As a writer, I don’t necessarily like to hear that someone doesn’t enjoy my work. After all, it IS work and I give my work (probably a lot more than) its due attention. But I understand that not everyone is going to enjoy my work and I don’t take it personally.
What really hurts is when I don’t hear anything at all about my work. Not good, not bad, not middle-of-the-road. And I’ll tell you why:
Reviews help authors as a barometer of what they’re doing that’s working and not. One review that isn’t glowing probably doesn’t mean much; get four or five of the same comment, and it’s time to listen up. Authors rely on reviews to help us sell our work, and so naturally , we hope for great reviews every time. Life in the real world doesn’t work that way, and most of us get that.
Back before Twilight became the megalithic monstrosity it is today, when you could walk down the street without seeing the likenesses of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner brooding at you every three point seven inches, it started out as a book like any other. And like any other author, Stephenie Meyer relied on book reviews and word of mouth to get the word out about her work.
Now, I’m not weighing the relative merit (or lack thereof) of Twilight. Whether you’re a Twihard, a Twi-hater, or simply wish the last movie would drop so we can stop being bludgeoned with watered-down, overly angsty versions of vampires and werewolves, the fact remains that someone read the books. A LOT of someones. And those someones talked about it. They blogged it, Facebooked it, Tweeted it.
People tell people things. If I tell one person X, and they tell two people, and each of those two people tells two people . . . before long, you have a phenomenon. This is what authors count on when they publish their work: That word of mouth will attract new readers and hence more revenue, which in turn leads directly to the ability to write more work.
Reviewers and readers are the most powerful force in a writer’s universe. Moreso than editors, beta readers, or even publishers. I say that because there’s only so much a writer can do. Or an editor. Or a publisher. Once the publisher rolls out “The Secret Lives Of Fruit Of The Looms” or whatever the next book is, it’s up to the author to push it and attract interest. But what keeps a good book rolling or dooms it to obscurity?
That’s right. Readers. And not just readers: readers who take the time to tell the author what they think about their work. People who tell others, either through word of mouth, on a blog post, or on a recognized review site, “Buy this book” or “don’t waste your time.”
You hear horror stories about authors who get into flame wars or outright pissing contests with reviewers when they don’t like what the reviewer has to say. In my experience, this is rare. Most writers, when confronted with a bad review, will either thank the reviewer politely for their honesty or say nothing at all.
At least, not publicly. Oh, sure, I may cry in my beer with a friend or two if it’s really THAT bad, but once I’m done, the only thing I’m likely to say in public is, “Thank you for taking the time to review XXX. I’m sorry it didn’t meet your standards, but I appreciate your honesty.” If I want to freak out, tear my hair, question the reviewer’s parentage, intelligence, humanity, or accuse them of having unnatural carnal relations with goats, I will. But I’ll do it privately, where NO ONE will hear about it.
So, with all that said: Readers, please. If you enjoy a story, take five minutes and let the author, and other readers, know. It takes only a few minutes out of your day to leave a comment on the author’s blog, a blurb on Amazon or the publisher’s website . . . hey, even a Tweet beats nothing! It’ll help make a writer’s day if nothing else, and you never know what might come of you sharing your thoughts about someone’s work.
And writers: Seriously. If you’re flaming reviewers because they had the audacity not to recognize that you really are the reincarnated greatness of Dickens, Hemingway, and Hammett all in one package . . . grow the hell up. Have a drink, have a pity party, do what you’re gonna do. But stop giving your fellow authors a bad name and making reviewers gun-shy about speaking their minds!
Just my own personal, folks. That and five bucks MIGHT get you coffee at Starbucks.
Until next time,