Not a week goes by that there isn’t some author-lashing-out-against-negative-review or alternately reviewers-lashing-out-against-bad-author scandal going on in this exciting world of digital publishing. It seems like a good time to blatantly copy other author blogs to make a stand myself.
Recently, I ventured into the virtual “wild west” that is Goodreads and stayed longer than I normally would. You see, Goodreads, is a reader site. One where a lot of passionate people come together and write exactly how they felt about a certain book or story. It is known to be a potentially scary place for authors who are easily discouraged. It is the home of the “star rating only” review, where anyone can give a book as many (or few) stars they like, without necessarily stating why they feel that way or perhaps even without reading the book, as demonstrated by many books which attract stars before even hitting the shelves.
My usual approach to Goodreads is similar to what a lot of other authors do: Go in, hold your breath, add any new releases or make (only vital) amendments to existing books. And whatever you do, never scroll down to read the reviews. If at all possible, don’t even look at the average rating.
But as I said, recently, I ignored my usual M.O. in favour of actually looking around with my eyes wide open. I read every single review I hadn’t seen so far, looking for not just the occasional pat on the back which would keep me going, but also constructive criticism to help me improve. My ratings aren’t brilliant on Goodreads, but they’re probably quite normal, not terrible. Informal advice for authors states that Goodreads and Amazon averages will normally differ by one star, and that’s about what I saw.
While reading, and taking note of some of the issues reviewers found with my work, I tried to work out which were worth keeping in mind, and which were just down to a difference in taste. After all, you can’t write something that’ll appeal to everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. I also was reminded of the “like” feature which allows you to give a bit of appreciation for reviews and other content, similar to the “like” button you find on Facebook. Then I felt tempted to “like” all my reviews, even the bad ones. I may not agree with everyone’s opinion, but I appreciate they took the time to share.
To the right reader, a negative review complaining about a certain aspect of the story can be a positive. Perhaps the thing one reviewer didn’t like is something another is looking for. In any case, I appreciate someone out there taking the time to read my work and commenting on it. That’s a lot more than I could’ve hoped for a couple of years ago.
I felt worried though. If I “like” a negative review, could this be seen as trying to be sarcastic? Would it seem invasive to think that a nameless, faceless writer who sells their work on Amazon actually pays attention to Goodreads? I’ve heard of people getting into trouble for thanking a reviewer for a positive review, as though simply entering Goodreads is akin to reading someone’s private correspondence over their shoulder, or eavesdropping on a personal conversation among friends. I suppose I can see where people are coming from, yet at the same time, this is unrealistic. When you post your views on a public forum – a website anyone can sign up for and read through – that’s not private. It’s exactly the same as sharing incriminating photographs of yourself on Facebook and then being surprised when the cops knock on your door. The internet is not private.
But I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes either.
So I’m explaining myself here instead, on my home turf. I do appreciate all the reviews I’ve gotten. Even the negative ones, because they give me something to learn from. Thanks, everyone! And please keep ’em coming because nothing is lonelier than an Amazon listing with zero stars.