I’m still a total newbie when it comes to dealing with reviews, so I may not have much useful to say this week. With The Whitefire Crossing not yet released (only two more weeks to go, woo hoo!), I’ve had a few early reviews, but so far they’ve all been highly positive. I’ve yet to cross that authorial Rubicon of reading a negative review, though I know the day is coming. No book survives its release into the wild unscathed – readers’ tastes vary too much for that.
Though I’m accustomed to hearing criticism of my work from the fellow writers in my critique group, I suspect harsh reviews will feel a touch different. If someone savages your chapter in critique, well, you can always fix that chapter and make it better. But Whitefire is out in the world now, mine no longer (as Douglas Hulick discussed in his excellent post over at A Dribble of Ink on dealing with reviews). If someone thinks my plot or characters are horribly flawed, I don’t have the option of trying to improve them.
I’d like to think that I’ll be able to maintain perfect equilibrium no matter how negative the review…but yeah, I know myself better than that. No doubt the first negative review will be an occasion of much moping and consumption of caramel ice cream. But thanks to my experience with rejection in the agent-hunting and submitting-to-editors days, I know how to make the moping a temporary condition. I’ll moan (privately!) to my best friends and husband, slouch about the house for a few hours muttering Nine Inch Nails lyrics, and then I’ll go buy myself a book I’m excited to read, or get the heck outside to climb a peak, and by the time I return home the world will be bright again.
I’m told some authors don’t read reviews at all, good or bad. I can kind of imagine that when you’re a jaded veteran. But wow, if there are debut authors who pull that off…holy cow, they must be Vulcans in disguise. Never in a million years would I have that kind of restraint. Personally, I’m dying to see what people think of The Whitefire Crossing.
However, I’ve vowed to hold to the maxim of “never, ever respond to a review” – to not be that guy, as Martha advised so wisely yesterday. I’ve seen authors ignore that advice, and it never ends well. I’ll duct tape my hands to my chair if I must, to keep them off the keyboard.
I actually think the hardest thing will be not responding to folks who are talking about the book online (if I should be so lucky as to have people talking about Whitefire on sf&f discussion forums). When you love your world and characters, you want to talk about them! But I’ve heard people say that when authors post (uninvited, that is), it almost always kills meaningful conversation. So, duct tape it is.
Speaking of online reviews, I’m curious: how much weight do they hold? I know in my own reading habits I’ve become more and more dependent on hearing about books online (as opposed to bookstore browsing). I’ve also had the experience of reading a negative review but thinking, “hmmm, the things the reviewer didn’t like sound pretty cool to me,” and buying a book anyway.
Alternately, I’ve had my enthusiasm for a prospective book purchase dampened by reading multiple negative reviews – though only if the reviews were intelligent and thoughtful in nature. Random “this sucks!” reviews have never impacted my decision to buy. And I’m far more likely to purchase a book based off an honest, in-depth review that discussed flaws as well as positives, as compared to a shallow, over-the-top glowing review. What about you, blog readers? Any thoughts on how strongly book reviews affect your book-buying decisions?