I’ve already done a post on book reviews, but I thought I’d add a few new theories I’ve begun to develop about how to best interpret and make use of reviews of your work.
I read a lot of reviews. I read those for my books, and I also read those given to the works of other authors. You see, I’ve been torn about how exactly I should be understanding what I’m reading. Even though many reviews contain numerical/star ratings, book reviewing is not a scientific process. It is almost entirely based on opinion, and because not everyone sees things the same way, many reviews conflict.
Hence my quandary. I want to grow and improve as a writer and I thought I could use reviews to help guide me. But how do you react when one review says the beginning is slow but the rest of the pacing is good, the next says the end is slow but the rest of the pacing is good, and the next says the middle is slow but the rest of the pacing is good? If I believe all three of these opinions, then I’d have to think that my book is both slow from beginning to end AND yet also well paced from beginning to end. This type of conflict of opinion happens a lot in reviews. But it left me wondering what the heck does it mean for me, the writer?
When there are conflicts like this all over the place in a set of reviews, I have to chalk this up to difference in reader opinion.
When is it not just opinion then? How do you know when to act as a writer based on reviewer response?
- When a trusted reviewer, whose opinion and judgment you respect, offers criticism, then you should consider acting upon it.
- When there is a consensus among reviewers, you should consider acting on their advice. Look at the reviews of Janet Evanovich’s work as an example. Book 1 in her Plum series starts out with a typical spread of reviews with all the contradictions you’d expect, but when you get to book 17, you see a lot of low ranks AND repetition of criticism.
So those are my current thoughts on the subject. Writers, what have you found about reviews? And readers, what’s your take on this?