The most difficult part of writing books isn’t always writing the book. In my three years in the indie author community, I’ve learned that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some authors excel at marketing their books. Some can write and publish a new book every month. Some write fantastic, memorable stories that remind us why reading is so entertaining.
But I think there is one thing we can all agree on: Reading your own book reviews is tough!
I have pretty thick skin, so I always have my ears open to readers’ opinions about my books. Reading the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub is one way I study what readers love and hate about the stories I write.
Some authors don’t read their own book reviews. Those few sentences have the power to tear down an author’s confidence, so I understand an author’s hesitation to scroll through those opinions that can sometimes be hurtful and feel like a personal attack.
One time, I had a book that dropped to an overall four star average on Amazon, and it took me a week to get over it. It sounds so silly. It even sounded silly to me at the time, but I couldn’t shake the heavy cloud of doubt. It was a terrible week. I cried, my husband was worried about me, and I couldn’t find happiness in things I usually love. It’s crazy how words can have such an impact on our confidence.
I do read my book reviews. I read every one of them on all three major review websites. It’s not always easy. It can be a whirlwind of emotions. One person really hated it. One person said it was the best book they’d read all year. One person said they didn’t finish it. It’s a cycle of doubt and encouragement that can be overwhelming. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never please everyone.
I have a one-star review on a book that has been taunting me for years. The reviewer claims that my book has a same sex marriage. And she does it convincingly too. There isn’t even a hint of a same sex marriage in any of my books, and for a long time, I let that negative review pester and nag at me. I feared it would hurt my sales.
I was focusing so much on the bad that I forgot about all the good reviews and the readers who loved my stories. That negativity was extremely powerful if I allowed it to rent space in my mind and build a home there.
Some of the one-star reviews don’t bother me as much.
I have a three star review on a book that says, “Too good to be good,” and I know exactly what that reader meant. There wasn’t enough conflict. The couple was happy and nothing happened. Lesson learned there.
I also had a review that said the reader disliked the excessive internal dialogue. That’s something I’ve been conscious of since.
One of my author friends read the second book in my cowboy romance series and told me the characters spoke as if they lived in the South. The series was set in Wyoming! I realized I had made the characters speak the way I spoke, and I’ve made sure to leave my southernisms out ever since.
The reviews that seem to hurt my feelings the most are the ones that mention the faith content as if it’s something they disliked about the book. Then I remind myself that I write Christian romance for a reason that isn’t up for debate.
On the other side of the review spectrum, there are some wonderful, encouraging messages I’ve found in my book reviews. The kind words of readers have motivated me more times than I can count, and I appreciate everyone who takes that little bit of time to tell me and other readers why they enjoyed the story. It’s also helpful when you (kindly) mention something in your review that you didn’t particularly like. It might help me write better books in the future.
Do you review the books you read? What do you like about it?