We conclude our discussion of how we react to reviews of our novels.
I’m always hoping for a review from the major professional journals (Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, etc.) and read those with my breath held, reminding myself that any review from them is better than none. Because I generally respect those opinions, even if I don’t agree, I think about them. I’m not sure they’re all that helpful for future work, because most reviews I’ve seen focus on criticisms specific to a story, not to a writer’s work or skill in general. But you never know when a little seed in the subconscious might grow into better work.
As for most other reviews, I’d have to say that I used up my curiosity and authorly neediness on my first two books and now I tend to avoid them. If a blogger sends me a link, particularly if it’s someone I’ve crossed paths with online, I go ahead and look, because anyone who goes to the trouble to alert me is pretty professional. I can expect a sensible review with valid food for thought, and I can actually enjoy any positive comments because, again, I can respect the opinion. I have not found the same thing always true of random opinions that I merely stumble over, and I have absolutely no patience with or respect for those who can’t bother to get my name, the book title, or key character names correct. That’s why I’ve turned Google alerts off — that, and the fact that I also found that even one “but” in a blog review that included “I liked this a lot but…” ruined my evening and outweighed everything nice the reviewer might have said. (Jo’s comment that others see our reviews as more positive than we do is right.) And the few wacky rants I came across upset me too much.
So I admit, I’m both a review wimp and a review elitist. Of COURSE I love to hear when people like my work, and my very favorite thing is to see a post or have an e-mail conversation with someone about a thematic, symbolic, or craft element that nobody else has noticed or mentioned. But otherwise, I focus mostly on the pro reviews and those of a handful of the semi-pro bloggers we’ve all heard of.
Readers, what importance do you give to reviews when you are either reading or writing books?