A couple of months ago, a writer connection of mine released her debut novel, which was speculative fiction. She had amassed a couple of dozen ARC reviews prior to release, all of which were four and five star ratings. Within her first week of launch, a three star review appeared and the author was gutted. She took to social media to discuss how she was having doubts that anyone would want to read her book, and that she was at a low point as a result. On a professional level, I felt that personally I don’t consider three stars a ‘bad’ rating. But on a personal note, I felt for her: what author doesn’t want only four and five star reviews?
But are reviews for authors?
Yes and no. Let’s start with ‘yes’. Good reviews, as in four and five stars, give an author validation that they have written a story that customers want to read. Critical reviews, as in three stars, show authors how their book was received, and a reader’s opinion can sometimes be different from what they, as a writer, might have been thinking.
So let’s look at ‘no’, and start with bad reviews, as in one and two stars. I’d read in some articles on the topic of reviews that authors shouldn’t read negative reviews. To be honest, I think negative reviews say more about the reviewer than the book they are reviewing; especially if they are offended by something in the story. Negative reviews serve readers more than authors. They help readers decide whether or not to bother buying a book. So long as the negative reviews aren’t about typos or plot holes in any given book, then I’d say they are there to help readers decide, ‘is this book for me, or not?’.
Personally, I think that even if reviews are positive, they are still there for readers, not authors. They serve to help other readers decide whether a book would suit their tastes, or not. Poor or critical reviews also help readers decide if a book may be a worthwhile investment of both time and money. Unless reviews are intentionally malicious, either by a reviewer with a personal grudge against the writer, or in a blackmail attempt (there’s an article about extortion scams here) most reviews are not aimed at attacking an author personally, or vilifying a book; they’re one person’s opinion on whether they liked a book or not and should be taken as such.
As a writer, does it mean that I personally don’t read reviews of my books? No: I read all reviews of my books, both critical and good. But I take it all as food for thought; after all opinions on books are subjective. What one person may love, another may hate so whether you’re a reader or a writer, it’s good to read reviews and think, is this a well-balanced opinion, regardless of the star rating?