Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 20: Don’t Read Your Reviews.

Many a time I’ve heard writers—including some well-known and best-selling authors—say they don’t read reviews of their books. And they discourage fledgling writers to likewise ignore them.
I suppose there’s wisdom in that. After all, book reviews are nothing more than opinions.  And opinions, the old saying goes, are like certain parts of the anatomy—everybody has them, and they all stink.
That’s truer than ever nowadays. Thanks to online sites that allow everyone and anyone to post a review, their value has diminished, if not disappeared.
Many writers—and I know some of them—game the system, enlisting friends to post positive reviews, which are worse than useless and a disservice to prospective readers. There are even companies that will, for a price, post as many positive—but phony—reviews as you can afford.  
Then there are reviewers, cantankerous by nature, who seem to derive some perverse pleasure out of panning books and writers, and offer no basis (or have none) for their dislike.
So, it may well be best for writers to leave reviews unread. I confess, however, to reading them. Here’s a dandy, for my poetry collection Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems:

“Hated it. The poems are filled with all the righteous indignation of a white, Christian male who feels persecuted by society.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have read that. But you must admit it’s entertaining.
Besides, travel can be broadening, and I just can’t pass up the pleasure of taking the occasional quantum leap into the peculiar parallel universe where reviewers like that one must reside.
She’s entitled to her opinion, I suppose. But I’m not sure that particular opinion is about that particular book.
Read the book, and see what you think. 


  1. Reviews come in a variety of flavors each with its own value or consequence. Professional reviews- Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, et al- can be great promo material if they are good. Poison if they're not. I pay attention to peer reviews like the reviews we get in WWA's Roundup. I get useful hints from those. They're 'hints' because they don't go into depth; but they are offered by an accomplished reader. Then there are the retail reviews that get posted online. They can be subject of all the abuses you cite Rod; but legitimate opinions offered by real readers have value. I read some earlier this year after having paid no attention to them for a couple of years. I appreciated the insights and the time folks spent to offer them. As a writer, I don't live by reviews; but I think there is a time and a place to peek behind that curtain. It reminds us there are real people out there.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Your thoughts are always appreciated. I agree that it's good to remember there are real people out there. It's also good to keep in mind there are unreal people out there as well.

  2. I thought that review was pretty funny. Now I am going to take a look at the book. She might be a good salesperson for you. I read a one-star review on Amazon a few days ago, it read in part. Took over a week to get the book, you said three days. Gave me my laugh for the day. Now I am going to go look at your book.

    1. Thanks, Neil. I guess authors should pay more attention to Amazon's shipping policies if we are going to be held responsible.

  3. Gotta agree that reviewers all over the place. I read mine too. They're kind of like Brussel sprouts. Sometimes I like them, but sometimes I don't. They have to be seasoned just right.