To read or not to read reviews. That is the question over at Elevensies, where some of us, all debut authors, are discussing reader reviews. My personal policy, which I’ve noted before, is to not read reviews, good or bad. The only exception is when my publisher or publicist sends me a review. But they only send good ones, and then only once in awhile. Otherwise, I find reading reviews to be a distraction, a drain on my time, and an emotional roller-coaster. My critique partners, agent, and editor tell me when I’m on track and give me trustworthy, professional, objective opinions about my work.
We all want the whole world to love us. But the truth is, not everyone will. First-time novelists are plucking the daisy: “she-loves-me; she-loves-me-not.” We’re finding our readers, and they are finding us. We’ve written our novels for people who gravitate to the same interests we have, who enjoy the types of stories we tell, who “get it” when they read our books.
For readers, the first novel is an unknown quantity. Some who try it love it, some shrug, some hate it. Some of the haters seem to enjoy book-bashing with a vengeance, and with the internet, book-bashing can rise to new heights – or perhaps more precisely, sink to new depths. (The interesting thing is: most reviews reveal the heart/mind of the reviewer, not the writer.)
Anyway an author’s first novel separates the field of readers. On one side are your fans. They’re the ones you’re writing for. On the other side are the not-your-fans. They were never your intended audience, because they don’t “get it.” Which is not the author’s fault. After the first novel, fans will follow you. Not-fans will move on to other books (we hope). I think the critiques of not-fans are fairly harmless, because fans will defend you whatever happens. As they say in the music business, you will “cry all the way to the bank.” Amen.