My Thoughts on Reviews (#writing #publishing advice)

As I head into the pre-release period for Pocket Full of Tinder, I figured it would be a great time to share my thoughts on reviews, readers, and writers.

  1. A reviewer’s opinion is never wrong. Ever. Their interpretation of your story is what it is. You can’t change it. Nor should you try to. The wonderful thing about writing and publishing (as opposed to keeping your work locked in a drawer) is that it becomes a dialog of sorts between you and the reader. A reader’s own backstory and experiences become a part of the reading experience. That explains, in part, why fairy tale retellings are so popular. The amount of story information that is immediately conveyed when a character has a red hood or a magic mirror or a glass slipper is incredible. Include two words in your character description and suddenly a reader is drawing upon generations-worth of mythological information. (That’s, obviously, a very simple explanation of how the unwritten dialog between an author and a reader works.) The bottom line is: A writer can’t control that final missing piece of their story – the reader’s interpretation of it. Which is all to the better. If we could, it would be like writing a story for ourselves. Boring! The risk and uncertainty involved with crafting something that requires a last sine qua non from someone else is what makes the writing process challenging and worthwhile.
  2. In the unlikely event that a reviewer states something factually incorrect about your book, I’m still not sure I’d argue with them. Writers, you’ll have to judge this for yourselves based on the situation, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Quibbling over minor book details seems petty as best, and insecure and antagonistic at worst.
  3. What happens if a reader or a reviewer is mistaken about you personally? This is a tougher situation and it’s only happened to me once. Years ago, a reviewer posted a review that included thoughts on me and my personal beliefs. What was said was so egregious that I felt I had to correct the record (privately, at least). I ended up reaching out to her via email and we actually had a nice exchange. I have no idea if she continued reading my books or not, but the experience ended up being (for the most part) a positive one.
  4. From the perspective of the writer, bad reviews suck. There’s no getting around it. We all want everyone to love our books. (Although, that analogy that your book is your baby isn’t one I subscribe to). But we all know, either consciously or deep down, that it is IMPOSSIBLE for everyone to adore our work. Simply impossible. And the more you want your work read, the more you’ll find readers who don’t like it. It’s a math equation. The answer isn’t hiding your work and living in fear. The answer is always to KEEP ON. I don’t want bad reviews (who does?!) but, at this point, I’m more afraid of the fact that, four years after being published, I’m still a slow writer. And that I promised to finish a series in which I have no control over the first three books. (Commercial suicide, people, don’t try this at home! More on that later. Maybe.)

What about positive or mixed reviews? How should a writer handle those?

With cartwheels and confetti and ticker tape parades!!!

Seriously though, unequivocally enthusiastic and supportive reviews will keep you going during those inevitable times when you want to throw in the towel. (If you are a writer who has never thought about quitting, then you are either new to the game or some sort of unprecedented confidence-crackerjack.)

And mixed reviews contain all sorts of valuable information. I love thorough, thoughtful reviews that discuss the many different aspects of a novel.

What’s my policy on sharing reviews?

Since I’ll be reaching out soon and asking for reviews of Pocket Full of Tinder, here’s my policy on sharing the reviews:

First, I hope you’ll review Pocket Full of Tinder! Readers/reviewers, don’t ever think that your thoughts on a book don’t matter or shouldn’t be shared.

If someone sends me a link to a review (or lets me know about it through social media) and it’s a mixed or positive review, I will share it.

If it’s a positive review, I may also include a quote from it on my “Novels” page and include the reviewer’s blog on my “Book Reviewers & Bibliophiles” blogroll. Quotes might also be included in marketing materials such as bookmarks and media kits.

If it’s a negative review, I’ll ignore it. It’s not sour grapes; it’s business. No one expects those to be shared by the author anyway. (But I still hope that any reviewer who doesn’t like the Noon Onyx series might try something else of mine later.)

That’s it for now because I need to get back to work. Updates and more blog posts later…

Hope everyone is having a fantastic October!!!

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Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

9 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Reviews (#writing #publishing advice)

  1. Awesome points, Jill. Once we release the book, it becomes its own animal, something between the reader and the book. My Mama always said “It’s none of your business what other people think about you.” But positive and negative reviews are social proof we’re working.

    1. “positive and negative reviews are social proof we’re working”

      I never thought about it that way before, but it’s true. An interesting point. Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts, Paula!

  2. Very well put! I’m still new enough to the publishing end (first book came out in March 2015) that I’m still learning to deal with the review issue. I got hit by a couple of chronic negative reviewers (I looked on their reviews-I’m in great company though ;)) and it derailed my writing for a week or two. I’ve since stayed away because I have two books I need to get out ASAP- but I will revisit them at some point. One of my friends did make a good point though- reviews aren’t for the author, they’re to tell other readers about the product(he’s not an author). I half way agree, but if I write a review, I do think the author will read it. Great post!

    1. Don’t ever let a bad review keep you from writing. It’s natural (especially in the beginning) for it to take the wind out of your sails for a bit. But get back to writing asap!

      Your friend is right. A review’s primary purpose is to provide story information, and perhaps a recommendation. They’re written by readers, for readers. Which is why I tread very lightly with respect to them. If a book is a dialog between an author and a reader, then a review is a dialog between one reader and another (and, as Paula’s Mama says, that conversation is none of our business. 🙂 )

      But there’s no doubt that authors are grateful for them because they serve other purposes too. Reviews help spread the word about our books. And, on occasion, they can provide helpful feedback.

      I try to strike a balance between staying away/ignoring (so that I don’t stifle discussion or stick my nose in where it’s not wanted) and saying THANK YOU in appropriate ways (i.e. sharing links to reviews that have been sent to me).

      Thanks for your comment, Marie!

  3. Hello,

    I think that you put a lot of hard work and effort into this book and that will show. Sadly you can never make everyone happy but I think that your first three books were fantastic and Noon has really grown as a character and I am so excited to see her go further. I wanted to ask were ARCs already released and I missed a chance to get one?

    Thank you so much
    Alexandra

    1. Hi Alexandra–you didn’t miss it. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be offering ARCs via NetGalley, my newsletter, and a blog/review tour.

      Thanks for the kind words and support! Noon’s magic and romantic entanglements continue to develop in book #4. She’s a long way from where she started, but life for a St. Luck’s MIT is never predictable or fixed!

      1. Hello,

        Thank goodness. Sadly I am not apart of netgallery nor do I have a blog (I only have a goodreads account) 😦

        Thank you so much and can’t wait to read the book 🙂
        Alexandra

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