Post-Release Post #3: Reviews

It took me awhile to write this post because there really isn't that much that one can say about reviews.  The truth is that good ones make you feel euphoric and bad ones make you feel like crap.

I think the real question for writers is whether or not to read your reviews.

I know so many authors who do not read their reviews at all, ever.  Or who stopped reading them after a particularly brutal review.  I always wondered how they could do this--I mean wouldn't you want to know whether or not anyone out there liked your book?  But now that I'm published I realize that even if you don't read your reviews, you may still get messages from satisfied readers (or dissatisfied readers) via email or Twitter or Facebook that will give you some indication of how it is being received.

I think the whole To Read Reviews or Not To Read Reviews is a choice each individual author has to make.  As of right now, I do read mine.  That may change in the future.  Who knows?

Of course I am lucky because the majority of my reviews are very positive and yes, when I read a good one, it does put a little more pep in my step.  I'm incredibly grateful for everyone who has taken the time to write reviews of my book, whether on Amazon or on Goodreads.

If the majority of my reviews were terrible, I'm certain I'd be singing a different tune, and I certainly wouldn't be reading them.  As of right now, I like to think of getting a bad review like taking a punch.

The day of my release, I did a 10 Things People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me post on Nicky Wells' blog and one of those items was that during my 20s, I boxed a girl in a bar for money (and won).  I had studied martial arts for several years and in my twenties, almost all my social time was spent with my fellow martial arts students and my instructor.  Occasionally we'd all go out to a local bar and have a few drinks.  One night we went to a giant bar/club type place that actually had a boxing ring inside of it.  I am pretty sure that the reason we went there that night was because they were having a semi-pro female boxer fighting that evening.  But when we got there, it turned out she wasn't coming and the fight was off.  The club owners asked for volunteers to fight--I guess they had to put on some kind of entertainment--so with my instructor's permission, I volunteered.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  At that point I had been studying martial arts for almost ten years.  I had earned my black belt.  But in boxing you can't use your feet or anything else you've learned.  You have only your punches.  I kept getting in trouble for trying to slap one of the few armbars I knew on this girl.  My instincts--apparently, from years of training and muscle memory--were to get in close to her, put some kind of hold on her (i.e. "pain compliance") and subdue her.  I was not allowed to do that. Anyway, my point is that it was hard.  The girl I fought had no experience at all, but I thought she did rather well.  She came at me like a whirling dervish, just wind-milling her gloves and trying to hit anything within three feet of her.  It was disconcerting.  I was used to being punched by people who knew what they were doing--kind of like how you get used to hearing criticism from critique partners who are other writers.

Anyway, what my opponent lacked in form, she definitely made up for in spunk. And yet, at the end of the fight (I think we went 3 or 4 rounds) she was in the back sobbing hysterically and hyperventilating, and I was sweating with $50 in my pocket.  I said to my then-boyfriend who had been my corner man, "Why is she crying?  She did great."

And he said, "She's never really been hit before.  She doesn't know how to take a punch."

I hadn't really thought about it before, but it's true.  If you've never been hit before, the first time it happens it totally freaks you out--even in a controlled environment.  It's even worse when you've never been hit before, and six or seven punches follow that first one, and you realize that the person isn't going to stop, and you don't know what the hell to do.  It is scary and can be traumatizing.

Reviews can be scary and traumatizing.  The bad ones anyway.  But like I said, you have to learn to take a punch.  Bad reviews are part of this business.  Not everyone is going to like your book.  Not everyone is going to "get" what you were trying to do in your book, and sometimes, even if they do get it, they'll think you didn't pull it off.  There is no avoiding them, and there is nothing that will make them sting less.  That's just the way it is.

So if you're going to read your reviews, you have to be prepared to take a punch.  Because there will be bad reviews and often extremely hateful reviews.  If you're going to flog yourself by reading them (and possibly re-reading them, as if we writers aren't insecure enough!) then you should know and be prepared for the simple fact that, like a punch, it's going to hurt.  And like a punch, you need to be able to shake it off and move on with the business of kicking ass, er, I mean writing.  You can't let it stun you or paralyze you. It's just a punch.

