon, and I got over-the-moon excited when each of them showed up. But I know a stinker review is inevitable. I dread it, but know it’s gonna happen sometime. Maybe it’d be best to ignore reviews altogether, but how in the world can anyone DO that? Okay, you’re right. I’ll try. I’ll try.
I hate reading my reviews, but I do it anyway. I’m a glutton for punishment.
And I know what you mean about a reviewer who tears the book apart and then gives it 4-5 stars. And the opposite — someone who loves it and gives it 2.
Dianne, Again, you offer great insight for the rest of us, and I love your conclusion. Very grounded. I guess you have to be ready to accept that you can’t please all the people all the time…And perhaps it’s best to read some reviews, but give them the proper percentage of your concern. Thanks!
I read both reviews. Most of the time, the reason someone disliked a book is for reasons I care little about. As you said, I think having people talk about the book is better than only having people say positive things about the book.
Very risky to stalk the reviewers. Maybe better to keep writing. 🙂
First, I think you are brave to “eavesdrop” on what others are saying. Even when that reader was saying negative things about your book, she was still continuing to read it, which says to me that your book was holding her interest and therefore, she might not have represented her reading experience fairly on Twitter.
Just remember that at the end of the day, one person’s opinion is just one person’s opinion. What’s important is that you wrote a book that you love and it’s something you’re proud of, and we can’t please everyone.