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Monday, February 10, 2014

Word of the Day: Reviews

Writers crave them. Readers sometimes hesitate to write them, sometimes delight in writing them. As an author as well as a voracious reader, I'm kind of a split personality when it comes to reviews. Like every author, I've had my share of "meh" reviews and bad reviews. I've also had lots of wonderful reviews that have left me feeling over-the-moon, and I'm always grateful to the readers who take the time to let me know whether or not they've enjoyed my work.

As a reader, though, I have a tougher time when it comes to reviews. I've always written reviews on books I love. How could I not? But when a book doesn't thrill me or isn't enjoyable, I face a dilemma non-writers don't. Many authors say they won't review a book if they can't give it a four- or five-star review because they don't want to hurt the author's feelings. I get that. Really. I do. But, if you only give four and five star reviews, can readers take your reviews seriously, or do they think you're just "upping" the ratings for your writer friends? 

And as an author myself, I do understand when other authors claim they hate those lower rated reviews that just say, "This is a horrible book. Don't buy it." Nothing is gained for a review like that--not for the author and not for anyone shopping for the book, either.

Yes, I do write reviews for books that I didn't like, but I do try to give constructive criticism and explain *why* I gave a book less than four stars. Does the book need more careful editing? I'll say so. And I also try to weigh the negatives with something positive. If the plot is unique or a specific character resonates with me, I'll mention that. But if I honestly can't say anything good about a story, I won't review the book at all.

Still, authors have got to stop complaining about negative reviews. Negative reviews are part of the business. We all get them. In every art form, from books to music to movies to paintings, there is always someone there to hate what you've created. Some people love chocolate, some people hate it, some people will only eat it with peanut butter mixed in, and some people are allergic to it altogether. Get over yourself. Stop obsessing about what other people think and just keep writing!

Authors have to learn to separate *the work* from themselves. Yes, there are bullies who will give you a one-star review or say your work is godawful just to make themselves feel better. But there are also reviewers who genuinely didn't care for your work because they had a legitimate issue with it. Learn from those reviews, ignore the bullies, and remember, you've already done something brave and amazing by putting your work out there. Your self-worth shouldn't be determined by the opinions of strangers. 

Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."


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