I mean if you're going to go into a fight, you're going to get punched.  It's the nature of the thing.  The same goes for being published--if you're going to put your book out there for all the world to read, you're going to get reviews and some of them are going to be bad. Very bad.  Again, I say:  Bad reviews are part of this business.  Which brings me back to my original point--the real question about reviews is whether or not you should read them.

How about you?  Do you read your reviews?  If you're not yet published, do you think you would read them?


  1. They happen! I always watch and wait, because I know one is coming somewhere in there with the good ones. It's almost a relief when it finally appears.
    I learn from my reviews. They tell me what areas I need to work on and become better. And they let me know what the fans want.

  2. The closest I've gotten to truly bad reviews is when I posted my query letter on AW or some of the blog query crit contests--ouch! At least in those cases, there's a purpose to the criticism, and as brutal as the 'reviews' can be, I know the folks are trying to help. Reviewers aren't really trying to help you, but I suspect if you approach it the right way (and the review is given in the right way), you can learn something from them. Great attitude, Lisa!

  3. I'm 50/50 on if I'd want to read my reviews. There's the curious part of me that would want to know what people are saying, and the logical part that says bad reviews are a good way to learn, but there's also the whiny little girl part of me that doesn't like mean people. I guess I'll have to wait and see what wins out when I finally get to that point.

  4. I read my reviews, although I'm not sure that things I upload to and really qualify. But some reviewers there can be just as kind or mean as reviewers on Amazon. I think it's good for writers to read their reviews, even the bad ones, for the confidence boost from the good and the experience of dealing with criticism (and maybe learning something, if the reviewer isn't just being a jerk).

    Then again, perhaps I'll change my tune when I get my first real book out there and start getting nasty reviewers.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Can't imagine you getting a bad review. Of course, sometimes on Amazon people get one star reviews because people didn't like how long it took for the book to be shipped to them. :P

    Excellent point about learning how to take a punch. Doesn't sound very pleasant, but I guess that's what you can expect if you step into the ring.

  6. With your fighting skills, I'm glad I gave you a good review. :P

    Your book is wonderful, and the long bar at the top of the review graphic shows it. ;)

  7. OMGosh! I never dreamed you could box! That's fabulous. I know I can't fight my way out of a wet paper bag, so I never talk trash. (not that you do, just sayin')

    I love good reviews...and honestly, the bad ones do sting, but I am weird and I read writer friends' reviews too (yours rock BTW) and I have learned even the best books draw some haters. Now if they were all bad, I think I'd read the writing on the wall and take another edit at my book!

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  9. Excellent post, Lisa! I don't know how I'll take bad reviews, but I'm hoping I'll handle it without freaking out too much. I like how you relate it to taking a punch. Bad reviews really are inevitable, just because you can't please everyone. And there is always someone who thinks they know more than you. I better bookmark this post for when I need a reminder to suck it up. :)

  10. I was worried how I'd react to bad reviews, especially the first one, but when it came, it really didn't sting very much. I mean, I have received a single 1-star on GR but without a review. Just the rating. I suppose if there had been an explanation, I would've cared more, but even still, I get it. It's so subjective. I dislike half the books I pick up. Why should anyone think different about my book. You can't please everyone. And besides, with the majority being 5-stars, it really softens any blow of a 1 or 2 star. But seriously, I cannot, for the life of me, understand a 1-star for FCF, except that the person sounds Indian & they definitely seem to be more critical. They have been with me. Yet it doesn't bother me in the least.

  11. You certainly have had a LOT of reviews, and by far the vast majority have been very positive. That's the most important thing!

  12. I had no idea you had such awesome fighting skills. I missed that post during your release party. How interesting! And I love the analogy here, perfect.

    Like Nancy, I can't imagine how anyone could give FCF a bad review!

  13. I definitely read my reviews. I think I'm still tickled someone is reading the book and willing to speak about it. Mine have been mixed, as expected. Oddly enough, the negative ones haven't bothered me yet, but no one has been hateful yet either.

    I LOVED the story about the boxing match. You Philly girl you. :)


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