Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thoughtful About . . . Readers, Writers, & Reviews

My parents always read to me as a kid. I started writing when I was, oh, six or seven. It took another year or two for me to love reading (myself) other stories as much as I loved creating my own, but I definitely came down with that bug something fierce. And after college, I decided I should take up writing reviews. At the time there was a lack of reviews from the Christian perspective, and I wanted to fill the gap.

It wasn't long until I was a member of ACFW and reviewing the books of a lot of other authors from the organization. And because of that, I had faces to put to the names and titles. I knew there were people behind the books, I knew the people, sometimes (a little). And I knew too that I was a writer, and that was always in the back of the my mind. I wanted my reviews to be honest, but I also wanted them to be fair and Godly. I wanted to never, ever write a review that was not one I would be hurt to receive.

When I first had books out there in the world to be reviewed, I was pretty blessed. All my first reviews were positive. And often not just positive but glowing. Left and right I had folks saying how my biblicals changed their lives, their understanding, I heard "best book" or "favorite book" a few times. Which gave me the confidence to say that I was actually looking forward to my first negative review, because it would make me more a "real" writer.

Yeah. Silly me, LOL.

In the years since then, I've gotten my fair share of bad reviews. I've let them bog me down sometimes, and other times I've shaken them off. When they're really well thought-out negative reviews, I learn and grow from them. I thought I'd gotten pretty good at dealing with the negative, focusing on the positive. But recently, I've come to a decision that, for me, is pretty big.

I'm done reading reviews of my books. Finished. Ciao, bye-bye. Other writers I love and respect have arrived at this place long before me, and I never quite got it. But with the release of Ring of Secrets, I do. All of a sudden, reviews are depressing me, even the good ones. I can't really explain the reason, just the result. I want readers to find and read and love my book, I want to be approachable, I welcome and love notes from them. But I'm to the point where I'm leaving that up to them. If they want me to know their thoughts, they can email or find me on Facebook--and I LOVE THAT!--but leaving a review on Amazon is for the other readers. Not for me anymore. If someone sends me their review, I'll read it, because they want to share. If my editor forwards me one, awesome. I'll assume it's something she wants me to read. But I'm done with seeking them out.

For me, this is a matter of putting aside pride and refocusing. After years and years of reading my reviews, this is a new decision, one I'm still thinking through. I don't want to be hung up, anymore, on what people are saying about me. I don't want to be writing just for praise. I'm writing to praise. I'm writing to share the stories the Lord has put on my heart. I'm writing to minister.

I'm certainly not saying authors who read their reviews are not doing this--not at all!! Just speaking for my own tendencies. As my heart and mind continue this journey of publication, it's easy to for me to get too competitive, too glory-hungry, too focused on me. It's easy to take offense. And I need to guard my heart against that. I need to stay focused on God, on the readers, on the stories. Not on the praise or the criticism.

Where do you come down on reviews? As readers? As writers? What do you think their purpose is, and how do they effect you personally?

5 comments:

  1. I rarely write reviews on "traditional" sites - can't really tell you why, other than I don't feel like I'm very good at it. I "talk up" books - on GoodReads, Facebook, etc - even in real life! LOL. That's just the way I am.

    I'm not published, but I think I will probably obsess about folks' reviews of me - which is NOT good. Will be a good test for me - eventually. Great post!

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  2. I have wriiten reviews, not to hurt but to let people know what I thought of a book. But I could never write one that would be hurtful. IF I didn't 't care for said book, I did not write about it. Does that slant the review process? Who knows, but I cannot hurt someone who has put somuch effort into a book.I figure if you don't see a good review you can pretty well figure it out.

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  3. I write reviews because I want other readers to be aware of exceptional Christian fiction available showing how a life is changed by looking to the Lord for direction rather than plodding along. I specifically enjoy Historical Fiction because of the depth of research the authors do to place their characters within the events/happenings of the time period. So much more than we learned in school. I am not critiquing the author, but rather sharing the content ~ as a review, not a synopsis, allowing the readers to enjoy it for themselves. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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  4. I still write reviews too, and read them on OTHER people's books, LOL. They're definitely a very valuable thing! As a reviewer, I love the thought of matching readers with new authors they'll love. And I really, really appreciate that people review my books. I want readers to get their honest opinions on them!

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  5. I appreciate your perspective on this, Roseanna. This review thing has definitely presented a challenge for me as well. I'm interested to read that even the positive ones can be depressing for you. I have had the same experience!

    I love how you wrote you are writing to praise, not for praise. My favorite and most encouraging reviews have been about how God has used my book to enrich the reader's personal relationship with or understanding of him. Because that's why I wrote it-- to bring glory to God. Hopefully reveal him just a bit. When reviews share that goal has been met, I can only be humbly grateful to him for allowing me to be used in that way.

    It can't be about us, not if we are to truly feel satisfaction. Feeding our egos will never satisfy-- it will only leave us craving for MORE. Only when we are at rest in Christ, finding our identity in him and our purpose in writing for him, can we truly be at peace.

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