Being a voracious reader means I’m constantly searching for books to add to my TBR, just to read them and move them to a different imaginary pile in my head. Reading has been a love of mine since I was two and while my time management has changed drastically, my love for the written word never has. Likewise, my love for writing those words has never changed.
And yet, being a reader and being a writer are two grossly different spheres.
Of course, what we read affects what we write, and in a way what we write affects what we read – research and comparisons and lessons that go deeper than that. But one particularly ugly intersection they have tends to be is in the reception of a person’s work. Particularly, Goodreads, but applicable to anywhere else that one can judge a writer’s work.
As a reader, I am inclined to think readers can judge a book however they wish. As a writer, I try to think the same, but I know how damaging it can look when reception of your work is negative.
But at the end of the day, how a reviewer sees your work doesn’t matter.
Sure, strong positive or negative opinions can sway a neutral audience. If a book has mostly negative reviews, I learn it’s one I’m better off avoiding and vice verse. In a marketing sense, reviews can make or break an author’s work.
But that does not mean we should be breaking reviewers for having opinions.
I’ve seen a lot of authors recently bemoaning their negative reviews, and as a writer I get it. It hurts to have something we’ve spent so much time and energy (and often, money on. It’s our baby! Why is someone harming our baby?
Here’s the thing, though. Once we release our books for public consumption, it isn’t our baby anymore. People are free to shred and 1-star and paper mache and love and write fanfic of and write scathing reviews of the work we produce. And they’re full in their right to do that!
We as writers all too often seem to forget that. We get so caught up in what people are saying about us – about our work – that for some, it’s worth trying to kill people over. For others, it’s worth going on twitter threads and harassing comments and blogs and…
That is not how we should be treating our works. Our readers deserve so much better than that. Our books deserve so much better than that. Instead of obsessing over negative reviews, or calling them names, or trying to dictate who should and should not write reviews in the first place, we should take them in stride and just fucking write.
It is not fair to police a reader’s reception of our work (though bigoted responses are a whole other kettle entirely) just because we do not like it. The best thing we can do is take note of their words, keep any criticism in mind, and move on. To do anything else would be to cheat our readers and, more importantly, cheat ourselves.