Should you read your reviews?

One of the many questions that’s often debated among other self-publishers is whether or not you should read your reviews.

“Reviews are for readers, not authors,” some say. Others, “Reviews are like a critique group, guiding you to do better with your next piece.”

When I first started out, I wasn’t going to read my reviews. I didn’t want it to influence me as a writer. Not only that, but I didn’t want to read anything bad.

Turns out I’m not as strong-willed as I thought I’d be. I’ve read every single one of my reviews. And you know what? I don’t regret it. If anything, it helps give me a sense of my books and my series overall from the perspective of a reader.

I don’t exactly feel good when I read bad reviews, but typically I can determine if it’s me or them. I’ve had people review my books that clearly don’t like genre fiction. The way they write the reviews are written and what they say in the reviews indicate that they expected my books to be literary fiction, which I don’t claim to write whatsoever. I don’t even like literary fiction. That’s clearly their issue, not mine.

Other people have written that they’ve never read in my genre before (them) or that the story felt rushed (me). You need to differentiate.

Reading my reviews helps me determine what I have to work on in the future. Now that I have reviews and readers and I’ve gotten some feedback, I see the problems in my books and how to fix them.

But that doesn’t mean I like to read my bad reviews. Even now, to write this post, I skimmed over some of my bad reviews to get examples and I didn’t read the review word-for-word. I skimmed it.

Information processed. Point taken. Let’s move on.

Reading bad reviews is like laying in bed at night and cringing at that stupid thing you said in the 7th grade lunch line. Get over it. It’s in the past. Nothing you can do about it now.

Like everything in life, it all comes down to you: how thick is your skin? Ultimately, I think reading reviews will help you as an author. But you might not be ready for that yet. Especially if you’ve hooked some of the wrong readers, like I have, who don’t like your book because it’s not their favorite genre. On the flip side, you could read the reviews and toughen up a bit (although don’t get cynical when someone writes a good review) so when you do find your core readers, you’ll be in for a treat. Set the expectations low.

Bear in mind that some authors can’t get any reviews. So whether you’ve got good reviews or bad, be thankful that they’re there.

One last thing before I wrap this up: You should never respond to reviews. I’ve only responded once to a review and that was to answer a question about when the next book was out. I simply said something along the lines of, “I’m glad you enjoyed the book. [Title], the next book in the series, will be out [release date].”

What I have done, that some people may consider a response, is reply to an email to someone who got a free copy in exchange for a review in which I said, “I’m glad you liked the book.” That’s it. I’ve never challenged a review because reviews are a matter of opinion and when people argue over opinion you have…American politics…no right answer.

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