Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday

I have a confession to make.

I read a lot of one-star and two-star reviews on Amazon.

Okay, so it’s not so I can laugh at the author, but I still feel a little guilty about it. I always read the book first, so I'm supporting the author by purchasing the book (especially if it's a debut author), and so my experience isn’t tainted by someone else’s opinion. Then I read the reviews to see if other readers caught the same things I did—which is the case about 99% of the time. Oftentimes, the same issues pop up in review after review.

Why would I subject myself to so much negativity?

I agree there are some reviews that are unnecessarily mean, but many are well thought out and very well written. The best reviews weigh the good against the bad—showing what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes, they even point out things I’d glossed over and ignored because the same things are happening in my work. This was especially true when I was first starting out. Yes, I know not everyone is going to love my story and no matter how perfect I get it, it will never be good enough for some people, but it does force me to look at my work more critically and decide if the things I thought no one else would notice are worth changing.

Ultimately, for me, it’s just another tool to help me improve my writing.

As to whether I would read negative reviews of my own book if that ever became a possibility—I don’t know. Probably not.

What about you? Anything to add? Anything to confess? :)


  1. ummm... I do that too. Really. Especially when it is a book that I enjoyed, I wonder why someone did not like it. Yeah, I know, weird.

    Truth Tuesday can be tough...I think it is because we aren't always that honest with ourselves about things, so here goes... my truth today: I hate bubblegum. Really really hate it. No reason to hate it, I just do. Sounds simple & silly...it probably is. But for some reason I just cannot understand the attraction to it & there has yet to be a flavor invented that makes me buy it...

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  2. I hadn't ever thought about using reviews in such a way. Something very interesting to think about in the future.

  3. I do read negative reviews when it comes to book shopping. I guess I'd be interested in reading negative reviews of my own books, if only to make myself a better writer (which includes thickening my skin, lol).

    Great post!

  4. This is so interesting! :)

    I recently thought of a couple of books I think my novel is comparable to and then went and read the 1 star reviews for it asking myself "is this what they're going to say about me?" I did it to toughen my own skin, but that's such a great point about learning from the details that keep coming up, too!

    Great post!

  5. If I ever get published, I think it will be a very bad thing for me to read my own reviews because I am so tender-hearted and things stick with me for a long time. On the other hand, I am pretty sure I WOULD read them, so I guess I'd just have to toughen up. :P

  6. I think you have a great academic exercise there. In reading where others fall short, we can improve by applying those criticisms to our own writing. Thanks, Abby.

  7. Wow, what an awesome way to improve yourself! I've never done this (of course, I don't really read reviews at all), but I can see how it would benefit my own writing.

    I'm totally going to blame you when I've wasted two hours on Amazon, just FYI. ;-)

  8. Sometimes if a book has all good reviews and one bad one, I'll scroll to the bad one and see what it is someone didn't like about it. This is a very good idea to improve your own writing!

  9. I do this too! Especially when it's a book that got a lot of press but fell short for me. I'm always curious to see what others thought. Of course there are the "It sucked," reviews, but I find a lot of well-written, thoughtful ones as well. Too funny.

  10. I'm with Stephanie, I never thought to use a review in that way. Smart. I'll have to try that.

  11. I usually read the reviews to see if there will be any trouble spots before I buy the books, but that's about it. I don't think I'd post negative reviews either. If I don't like a book, I just don't review it. :)

  12. I think that's a great way to learn and improve! Nothing shameful about that!

  13. If I ever got published, I would probably try my best to avoid the bad reviews. I'm way too sensitive and negative reviews (especially those written with the intent to hurt) would probably cause me to rent a cave wherein I'd drift slowly into oblivion, forever contemplating my failure.

    There will be good reviews and there will be bad reviews. I guess the most important thing is to find the learning opportunity in each and take everything with a grain of salt.

    That being said, I actually get defensive when I read negative reviews of others' books - even if I didn't particularly like the book myself! See? This is why I write in a funhouse!

  14. I'd never thought to do that, but it makes a lot of sense. We can learn a lot from mistakes, even other people's. I'm sure I'd read my own negative reviews and probably cry for days.

  15. Hi, Abby. I just popped over from Jackee's blog. I don't read reviews myself, but reading and judging submissions for Mindflights magazine has taught me a ton about my own writing. That's a great idea.

  16. I think I do that too much. Know something isn't quite right, but am reluctant to change it until someone points it out then I go okay, if you saw it then it needs to be changed.

    Great ideas for reading reviews to help with your writing. I'll have to try that.

  17. Um, I tend to avoid reading reviews, I prefer to come in with a fresh eye, I'm not motivated to read them them after the fact either, as opinions always differ, and I've alresdy formed my own by then.

    "Tell the truth Tuesday"? What a fun idea! Ooooh, gosh, does this mean no lying? (Eek!) Okay, here goes then..

    Although it would hurt his feelings to know this, I enjoy the weeks when my husband works away from home (in London), because the bed is mine, all mine.. I can sleep diagnally, feel guilt-free to read at 3am, keep all the duvet-cover to myself, and can drop as many crumbs on the sheets as I darn well please.

  18. Reviews can sometimes be confusing. Some people give a particular book five stars while others give them only one.

    Truth Tuesday:
    I like reading books that aren't, well, um, that good. They make me feel smug about my own work. LOL.

  19. I'm totally jealous of your ability to read a negative review and learn soemthign from it. I don't hav those skills. Negativity just puts me in a negative mood, which i try to avoid at all costs. So, therefore, i avoid negative reviews

  20. Southern Princess: Sometimes I'll read them for that reason too. Different people just have different tastes.

    Stephanie: Just be careful. You may lose several hours over there. :)

    Tere: I've stopped reading them beforehand because a lot of people throw in spoilers without any warning and I hate when I know too much about a story before I start.

    Becca: I guess that's probably part of the reason I do it to. The same people who review the books I read would probably be the ones reviewing mine. Scary! :)

    Abby: I'm in the same boat. I'd be so curious, but I'd know that reading them would be devestating, especially since at that point whatever needs fixing can't be changed.

    Roxy: Thanks! Glad you got something from the post. :)

    Elana: I've lost several days over there. Just call it, um, research? ;)

    Aubrie: I do that too. :)

    Anissa: I read them for that reason too.

    L.T.: Thanks! :)

    Danyelle: I never post negative reviews either. It feels so mean. Even if it is honest. :)

    Nisa: Thanks!

    E. Elle: I love that. So where does one find a cave to rent? ;)

    Susan: Yeah. That's part of why I don't think I'd read mine.

    Angie: If you really think about it, a negative review isn't that much different from a critique. It's all a learning process. Thanks for stopping by and for following!

    Patti: Why is it so hard to admit that something we've written isn't good enough? Even when we know deep down that we can make it better?

    Shrinky: I love your confession. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Camryn: That's hilarious! I'll have to try that next time I'm feeling down about my work. :)

    Falen: That happens to me sometimes too. I just try to look at from an academic standpoint. I'm always looking for new ways to improve. :)