Toby from Roseburg, OR, writes: “I guess you feel good when one of your books gets a good review. How does it feel when (if) you get a bad review?
I do know writers who say they never read any reviews. I am not one of those people.
It is always a pleasing experience when you get a positive review. It’s truly gratifying, because I’ve worked long and hard. It’s nice to know that someone thinks I’ve done okay. Reviews of children’s book are often quite short, and a plot summary can take up many of the words. Thus, when I get a good review, it is meaningful. That said, I admit, I too often jump to how my publisher looks at them: is there a quotable phrase? Such phrases are a key aspect of marketing.
After all, one wants readers to read your book. Good reviews do a lot of good.
Negative reviews are a whole different kind of experience. I would suggest my first response is disappointment. During the whole publishing process one hears positive remarks, hopes, and high expectations from your publisher. Negative reviews can douse all that quickly.
There is also a difference in the kind of reviews. How they are written. That is to say there are professional reviews (from Booklist, SLJ, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and newspapers, etc.) These, even when negative, tend to be well written, and measured. You understand what the reviewer is saying, and thinking. There have been moments I may even agree with it. “Wish I had seen that.”
However, in these days of the internet, reviewing skills are all over the proverbial map. They may be quite professional, or they can be highly personal and subjective about the writer, even dismissive. Such reviews are painful to experience, and one wonders (or at least I do) why they are written at all.
Then, of course, with a given book, one can get negative reviews and positive ones. That can be a puzzle.
Beyond all else, if you are a professional writer reviews are part of your professional life. When reviews are well written and thought out—there are real skills involved—one can learn from both positive and negative reviews.
That’s the hope, anyway.