Every now and again, my work gets a review that is decidedly
evil negative. Here is how I respond to them:
Creating and consuming belong in separate spaces.
The truth is that I hardly ever even know when I get reviews. I don’t troll my Amazon and Goodreads pages looking for how many stars each title is getting. If I see a review, it’s generally by accident because I was looking for something else.
Probably my favorite book in the world is The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. My class read it in the seventh grade and the teacher would have us each take a few pages to read aloud. I hate being read to but it was even more excruciating when I was enjoying the story so much. They were reading so slow! So, one night, I stole my copy of the book–which wasn’t supposed to leave the classroom–and took it home. I stayed up very late reading it the book and then re-reading parts of it. It was the first book I’d ever wished I’d written myself.
Because Robin McKinley created that story, it will always be hers in a very real way. On the other hand, my personal experience with that book is my own. Both are valid but neither can affect the other. I’m not allowed to control the way Ms. McKinley creates and she’s not allowed to control the way I consume. And if that’s true for the books I’ve read, it must be true for the work I create. I have to write for myself and let the readers read for themselves.
Even if a review gets something wrong, it’s not my place to hop into the review section of Barnes & Noble to correct someone about a character’s motivations. That space is for the readers to give each other information; not for me to defend my creative choices.
Reviews tell potential readers what to expect from the work. Lots of reviews on a title means it is being read. Good reviews means it’s being well received by readers. Bad reviews means there’s a disconnect between the readers and work.
For the sake of potential future readers, I encourage you to review my books, whether your reaction is good, bad, or indifferent. I just probably won’t read them.
Photo Credit: Judy van der Velden