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  • Writer's pictureallieyohn

Reviews aren't for you

Another week, another author behaving badly toward a reviewer.


You'd think, as a whole, prior incidents would act as a cautionary tale. Some of the biggest stories with regard to the author viewer relationship that have come out in the last few years include:

  • An author who disliked a review and showed up at the doorstep of the reviewer before finally realizing how crazy her actions were. Just kidding, she then wrote about the experience AND got the chance to write a book about it.

  • An author (who made a name for themselves with a well-regarded article about their experiences working a blue-collar job and dealing with poverty) nuking their debut novel by complaining about a four-star review. When people called them out about the complaint, they doubled down rather than deleting their tweet and apologizing.

  • Multiple authors who've retweeted bad reviews and encouraged pile-ons of the reviewers.

  • A family member of an author responding to a less-than-stellar review of their spouses work negatively, only removing their response when the reviewer rightly called out the author for those comments.

  • And now a self-pubbed author making a TikTok video complaining about a review... who is confused why people are upset about her TikTok video.

The list goes on and on and on and on. And for what?


Every author, no matter how big or small, is going to receive a bad review.


Or two.


Or hundreds.


There are no two people on the planet with the exact same tastes in books, just as there are no two writers who will organically write the same book from the same prompt.


Part of the issue is an idea that stems from this quote. "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed," often attributed to Ernest Hemingway (though there is some debate about that). If you think of writing in this manner, reviews feel damn personal. It is as though they are reviewing a portion of who you are and finding it lacking.


Let's get it out of the way. Not all reviews are fair. They're not- there are always some people who want to burn a book because they don't personally like it or its politics.


Many authors with LGBTQ+ characters have found their books bombarded with 1 star reviews on sites like Amazon before the book is even out with review copies. It happens to POC authors a lot too. Unfortunately, there seem to be few controls in place to stop review bombing, only the inevitable fight with the sites to get these fake reviews removed.


But aside from review bombing, it's helpful to remember that a bad review isn't the end of the world.


There was a time when I let a bad review keep me from writing for years. It was a painful chapter in my life- not writing feels like not breathing. For those years it felt as though I was suffocating every day.


It's helpful to remember that reviewers are an invaluable resource. Think of the rise of BookTok- organic reviews made books like Jeneva Rose's "The Perfect Marriage" skyrocket up the charts. Without those reviews, this book that was published by a UK imprint mainly in e-book format, would likely not have ended up on bookstore bookshelves at all. Now it's being adapted into a movie.


Review copies of books lead to star review ratings before a book officially launches. They help readers to find books they love and warn them of books they may not like (which keeps the readers from also leaving bad reviews simply because the book wasn't what they expected, a sad phenomenon found everywhere from Romance to Horror).


Think of two debut novels sitting on a bookstore shelf. One has a dozen reviews on websites talking about it; the other has none.


If you're a member of the general public and you're looking for a debut novel to buy and you see two novels with similarly interesting premises, which one are you going to buy?


Even if there are a few negative reviews, you're likely going to buy the book with reviews because you have an idea of what to expect.


Authors can build relationships with reviewers too. Many reviewers have pivoted to TikTok videos, as well as the more traditional methods of podcasts or blogs to discuss books. And some of those bloggers are open to author interviews or spotlights on their platforms for authors who behave professionally. Those interviews can only help you as an author, even if the reviewer themselves didn't like the book someone in their audience might.


As with so many things in the writing world, it's worth it to behave professionally. Writing is your job (albeit an often unpaid one. Like an internship really), and you need to treat it as such. And that includes treating everyone you meet with the respect they deserve. Even if they don't happen to like the work you've put out in the world. Maybe especially if they don't like it.


Who knows, your behavior could mean they pick up your next work and find they do like your writing after all.


A writer can dream, anyway.

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