Should authors read reviews of their work?


Today’s reflection came in a roundabout manner: Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, is getting ready for the release of her memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Personally, I can’t wait to read it, but that isn’t the point.

Jenny’s friend Alice posted this piece about whether to read reviews, specifically directed toward Jenny but applicable, really, to everyone who writes — that means humble reviewers like myself as well. As she points out, “[s]ometimes people are just unhappy, or having a bad day, or nuts. You can’t control who reads your work, or how they’ll react.” This is so true, as anybody who has submitted their work for public consumption can attest. Even comments on reviews can be snarky because someone’s taste is different or they don’t understand how a quantitative rating may not necessarily jive with a qualitative one. I’ve been told I need new glasses (ahem, how did you know I wear them?) because the person commenting loved a book that I reviewed as mediocre, so I can only imagine some of the terrible comments that others have had to endure.

As a reviewer, it’s my humble assertion that a book review serves to inform other readers about a new or overlooked book, in the hopes that someone else will pick it up to enjoy it equally, or save their money, or read it to come to their own conclusion. Writers are not the intended audience and do not need to succumb to the temptation to read every word written about their work. At the same time, though, I have written more than a couple of reviews in which I pointed out technical errors in writing or editing that should be shared with the writer — if not to counsel her/him, then for consideration when choosing a publisher or editor in the future. I would encourage writers to pay attention to particular details that are supported by quotation or other in-text evidence.

The best advice, then, would be to each her own. If you must read, seek out reviews on established sites where posts are informative, emotionally neutral, and full of support for the reviewer’s rating. There may be exponentially more reviews that are as full of deep and strongly held emotional reactions as they are of typographical errors, but a writer cannot accurately judge the quality of her work without seeking reviewers who are as careful with their reviews as the writer is about her work.

So, should you read the reviews? Well, yes and no. Maybe.


One comment

  1. I suppose that if you respect the critic’s reviews of other works and have read those books, too, by all means, this person just might have a valid point that you should consider.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: