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?