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!